Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kafka does retail

There are times when things here get so surreal that you could swear that Your actually taking part in some bizarre reality show directed by Kafka's spiritual descendant. I decided today, on the spur on the moment to buy a new digital camera, having lost my old one a few days ago. So eventually I ended up at the Carrefour hypermarket in east Thessaloniki. And then, of course that is when my troubles began. It all seemed so deceptively easy in the beginning, you make your choice, pay and walk out of the place a happy, contented consumer. Alas that was not be. I think the easiest way to explain this is to describe list of steps needed to make a simple purchase

1 Tell the sales assistant which camera I wanted.

2 The assistant then unlocks the cabinet (were talking about a 100 euro camera here, not a Cartier watch) and takes it to the till.

3 The other shop assistant fills in the sales slip by hand including details such as name, address etc.

4 Another assistant (how come there is so much unemployment when it takes three people to make a simple sale?) rings up the sale on the register and hands you yet another receipt.

5 You then have to show the security guard at the reception your purchase and receipts in order for him to stamp them (in triplicate) so that the warranty is valid.

So far so good, however the shop assistant had failed to give me my till receipt which meant that the security guard couldn't stamp my other receipts which meant in turn that the camera wasn't covered by the warranty, I get tired just remembering it.

This meant going back to the third assistant getting to make a photocopy of the till receipt, have them sign it and stamp it. Then I had to go back to the security guard who scrutinised the photocopy with all the seriousness of the guy who grants access to the nuclear launch codes, then hand it another guard who looked at it as well, carefully eyeing me up to see if I wasn't up to some dastardly scheme to defraud the company.

Finally, after many hard stares they stamped the four separate pieces of paper with the precious stamp and then added their signatures. I tell you, I could get into Downing St or the White House with less paperwork.

Here's a tip to the those in charge at Carrefour, Kafka's Castle is not a management training manual. By the way this is the private sector, which is positively streamlined compared to public services.

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