Kent system like communist Moscow

Posted on July 10, 2007
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In 1972, while at the Canada Russia hockey summit in Moscow, I visited the renowned GUM department store and a Soviet version grocery supermarket.

Partly to provide full employment and partly, I suspect, to keep the masses out of mischief, the communist government made the retail experience mind crushing.

First of all, each section of the supermarket was like a separate store. Shoppers had to make separate purchases from each department.

A shopper would stand in line and work her (always her) way up to the meat counter. When her turn came, she would tell the butcher what she wanted. He would write out an invoice and hand it to her.

She would then go and stand in another line. When she got to the head of that one, she would pay the invoice and get a receipt stamped on it.

She would then work her way to the head of another line and be given her order.

Women did find ways to make the experience more efficient. They’d shop in groups with huge suitcases they could sit on. They would sit and read a book, standing up a bit when the line moved and kicking thesuitcase forward. One woman would buy the meat for the entire team. Another would do dairy. Another would do the bakery.

From then until now, Canadians have expressed shock and dismay when I tell that story.

Imagine my surprise to find a local store using the same 1970’s communist Moscow system with a twist that makes it even more frustrating.

Let’s suppose you want to buy ground spikes at the Kent building supply store. You go back to the back to a counter where you tell them what you want and they give you an invoice. You go back to the front where you pay the invoice and get a receipt.

Then, and here’s the twist, you go out into the supply yard and try to find someone to give you your ground spikes. When you do find someone not already getting an order together for someone else, he may or may not know where to find ground spikes. He usually knows someone who does and can describe him for you.

So off you go in search of the guy who knows, unless you happen across them yourself.

The people are all as helpful and friendly as they can be. The system is nauseating.

On one occasion, I did find what I had bought myself and couldn’t find anyone to take the yard copy of the invoice. I just took it and left.

So, not only does the system make you feel like you are in a weird dream, it doesn’t even work for the company.

Where is Mikhail Gorbachev now that we really need him?

–David Cadogan

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