Life in the Swiss Alps: Grocery store 'war'
Coop vs. Migros? Diana Oehrli investigates.
While rushing to check out at our local Coop grocery store this morning, I found myself in line behind a woman arguing for a refund. I slowly emptied my cart of its contents -- amazingly fresh organic vegetables and fruits -- onto the conveyor belt and listened.
The woman explained in broken French that she had purchased six yogurts, and six yogurts only, and she felt she should be paid out CHF 80. The checkout girl, who was obviously Swiss German speaking, nodded her head, filled out a yellow slip, and answered the woman in even worse French.
One thing was for sure. This discussion was not going to end soon, and as I glanced at my watch, I realized I would be late for my appointment. So, I placed my produce back into the cart and stomped over to the next lane, uttering complaints under my breath. When I spotted a neighbor in line, I said something about continuing to shop at competing grocery store Migros, which has a customer service desk. While unloading my cart yet again, I peered over to the next lane and felt smug. The two women were still talking.
It's true. Migros has a "Kundendienst" or a customer service desk that deals with complicated matters such as refunds, so that customers wouldn't have to wait in line too long. These desks also sell taxed garbage bags, household appliances, printer cartridges, and electronics. Coop also has a similar desk, but it is a high-volume sales kiosk, selling alcohol and cigarettes. I heard from a friend that Migros won't sell alcohol and cigarettes in its stores for ethical reasons.
Competing grocery stores Coop and Migros account for about 70 percent of the market share for food and drinks in Switzerland. A little online research showed that Migros had better customer service, but Coop had better produce, especially organic selections. So there we have it... exactly my experience today.
Reprinted with permission of Life in the Swiss Alps.
Daughter of a Swiss mountain guide and American photographer, Diana Oehrli grew up in Switzerland, the South of France and in New England. In 2002, she moved to Switzerland and fell in love with mountain life. With her two children, she now lives in a 300-year old farmhouse above the villages of Gstaad and Saanen, where she is working on a novel and on her blog lifeintheswissalps.com.
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