There are not many things I miss about living in North America, but one of the things I miss a lot is the high standard of service in shops and restaurants. That service-oriented mentality just does not exist in the same way in Europe, particularly not in restaurants where the wait staff does not receive immediate rewards for good service in the form of tips. Here in Iceland the standard of service in most restaurants and cafés is atrocious, as clearly documented in this space in the past.

Sadly, the service in most shops is not much better. Indeed, you could on occasion be forgiven for thinking that you were situated somewhere in the East Bloc prior to the Velvet Revolution. Particularly if you shop at a particularly inane supermarket known as Krónan, located in my neighbourhood, just behind the JL complex [Nóatún] down by the sea in the west end of Reykjavík. Believe me, if you ever visit the city and are in this neighbourhood, do yourself a favour and do not shop there. You’ll thank me later.

Krónan is owned by the same people who own Nóatún, which is probably the most expensive supermarket in Iceland and which also has the lowest standard when it comes to freshness of fruits and vegetables and correlation between the price marked on the shelf and the price that comes up at the cash. Krónan is staffed by people who look around 12 years of age but are probably around 14. And they know nothing. Probably because they are so underpaid that they rarely stick around long enough to learn.

Now, I hardly ever even attempt to shop there because every time I do I get super-agitated by their extreme incompetence. The other day I went to buy a box of Cheerios and some cotton make-up pads – nothing exclusive. Both were out of stock. When I apprehended a girl who was working there on the floor and asked whether they had cotton make-up pads, she walked with me to the shelf [as they do], stared at it blankly, and finally said, ‘No, we’re out.’ Oh. Duh.

Obviously I could save myself a lot of agitation if I just boycotted the place altogether; however, my undoing every time is that it happens to be so conveniently located near my place and I think to myself, ‘Ah, just this once for a carton of milk, or a box of Cheerios, or some cotton make-up pads’. Or, as was the case yesterday, for some cheese [mild Gouda, the most common type of cheese there is in Iceland], bananas, dates, raisins, and a bit of smoked salmon.

So off I go to Krónan. Just inside the entrance was a mountain of bananas, all way past ripe. Except one bunch that I dove onto like a hawk. It was semi-ripe, and only one of the bananas on it was ruined by a large black gash. I tore off two and stuck in my basket. So far, so good.

Next, into the cooler for the cheese. [Have I mentioned that here in Iceland you actually walk into a room where all the refrigerated stuff is kept?] Out of stock. I was aghast. I mean, mild Gouda is only the most ubiquitous type of cheese in this freaking country, perpetually available in every damn gas station convenience store throughout the land, and in Krónan it is out of stock. Fine. All right. Suddenly I remember the smoked salmon, and resolve to buy some bagels and plain cream cheese to go with it. Plain cream cheese: out of stock.

On to the smoked salmon shelf. There was a bunch of very expensive smoked salmon, and then there was one packet of the kind that I like, because it’s reasonably priced and every bit as good as the costly stuff. Hah – success! Yes, until I picked it up and happened to glance at the expiry date on the label. Expired: January 7. More than two weeks ago. And still sitting on the cooler shelf, waiting for some hapless consumer who doesn’t look at expiry dates. Lovely.

Disappointed, I headed out of the cooler [taking the salmon with me to deposit with the cashier – my Good Samaritan deed for the day], only to recall that I needed some yoghurt – the organic stuff that comes in three different flavours [strawberrymüslimango], as well as plain. A side step to the yoghurt shelf reveals that there is one small container left, one, out of all the possible flavours. One lonely container of müsli yoghurt, that promptly went into the YT basket. Price on shelf duly noted: ISK 70.

Out of the cooler and into the store proper. To the freezer, to search for some frozen bagels. Out of stock. To the baking section, to pick up dates and raisins. Dates: out of stock. Raisins: out of stock. Can you believe it? I couldn’t – so I grabbed the only person in there who looked to be above the age of 14 and asked him if they had any raisins. He rushed to the shelf and gave it a cursory look. ‘No, we’re out.’

Stewing, and firm in my resolve to never, ever shop there again [Hah! Shop for what?], I go to the cash. Keeping an eye on the price as my purchases are rung through [having learned from bitter experience to always do this when shopping at Krónan or Nóatún] I note that the single lonely yoghurt container is rung up as ISK 78, as opposed to the ISK 70 that was marked on the shelf. It’s not a lot. ISK 8 is not a lot. But there was not a hope in hell I was going to let them get away with it.

YT: The price on the shelf was 70 kronur.
LITTLE14YEAROLDGIRL: [Glancing at cash display] No, it’s 78.
YT: [icy] It said 70 kronur on the shelf.
L14YOG: […]
YT: … It’s marked very clearly.
L14YOG: [Leaves cash and walks to the other end of store to cooler and sees that YT is right.][Returns to cash] I don’t know how to fix it.


Eventually someone who appeared to have a wee bit of authority makes it to the cash, inserts a key, and fixes the problem. Poor little 14-year-old girl is a wreck [to my credit I did say to her that I knew it wasn’t her fault] and eventually YT’s principles are satisfied and she leaves the store with the 8 kronur in pocket and the firm resolve to never, ever shop in that stupid store, ever again. Ever.

Well, no, thankfully. It’s a bit windy, and it’s overcast. Temps are 4°C and over in the east there’s a break in the clouds with a bit of blue shining through. The snow is melting and huge puddles everywhere. Time to get out the Wellies. Or the Nokias, as is more common here in Iceland [did you know this? that Nokia started out as the manufacturer of rubber boots?]. Sunrise 10.31 and sunset 16.49. And a very hearty congratulations to all who have managed to read this far. If this were a lottery you would win a prize! Too bad it’s not!