Monthly Archives: July 2015

Carrefour’s Scan & Go Scanners – Is the purchase experience really better?

Every so often my husband and I have a similar conversation where my American roots come out in full force as I get annoyed at the workings (or lack thereof) of something here, and he gets frustrated, telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. This is when I have to tell myself that it’s just not the same over here. And I wonder, “Am I really just overreacting and being too American?” The last time this happened was the other day at Carrefour. That’s right; at the supermarket. It actually wasn’t the first time that we’ve had the same discussion at the check out…

About five years ago Carrefour launched its touch screen “Scan & Go” scanners in Spain. As a loyalty card member you can pick up one of these nifty devices when you enter the hypermarket and scan your purchases along the way as you go. What’s the point? Well, as Carrefour promotes with its “innovation designed to make customers’ lives easier”, it seems there are several benefits:

Carrefour Scan & Go scanner

1. Time saver. After finishing your shopping you don’t have to wait in the long check-out lines; you go directly to the special “Scan & Go” machines where you either get a green light which lets you directly leave after paying and expresses Carrefour’s confidence in you as a customer. Or you can be chosen as a random check where an employee supposedly has to scan a few items in your cart just to make a double check, and then you’ll be on your merry way. I say “supposedly” as this is important to my story.

2. More control for the customer. you scan your own products and easily see your total purchase amount as you go. If you need to add or delete an item, no problem. also, if there’s a special offer the little machine will tell you so.

3. More fun shopping experience. As you have more control and do the scanning yourself, the experience is more enjoyable and in your hands.

4. Carrefour shows its trust.  By putting the checkout experience in the customer’s hands, Carrefour is saying that it trusts the customer and trusts that you really have scanned everything that you’ve put in your cart. GENERALLY.

So, what made my American temper shine through? This was probably the fourth of fifth time that we had finished a big shopping trip, with the cart overflowing, and encountered a “situation” at the Scan & Go checkout station. When the flashing orange light above the stand started blinking I thought, “Great, here we go again.” Now I understand that sometimes just to maintain Quality Control employees need to do a quick double check and rescan some items to verify the order. What I cannot understand is having an employee take out each and every item that we have in our cart to rescan everything again. And, of course, the end result is only to discover that no, we did not steal anything. After a few minutes when I realize that they are actually going to completely disorganize the cart and take out each item to scan again, my attitude comes out. At this point I begin my usual rantings about the lack of efficiency, what’s the point of having a scanner, why don’t they look for real thieves, etc. etc. Really, I might as well be wearing a shirt that screams “USA” to go along with my huffing and puffing.

To Carrefour: great idea to improve the experience, but bad execution when you are telling loyal customers that you don’t trust them at the end of their shopping experience. Now, trust me, I understand that robbery is a problem in Spain. However, if Carrefour consciously made the decision to implement a system such as this in its stores, then they have to show their customers they trust them. If not, instead of improving the purchase experience they are actually running the risk of turning loyal customers away and creating unnecessary frustration.

What do you think? Does Carrefour make the purchase experience better? Should this kind of system exist here in Spain? Does it work for you?

p.s. Interesting article from five years ago about Carrefour’s decision to launch Scan & go:

The Terrorist Panorama in Europe. Should you be more scared than a random shooting in the US?

Sometimes I wonder exactly what is being broadcast on the news back in the US. I remember watching the local news back home and seeing what seemed to me to be a 50/40/10 splitUS News, Local News (like a cat being rescued from a tree) and International News. It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of Americans (not all; don’t get mad) don’t really know what’s going on around the world. (I’ll admit that I’m way more up to speed for sure now that I live in Europe).

During this 10 split, I have the feeling that whats mainly being shown are terrorist attacks (yes, this is unfortunately a problem) and economic crisis issues like the current Greece situation. No wonder some of my family think that I’m living in a war zone and in an economy that’s going to fall apart any minute. No, things aren’t great over here, but I’m not scared to walk outside my house…

One example: the recent terrorist attacks on a tourist site in Tunisia were horrifying and definitely make you reconsider a trip to a country that is experiencing terrorist problems or with real threats. About 7 years ago I was on vacation in a tourist resort in Tunisia very similar to the one where the massacre occurred. You just never know, but you can take some precaution by avoiding vacations to war-torn areas or regions with “real” terrorist threats. [Note: as I’m writing this article I’m seeing now  news about an explosion in a rally in Turkey.]

As a registered American in Madrid, I’m on the US Embassy mailing list. This means that every once in a while I receive an email for US Citizens abroad with information they consider relevant to share on a broad scale. Just a few weeks ago, I received a mail titled “Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Terror Alert Level in Spain” alerting me that the “assessed level of the threat of a terrorist attack in Spain” has risen from medium to high. Now, I’m curious:

How would the US Embassy rate the terror alert level in its country? Personally, hearing frequent incidents of police shooting unarmed people in the back every other day is quite disturbing. Or what about lunatics equipped with guns given to them as a present from their parents on their 21st birthday and massacring peaceful church goers? Or a crazy person, also with a gun that could easily be legally purchased, deciding to massacre people at a Marine station in Chatttanooga, TN?

You can never really know where a terrorist attack is going to happen (although you can have an idea of some areas that may be safe to avoid), but you also can never know where a crazy person with a gun in the US is going to decide to open fire. Honestly, I’m not sure which one is “better”, but I still tend to think that I feel “safer” knowing that any Joe Schmoe can’t go and buy a gun over here.

The Fourth of July in Spain – A different kind of Independence Day

On the 4th of July in Boston I’d probably be at a barbecue and watching the hour+ fireworks show on the esplanade. Here in Madrid I found myself directly in the middle of a different type of Independence celebration – the annual Gay Pride parade and street party in downtown Madrid. I had almost forgotten that July 4th falls during the annual pride celebration until I got off the metro Saturday night and found myself smack in the middle of a dance party with themed floats:

Gay Pride Parade Madrid

Now I always do my best to dress up in red, white and blue for the 4th, but I have to say that, in general, there really isn’t much to find around here. There are a few options where you can go to have some “real American food”, like the Hard Rock Cafe ( or Alfredo’s Barbacoa (, but don’t expect anything fancy or close to fireworks.

This year there was a new addition to the American July 4th offerings in Madrid: an “American Street Food Festival” at a posh shopping center ( This event was promising an array of American-style food trucks that have been popular in the US and recently made their way over to Spain (note: it’s interesting that when I was still living and working in the US ten years ago, food trucks were considered a bit of a risky lunchtime bet). I went with an American friend yesterday and was surprised to find that the promised “sabores americanos” (American tastes) were a mix of about ten trucks with foreign food offerings – Mexican tacos, Spanish croquetas, Japanese food, etc. There was one hot dog truck, but as it turns out they were actually German. Oops. Well, at least the idea was interesting and there were American flags up around the place.

American Street Food Moraleja GreenAmerican Street Food Moraleja Green 2

Apparently there’s another food truck festival on Sundays near the Santiago Bernabeu football stadium (; this seems like a better option, flags or not.

Next year I’ll still put on my red, white and blue at least for part of the day, but it’s looking like the fourth here in Spain is better for all colors of the rainbow. At least I’d be guaranteed a better celebration!

Spanish hand fan

It’s time to get the hand fan out. And other Spain weather thoughts.

A couple years after moving to Spain I had one of my “I am becoming spanishized” moments: it was sweltering hot out, and I pulled out my mini hand fan from my pocketbook to cool myself off. My first thought was, “why did I wait to so long to get one of these??” I remember the first time my mother saw me pull one out and gave me a look like I had completely lost it. I had to explain that, believe it or not, this little piece of genius wasn’t just a funny tourist item, but actually something that makes sense over here.

Spanish hand fan

With temperatures rising above 100 degrees since last week and for at least another week or so, it’s time for me to get the hand fan out.

Hot weather Spain

When I first moved to Spain I remember seeing people on the streets, in the metro, simultaneously while drinking a caña (ambidextrous?), pretty much everywhere, using their hand fans to ward off the hot weather. At first it seemed funny and something more like an older woman concept. However, it’s not just a thing to laugh at anymore when you realize it actually helps. We even handed out hand fans as one of several party favors (“detalles”) at our wedding.

Writing about the weather makes me remember a funny thing that happened to me a few years ago at the office… as you probably already know from reading this blog, I’m from Boston and am used to the cold weather (important: this does not mean that I like it). Now, when I say cold weather, I mean really cold, not just chilly. It always seemed amusing to me when the weather in Madrid would drop to the 50s (fahrenheit) and everyone would start saying how cold it was, at the same time they would adjust their neck scarves to keep out the winter chill.

One week here in early Spring the weather suddenly changed from a bit chilly to quite warm out (mid 70s/low 80s). Now I realize that it was a bit like an Indian summer-type weather, but for my Bostonian mind and body, it was already hot. That day I went into the office dressed a bit more for spring weather. I didn’t think much of it until I was greeted with a gasp and “you’re not wearing nylons!”. Apparently, the date rather than the temperature can be the predicting factor for clothing items… at least I got away with it and was not completely ostracized since “I’m from Boston and used to the cold” 🙂

Weather extremes are the norm in a lot of climates, so I can’t complain, especially since I prefer the hot weather to the cold. I’ll choose simultaneous hand fanning/caña drinking any day over blasts of Boston wind chill. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go dig out my scarf, just in case the temperatures decide to drop a bit soon…