This is what’s in mine:
Those are all supermarket “shoppers club” cards. Some temporary, some permanent, but all being hauled around.
I’m still trying to find my shopping rhythm.
In New York I had my regular haunts: Fairway Uptown (lion’s share), Trader Joe’s, various kosher markets (all of which I despised for one reason or another). Farmers’ markets in the summer. FreshDirect. Costco from time to time. A few hideous urban chains for when I desperately needed just-one-or-two-items. They all had their strengths and weaknesses, and almost none of them had cards.
Which isn’t to say I didn’t have barcoded wonder cards to various places, because I did: The New York Public Library (of course), Modell’s (sporting goods…I do not recall why), DSW (ironic, as I hate shoe shopping). But most of them were the small version that attaches to one’s key ring.
Receiving one was a simple form, often requiring just an email address and a phone number in exchange for a card on the spot.
But in Israel, it’s not quite so simple.
Filling out the forms to join the “club” is an exercise straight out of ulpan: your name, address, phone numbers, identity number plus info for your spouse; your date and place of birth; your arrival date in Israel; your place of education; the names and birthdates of your children. All this information is a matter of public record here, but nonetheless they want it. And in exchange? You get a temporary card with the real one to follow in four to eight weeks. Then you get emails advertising sales for things you don’t buy. Exactly one of the stores sends discount coupons (for 25 shekel off a 250 shekel purchase); this is useful, but it is on an irregular basis, unfortunately.
Also: I’ve yet to commit to a primary grocery store.
There is the one that has really excellent store brand products. (I have a card from there.)
The one that’s more expensive but walking distance from my house. (I have a card from there.)
The one that claims to be the least expensive in the area (I don’t buy it) and has insanely long lines after Monday but has the best butcher counter in a supermarket. (I have a card from there.)
The one that up until last month had the best price on Cheerios, but is now playing with my heart money; I’m totally not going there any more. (Though no card to give up.)
The next-closest grocery store to my house, which is pricey but convenient and 20 feet from a good falafel place. (No card.)
Oh, the best set of cards comes from my Pesach shopping, when I collected a card from a grocery store catering to the ultra-Orthodox population. This is an area I had never been to, and probably won’t be in again any time soon, though it’s just a few minutes up the road. I got harangued (nicely) into signing up by the young cashier, who looked over my order and told me I could save about $1.50 on toilet paper. She really insisted. Those Israelis! All up in your business!
There are at least two other chains that cater to the ultra-Orthodox that I’ve never visited. There is also a set of enormous grocery stores (the produce department is so big that it is its own store), all clustered near Tel Aviv. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law like this one because it has everything, all the name brands, no running around (like I do) to get specific items or brands here or there.
So what am I doing with all this?
I don’t quite know.
Life might be easier out in the middle of nowhere, where there isn’t as much choice. (Just in this particular regard.)
Unfortunately shuk shopping can only take care of a certain percentage of items. But that might be a good challenge….hmmm, shuk-only shopping for food items. Tempting.
Maybe the cards and all the craziness represents how I’m feeling now: still unsettled, sometimes belonging, sometimes not. I feel kind of like an idiot…I mean, how hard is it to have a regular routine?
This is where a job would help. A job that pays and has more specific expectations than my children (wake me, dress me, feed me x infinity, chauffeur me, bathe me, referee me, FIX IT EMA, FIX IT, et cetera).
But then who would do the shopping?