This is January end 2009 and I was in Paris. I made my way to Galleries Lafayette just to find it shut. It was crazy cold and I made my way round a corner to a relatively empty street. And there I saw a store that many people were walking in and out of. It was called Monoprix - only later did I realise that it is in fact a huge chain in France as a supermarket and sometimes selling clothes.
Even though we have our fair share of supermarkets and huge food stores in India, the multitude of products one gets abroad is amazing. So I am walking like my crazy self inside the store checking things out. And then I come across Guinness beer. So I thought I would pick it up. Problem was, it was a 6 pack. And I wanted only 2 cans. So I had to find a person to ask whether I could pluck only 2 cans out or not.
1st guy I mildly approach and he starts getting fussy and annoyed in French - may be saying " U mad o wat, Im not helping u.. dont u come near me.. no no no no " So I start laughing and he goes away.
Next, a girl / lady decides to help me and she is like "Sure pick 2 .. no problem. "
And then Im on my way roaming through the place again. I pick up a bottle of water and some peanuts. Now, the interesting part (at least for me).
I am about to approach the billing counters where I see huge queues and then I see a small patch of land with few people. This, I find out, is a self billing center through which you can go, if you have less than 7 items (or may be it was 10).
I find it intriguing, so I go in.
I look at the instructions in French, which I know so well so I bother a guy behind me.
He was the perfect character that you see in an American series, shirt tie pants, before going home - go to supermarket to buy stuff to return to an empty home. Luckily he speaks some English. So he tells me the process.
You register a new billing.
The scanner is on the shelf, face up, so you have to roll or scan your item on that so it bills you.
You keep scanning all your items and eventually press OK.
The screen reads out the exact billed amount and one can pay through either notes or coins. I put in my coins and out pops a bill.
The guy in the shirt tells me to take a plastic bag put before me - had to pull one out, because they were stuck to each other.
I thank him and he says..
O - even I am doing this for the 1st time - just that I know French.
And then I realize why there were such few people in my section.
People were scared of new technology / process.
Apparently, Monoprix had just introduced this new system to help customers.
What I found intriguing was that I was more willing to try this new thing that other folks. May be because I was younger. Who nose.
And the next interesting thing - I thanked the guy and before leaving, lightly patted him on his back, which is entirely common for me.
But I then realised that may be these French buggers dont do this.
Nothing was made of it, he smiled and said - Au revoir.
I made my way out and to the hotel room to stuff myself on the peanuts and guinness.