Madrid Supermarkets

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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