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Mar 21, 2017

Interns and shopping terms

by Ana Galizia - Account Executive

Interns and shopping terms

Do you go to the grocery store or the supermarket?

Depending on what side of the pond you’re on will dictate what you call a food retailer. Such a small difference can easily confuse a tourist coming to the UK or, like me, an overseas student about to join Toucan for a Spring internment.

The different words are only one of many disparities between the UK and the US when it comes to the food industry. Calling the retailer a grocery store instead of supermarket may not be as embarrassing as asking for a pair of pants when you meant trousers, but it makes food shopping slightly more complex than it ought to be.

Having arrived from Washington D.C., to take up a marketing placement with the agency, I did not expect that I would experience such a culture shock while grocery shopping. Stepping into a Sainsbury’s store for the first time was like walking through the magical dresser (wardrobe!) and ending up in Narnia!

I found myself in a far away land full of mystical brand names that I had never heard of, product formats that I had never seen before, and systems that I did not use back home.

My journey started with an awkward encounter between an employee and myself. I asked him where the shopping carts were and he stared at me perplexed. It was like I was speaking a different language.

I soon realised that the correct term here is ‘trolley’ and that even these were a different design given that ours have a bottom rack to place heavier items on, not just a thin wire basket on wheels.

Another key distinction that shocked me was the opportunity of online grocery shopping. This is a huge trend in the UK that has not evolved in the US yet (well not in Washington D.C. at least) and I, for one, only really discovered the fact that you can have your groceries delivered to home after my co-workers were talking about it.

Yet, there is one thing that occurs in the States that does not happen in the UK. There is a cashier and a bagging person at each checkout station. The customer just sits back while the employees scan and pack their groceries. After they have paid, the assistant tends to take the bags out to the car and even places them in trunk… I mean boot! Certainly not a custom over here as far as I can see as there is much more of a DIY culture when it comes to the end of the retail experience.

From strange names to alternative purchasing methods, going grocery shopping certainly has its differences and spotting them even made me feel slightly homesick at times. Yet, it is worth noting that retailers from each country could learn a little from each other perhaps.

Let’s take Tesco as an example. I noticed on another store visit their corporate line as being ‘Every Little Helps’ so maybe a person carrying bags to your car wouldn’t be a bad thing to introduce after all? Judging by the number of abandoned shopping trolleys I have spotted since arriving, such an initiative could even start to pay for itself in smaller stores before the fall… or should that be autumn?

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