Retrograde Uruguay

Mercury goes retrograde today, through 5 September, so beware travel plans, contracts, don’t buy electronics or vehicles, and expect communications to be fouled up. If you’re new to this, please do pay attention: read more here.

What does that have to do with my day in Uruguay? Well, Mercury, nothing, but the other — retrograde. Uruguay does sometimes does appear to be traveling backward through the universe. Take this latest marketing “innovation” at Tienda Inglesa:

Uruguay checkout stamps - onward into the '80s

At checkout, you get little strips of stickers that you can put in little booklets — aha! If you grew up in the United States in the 1960s or 1970s, you probably remember S&H Green Stamps. You would lick them and stick them into little booklets to redeem for merchandise from their store or catalog. Still can, in fact, even though they ended in the 1980s.

Well, at Tienda Inglesa, this little trip down memory lane is  only good for a discount on one brand of cutlery.

But it gets “better:” the little strip of stickers has to be counted out by the cashier. But every fifth sticker is gray, so this can be quick. You know, 5, 10, 15, 20…? No, in fact on our most recent visit, the cashier counted them out by twos. I kid you not.

Of course, this un-streamlines checkout considerably. In addition to the grueling process of counting, occasionally a customer in front of you will require an explanation of how the whole new-fangled thing works.


So, while we’re waiting for our stickers to be counted out by twos: you know what a checkout divider is — the little rectangular or triangular thing that makes checkout more efficient by separating customers’ items? You did know that? Congratulations! Perhaps not 1 in 100 Uruguayans does. In addition to having  always only one, and even when printed with Proximo Cliente (next customer), the cashier uses it simply to block the “electric eye” that starts and stops the checkout conveyor belt, and might get quite huffy if you try to use it as a checkout divider.

So it was with some pleasure that on that most recent visit, before watching the by-two sticker counting, we were able to get our hands on the checkout divider, and use it as a checkout divider. What a concept!.

So what did the Uruguayan behind us do? He waited until every single item of ours was off the conveyor and the checkout divider had stopped the conveyor, before he would put a single item on the now-empty belt.


I suppose you could make this stuff up. But you’d have to be in a retrograde state of mind, no?

 

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