Yesterday, I went on a shopping 'expedition' with my German wife. To be honest, it's pretty dull to hang out on these little adventures. But I stood through one of the store episodes, and was lightly amused.
We ended up at a German-grocery called 'Penny'. My best description of the store is that it's somewhat like an American Piggly Wiggly.....just at a cheaper look and feel.
Penny has started up with this national trend for grocery operations where you can charge off your credit card, and ask for cash back (acting like an ATM, but with no cost to the individual). Most all have a limit....sometimes in the 200 Euro range....sometimes higher.
So we were in line, and this older retired German gal was completing her transaction with the Penny clerk. The old lady stated in a very direct (even I understood the emphasis here)....just ring her up to 100 Euro, using thirty-odd Euro for the grocery bill, and pay her the remainder.
The clerk gave her this look. It was a deer in the headlights look, but twice as bad. Total confusion.
So the old lady (no more than six feet from me) recited the request, in a more simplified way, and slower dictation. The clerk was probably twenty years old. My impression, at the end of the second request/explanation....was that the clerk was still 'lost'.
The old lady went to a third request.....even more simplified, and in a even more slower diction. That failed as well.
So the clerk called up the store boss....sixty seconds pass. My wife has very little patience and was now into a grumbling scene with me over the stupidity of this situation. The boss comes up....no more than ten words pass from the old lady, A-B-C. The boss turns to the clerk, then says 'First' in German....five simple words. Then 'second' in German, with five more simple words. Then 'third' in German, with five more simple words.
Everything was now clear....the old lady got her cash, and it was done.
This brought this problem of German culture and life out to me in plain view. You have to find work for the folks in Germany who really aren't that bright or capable. So.....clerks at grocery stores in Germany....have become this open door. There might be a few smart folks, but the majority that you bump into....are people from the bottom level of brightness.
The sad thing here is that this ATM-like trend is pretty simple, and this turned into an eight-minute delay situation where everyone just stood amazed over the simplicity of what was required.