Checking Out, Argentina Style


Yes, I’m still ruminating on the retail experience here in Buenos Aires. (My thoughts are trending this way since I’m preparing a short presentation on retail districts for an upcoming conference when I’m back in the US.)

Checking out, actually putting money on the table to purchase goods, often takes more time than shopping for said items here in Argentina! Each store seems to have its own byzantine system for processing customer purchases.

Example 1: Buying a Microphone. In maybe an 800 square foot instrument store, we worked with four different people to buy our microphone. Staff1 is who we approached when we entered the establishment. Staff1 referred us to Staff2, the person we talked to when we had called the store. Once we selected our microphone and presented Staff2 with our credit card, he walked us over to Staff3, maybe 15 feet away, who processed the cards. When Staff3 was done, we had to return our paperwork back to Staff2, who double-checked everything.

At this point, I figured we would get the microphone, but no, Staff2 whisked it away and ran it up to the front of the store and handed it to Staff4, who was standing by the entrance. With puzzled expressions, we walked out of the tienda, and were graciously handed our purchase by Staff4 as we opened the doors to leave.

Example 2: Purchasing School Supplies. This process is always an adventure. The Zs get VERY SPECIFIC lists of requirements (down to the color of notebooks…). The store near the girls’ school where we buy their supplies has three types of merchandise: 1) items accessible to customers; 2) items customers can see but not access; and 3) many many unseen and inaccessible items. We completely give up and do not try to locate anything on our own. We take our number, secure a clerk, and walk through the lists with them one by one.

Once we have a Zoe-pile and a Zelda-pile of goods on the counter, the fun really begins! First, they move the items, stack by stack, to a computer near the back of the store and hand enter every selection into that computer. A printout for each girl’s stuff is generated from this procedure. Then, each mound needs to be ferried to the counter at the front of the store, where the list and the pile of supplies are methodically cross-checked, item-by-item, to make sure they match. Finally, when all the checking and double checking is complete, Tom steps forward and pays! (Usually this is when the girls have completely melted down and are just sitting on the floor in a heap.)

3 Responses to “Checking Out, Argentina Style”

  1. Buenos Aires Expats - Online Community of Expatriates and guide to living in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    […] 20 June Checking Out, Argentina Style[] Yes, I’m still ruminating on the retail experience here in Buenos Aires. […]

  2. Chris

    i wonder what they would think of self-check-out…i can go through home depot in nyc without talking to anyone…except for the nice security guard who checks receipts on the way out the door.

  3. Michele

    *smile* I don’t know if I’ve seen self-checkout here…frankly it will be a bit weird to be faced with it when we return home. Fred Meyer, here we come…

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