May 20, 2024

Supermarkets, or “grocery stores” as we call them often in the United States, are found in every Madrid neighborhood and also outside the city in the “Centros Comerciales“. You have your Dia (cheap), PLUS (cheap), Lidl (cheap), Maxcoop (average), Carrefour (average), Alcampo (average), Mercadona (average), Caprabo (average), Champion (average), El Corte Inglés Supermarket (expensive), and a number of others. Here in my immediate neighborhood we have Dia and Maxcoop and a Caprabo farther away.

I really dislike going to the supermarket for a number of reasons:

First, you have WALK. The walking TO the supermarket doesn’t bother me – it’s the returning with heavy bags and then climbing 4 flights of stairs which bothers me. This is particularly difficult and uncomfortable in summertime when it’s hot. Second, the lines in the supermarkets are often very long and few cash registers open to accommodate the public. Third, with all the people waiting behind you in line you STILL have to bag your own groceries. And fourth, neighborhood grocery stores in Madrid are small and so the selection is very limited.

Going to the “Centros Comerciales” outside of the city, like to a Carrefour, is a different experience altogether. First, you need a car to get there – something I don’t have – and traffic in these areas can be crazy. Second, on busy days/hours there can be long lines and difficulty parking in the underground parking garages. Third, these places are HUGE and so the lines at the cash registers can be SUPER LONG. Fourth, at busy times there’s lots of shopping cart traffic with lots of left-or-right-looking drivers. They never look forward. Fifth, the selection IS GREAT and the prices are usually very good too. This is really the only positive to going to places like these. Six, on busy days there can be a shortage of shopping carts, causing you to wait for one to be returned – or go searching on different floors. And you’d better have the proper coin for the security lock. And seven, AFTER going back home, I have to carry up a dozen or so bags up four flights of stairs. Exhausting.

ON the UP-side, at Carrefour, customers have the option of requesting a “pedido“, having the food sent to your home either the same day or the next day. There’s a charge for this but when filling a shopping cart with food and spending 150€, the extra 5€ delivery charge doesn’t bother me in the least. Luckily I work at home so this is very convenient – WHEN I can find someone to drive me to the shopping center in the first place. But UNluckily, almost without exception, I leave places like Carrefour with a throbbing headache from all the stress. These excursions can take up to 4 hours. A royal pain in the ARSE. Traffic, long lines, crashing carts, long lines, heavy carts with 4-wheel-independent-movement. ARGH! I really dislike shopping in supermarkets in Madrid as well as in places like El Corte Inglés for the same reasons – with the exception of the shopping carts.

What I DO like about shopping in the neighborhood are the individual, specialized stores – also found in markets. Specialized stores might sell ONLY meats, ONLY chicken products, ONLY fruits and vegetables, ONLY bread, or ONLY potato chips! Shopping like this takes more time but the quality of products is usually better and fresher than when bought in supermarkets. And the products aside, it’s always a nice way to meet your neighborhood store owners, exchange some casual conversation about vacations, family, or weather. These store owners always recognize you, can sometimes guess your order, are quick to send a smile your way, and if you’re short on cash they’ll often allow you to pay the balance on your next visit. You can’t get THAT kind of treatment at a supermarket.

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5 thoughts on “Madrid Supermarkets

  1. Well how stressfull is that, i never imagined shopping was such a task. Where we live there are 5no large supermarkets all within a 3 mile radius, some selling more than others granted but only by having more choice of brand of baked beans or peas etc. One of the shops i must admit i try not to go to due to the heavy amount of trafiic around the area but on the plus side it is open 24hrs a day, due to the fact my wife shops most of the time i do find i quite like to go especialy nowadays with the choice and smell of the freshness of the food also the free samples you get walking round (must admit more than once i have had a meal by keep going back for free goodies!)
    But as you say its in and out of the shop no conversation with the assistants no feeling of that one on one service i remember when i was young and mum going to the butcher/grocer and the shopkeeper helping out with cuts of meat or the freshest of veggies.
    The good old days eh!

  2. I too miss my 24-hour grocery store in Columbus, Ohio USA. So convenient. Drive there. Lots of open cash registers. Wheel the cart to the car’s trunk. Drive home. Pull the car into the driveway, garage, or parking lot. And carry stuff maybe 10 meters to your kitchen. EASY! Maybe it’s all the walking and carrying of heavy supermarket bags which keeps Spaniards so thin!

  3. Some carrefours have buses that run to them. Of course, then you have to take your stuff back on the bus. Unless you pay for delivery . . .

  4. What about online shopping. One of my students mentioned this, do all your shopping online and have it delivered to your house. One of the sites even had the info in English.
    Of course the other alternative is to buy a car (or car share). But that doens’t help with the 4 story walkup.

  5. Rob in Madrid, get us that website’s URL! We’d love to see it. I haven’t seen this available yet but maybe El Corte Ingles does it. I’m not willing to spend THAT much money, however. For BIG purchases a friend will take me to Carrefour and I’ll make a “pedido”, going through a special line and they bag it all for you, put it aside, and you make arrangements to have the food delivered to your door (UP the stairs!!!!) within a 4-hour window of time. It’s worth the extra little you pay for this service but doesn’t help with the time I have to buy 4 bags of groceries which include liquids like beer, milk, wine, and juice – which weighs the most.

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