As I jotted notes in front of the white wine section I was approached by a man who stopped a mere inches away from me and stared. He was so close that I could smell both his breath and even more pungent body odor. I took a step back and he lunged forward to take my piece of paper from my hand. If I understood him correctly, he was telling me that I wasn't allowed to write in the store. In Albanian I told him I was shopping for a large purchase and proceeded to ignore him. He started yelling something but eventually walked away.
I went about my business making my way over to the cheese case via the meat counter where I made several selections. As I was looking critically at the cheese selection- which really isn't that impressive- I was approached by another man who stood even closer to me. This one showed me a store identification badge and proceeded to rudely tell me that I wasn't allowed to write anything down while I was in the store. At this point I was merely holding my piece of paper and no longer had a pen in my hand. In Albanian, I told him that I was planning a large party and needed to make sure they had all of the ingredients I was looking for. Inside I was fuming and wondering about the level of "customer service" in the store but I put my best diplomatic skills to the test throughout this conversation. He told me it didn't matter and that he would have to take my paper from me. Out of principal I refused. I mean, what harm was my paper that listed possible food combinations for the coming week?
I usually avoid using the "American" card - and usually I don't have to since I look so obviously American- but the man was persisting. This time I started by explaining that I was a diplomat with the American Embassy and I was simply shopping. His whole attitude immediately changed and he switched to a mix of rapid fire Albanian and Italian and told me everything was o.k. or as the Albanians say "shume mire." He quickly scurried away but in my mind, everything wasn't shume mire.
I was left with a horrible feeling. In our nine months here, this was the first time I was treated like this. But my issue isn't just with the way I was treated; rather it is the way customers are treated in general. I don't know what made me angrier, my initial treatment or the about face change in attitude once he learned that I was an American. My initial reaction was to abandon my shopping cart right there and leave the store. The more practical part of me realized that our dinner was in there and Sidney's appetite wouldn't be sated by his mother standing on her principles. I quickly made my way to the check out with my mind racing. As I paid for my few groceries I made the decision that I will not be returning to Carrefour anytime soon. It doesn't matter if it is the most convenient and best stocked grocery store. In my opinion, a store who treats their customers so rudely doesn't deserve my business. I will stand by my principles and not give that company any more of my business. Even if this means I'm regulated to eating nothing but "white cheese" for the next two years.