Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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A visit to Netto

After repeated poor experiences, I had avoided the grocery-store chain Netto for almost three years. A week or two ago, I gave it another chance, in case things had improved in the interim. My impression was mostly positive: prices were competitive, the available products were a little different from my usual stores, and the problem with intrusive and annoying announcements was considerably lessened. There were still the occasional intrusion in the “Buy this! Super prices!” family, but far fewer than in the past, the loud-speaker volume of the announcements was considerably lower, and there was not one word about COVID (unsurprisingly, as we are now in 2024).


For more on the earlier poor experiences, see [1]. Note an excursion towards the end with more general issues than the bags of the main text.

Note that most of my experiences since I moved to Wuppertal are with a single store, near my apartment, and that experiences can vary from individual store to individual store. Formulations that speak of “Netto” will then hold true for this particular store and might or might not hold for Netto more generally. (However, I have a worse average impression of Netto than of its main competitors, even this one store aside. This especially when it comes to contempt for the customers.)

Today, 2024-03-01, I went for a second visit—and was so turned off that this will remain my last visit for the foreseeable future. (Call it another three years, if I find myself in a forgiving mood.)

It began in the parking lot, where I tried to check out a shopping cart by entering a coin in the appropriate slot on the cart. This turned out to be impossible, as the “slider” that needed to be pushed in just popped out again and again, and failed to release the cart. The presence of duct tape next to (but not covering) the slot/slider pointed to a damage to the mechanism that had been perfunctorily patched together, and in a manner that was either insufficient and untested or had simply not lasted. Amateurish: the cart should have been taken out of service until a sufficient repair had been made.


Shopping carts in Germany are usually chained together in such a manner that a coin has to be inserted to detach a cart from the chain. The coin is returned when the cart is put back in the chain.

Note that the one defective cart blocked an entire chain of carts. The attempt to save a quick buck on repairs backfired by making a third, give or take, of all the carts unavailable for the time being.

Theoretically, of course, some other explanation might exist, e.g. that someone had deliberately sabotaged the cart and applied the duct tape to delay discovery. Such explanations, however, seem far-fetched and, if true, would still point to a recurring problem and one by no means limited to Netto: grocery stores pay too little attention to their carts. Just having someone on staff give each cart a, e.g., monthly check, to see whether it can remain in use or should be serviced/scrapped, could work miracles for the average state, but this simply does not appear to be done. The result is blocked wheels, unbalanced wheels, malfunctioning coin slots, damaged handles, whatnot, that are only fixed with great delays. (This while it is rarely worth the customer’s time to point an issue out to the staff. Reactions, both on my very few own attempts and some few attempts by others that I have observed, have ranged from of “What do you expect me to do about it!” to “Wait here for five minutes while I get the manager!”.

I had better luck with a second chain of carts and proceeded into the store—where I immediately heard an overly loud commercial announcement. (Contrast this to the much more moderate prior visit.) To boot, the announcement used the presumptuous, rude, and generally unconscionable-in-advertising “Du”, instead of the proper “Sie”. Further announcements took place; one of them, absurdly, demanded that I make Netto, a grocery store, my electricity provider (or some such—I did my best to ignore what was said). Such announcements have no place in a customer-friendly store, and even a customer-unfriendly one should have the common decency to keep intrusiveness down and to be polite to the customers. (However, as a silver-lining, the number of announcements remained similarly low to the prior visit and, correspondingly, much lower than at the time of [1].)


See an older text for further explanations around “Du” and “Sie” and the difference between general politeness and general rudeness.

As is often the case with commercial/advertising language, other issues with poor communication, lack of logic, presumptuousness, whatnot, abounded during today’s visit, e.g. things in the “Your partner for X!!!” family.

Apart from the occasional commercial announcement, the actual “shopping phase” went reasonably well. However, this ended when I reached the queue for the single cashier.

Firstly, the queue was unnecessarily long, without a second register being opened. This reflects a very common problem with my prior visits to Netto (cf. [1]), that there are no attempts by the staff to adapt to the number of customers in the store or in a given queue. Instead, the store stubbornly sticks to exactly one register until the customers explicitly complain.


This is the more idiotic, as the saved time/cost/whatnot for the store is minimal relative a more proactive approach: the amount of work done by the staff remains almost the same. There might be a minute or two lost to open or close the cash register, but this is dwarfed by the time lost by the customers, and, very often, this opening/closing has to take place anyway, even when the store is not proactive. It might be five or ten minutes later, but it still takes place and the overall time lost remains the same. (While the time lost by the customers is considerably changed.)

Also note [2] for some other issues with queueing. Note how similar calculations to those made there show massive gains when a second register is opened “now” over “in five minutes”. (Let alone over not opening a second register at all.)

When a second register was announced, I made the mistake of remaining in the original queue, believing that I was sufficiently far ahead that it would be faster to remain: A common issue is that the time from announcement to actual opening can be anything from ten seconds to several minutes. Netto tends to be comparatively slow. Another is whether one lands sufficiently far ahead in the new queue. (Depending on reaction times, how easy navigation is, who originally stood where, etc., the new position might or might not be better than the old one.)

However, as things played out, I might finally have been done some five minutes (!) after the new register had already closed (!) again. (Going by subjective time. I did not make measurements. However, it was certainly in the minutes.)

There were two considerable problems on Netto’s end, made worse by a customer issue (cf. side-note).

To look at the Netto issues:

Firstly, the very young cashier did not seem up to the task. He was slow, had repeated instances of hesitation of the “What do I do know?” kind, and had problems handling some equipment (cf. below). My speculation would be that it was one of his very first days doing the job. If so, a particularly close eye on the development of the queue should have been kept by others and someone should have been at hand to intervene; if not, he was clearly not cashier material and should not have had the job at all.

Looking at the former scenario, I would go as far as to recommend that a beginner should never be the sole cashier or, on the outside, “never when a non-trivial number of customers are in the store”. Get him up to speed first and then let him handle things alone. Unfortunately, however, many stores appear to do it in the exact opposite way: put the kid in the deep end of the pool and to hell with the customers. (And, to re-iterate, Netto seems to follow a strict only-one-register-open-until-the-customers-complain policy.)

Secondly, with the very last customer before it was my turn, something went wrong when he tried to make a manual input for a non-scannable item (also see side-note below). Everything seemed done, when the customer complained that “You did something wrong! It says ‘potatoes’ and I had no potatoes!” (paraphrased from memory). The cashier now spent quite some time pushing buttons, with increasing agitation, while achieving nothing. Eventually, he had to call for a senior colleague to achieve the correction—who took half an eternity to get there. This despite there now being a hold-up of possibly a dozen customers in a queue again of considerable size. (The second register had already closed.)

The senior colleague arrived, punched some buttons, left, and was called back, because she had not completed the transaction, which caused a further delay upon the delay upon the delay. (I lack knowledge of the details, but the need to enter a password was mentioned.)

According to the cashier, there was a recurring (!) issue that he entered some numerical code and something else was registered, e.g. that the last digit was cut off. Here we have three main alternatives: (a) He was doing something wrong and should have been supervised/instructed until he did it right. This did not happen. (b) The particular device at this register was flawed and the queue should have been shifted to another register. (E.g. by opening that register in parallel, moving most customers there, and only keeping the original register open until the few closest to the register had been handled.) This did not happen. (c) A larger problem was present, in which case Netto is all the more deserving of losing its customers. As far as I am concerned, this actually did happen—I am, for the second time, a lost customer.


The customer issue was not necessarily “anyone’s fault” and certainly not Netto’s fault. It did make matters worse, however:

I was preceded by a group of women, who appeared to truly be in a group, as in a single family keeping each other company, but with a single checkout. This including arrangements on the conveyor belt (or whatever the correct English term might be). As it turned out, they were actually making three separate checkouts, with a corresponding almost threefold increase in time needed. Apart from the increase in time, as such, it also made it hard for me to gain a realistic estimate of the remaining time. Had I known that there were two “hidden” checkouts, I likely would have switched queues.

The situation was made the worse by all three having bought some breads, donuts, or similar on a pick-them-yourself-and-put-them-in-a-bag basis. The already slow cashier now had to go through each bag and enter a separate numerical code, as opposed to just scanning a bar code, for each picked item, which made the time needed to enter all the products explode. It was with the last of these three bags that the above problem occurred.

(A third Netto-specific issue could be argued, in that some better system should have been found to handle the breads, but it is, I suspect, rare that so many instances in a row occur. When it is, say, one-every-ten-minutes instead of three-in-a-row, the overhead might be acceptable. How such a solution would look, I cannot say for certain without much more knowledge of the situation, but a possibility might be more unified pricing and the use of a single entry code or a combination of unified pricing, a bar code on the bags, and the mere entry of how many items were in the bag.)

With hindsight, as I run events through my head during writing, I do suspect a wrongdoing by one of the women: Two of them were originally standing in line ahead of me. The third joined them shortly after I had entered the queue and I did not object on the basis that I, again, assumed that they were a single group with a single checkout. Looking back, chances are that she inconsiderately presumed to barge ahead on a “My friends are already in the queue!!! I have the right to join them!!! To hell with queue-etiquette and civilized manners!!!” basis. (Also note some remarks on similar issues in [2]. Women, in particular, seem to have no understanding of how fair queuing works.) Worse, while I did not keep an eye on the who-is-who, chances are that this third woman also was the third to reach the check out, which implies that her purchase was the one that added entirely unnecessary minutes to my queueing.