Category Archives: Supermarket experience

Where to get good Halloween pumpkins in Madrid (and also rotisserie chicken aka pollo asado)

In my 13 years here I’ve found one place with decent Halloween pumpkins – Costco. If you’re like me and love Halloween and pumpkin carving, then you’ll probably be disappointed with the pumpkins you find at the local supermarkets. Even the “large” calabazas that some of them sell (compared to the small ones that look like overgrown apples) still aren’t that great; you’re lucky if you can even get a decent pumpkin face on one of the ones from Mercadona or Carrefour.

The best place I’ve seen so far is Costco, the American wholesaler. There are only two locations in Spain so far (one in Madrid (Getafe), fortunately, and the other in Seville).

To give you an idea of the size, here’s my almost 3-year old sons with one:

pumpkin size

For me going to Costco is like walking into the US – with all the American brands, everything in bulk like at Sam’s Club or BJs (or Costco) back in the US, and usually some scattered American accents around the store. I could spend hours there just browsing around. The only issue is that you need to be a paying “socio” to go into the store. It costs 36€ a year just to be able to go to the store and buy. The prices aren’t at all cheap, and you can usually expect to spend at least 100€ every time you go, but the quality is great.

Aside from pumpkins, there are two other great things at Costco:

  1. Cheap gasoline prices. With gas prices through the roof here (almost 1,3€ a liter), you can pay approx 20 cents less a liter, so it’s worth it to wait in the lines and fill up there.
  2. Rotiserrie chicken. Costco has great, inexpensive pollo asado at 4,99€. It seems this isn’t exactly a profit-generator for the store, but for now at least they’re maintaining this business, and it draws customers for sure

Here’s an image of the pollo asado factory and lines to get them today at Costco:

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Roast chicken lines @ Costco

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Rotisserie chicken factory @ Costco

And a recent article in CNN :

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/11/business/costco-5-dollar-chicken/index.html?utm_source=CNN+Five+Things&utm_campaign=a5be3cf6ad-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_10_08_10_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da287d761-a5be3cf6ad-105047417

Who knew the Costco rotisserie chicken was a cult item in the US even with its own facebook page – yes, I’m now a fan.

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Costco Rotisserie Chicken Cult Fan Facebook page

Happy pumpkin/chicken/US brands shopping!

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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: https://socialmediaexperience.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/carrefour-scan-go-una-innovacion-de-la-experiencia-del-cliente/