Has anybody else noticed how unorganised a lot of the supermarkets here in Denmark are? I’d been living here for less than four hours when I was warned at the checkout in Fakta to always “check my receipt.” The warning came from a friend, not an employee or a sign in the store, and it was priceless advice. Sure enough, we checked the receipt and there was a mistake on it. A discounted product, clearly marked in-store, had not been discounted and we’d paid the full price.

Naturally this didn’t end there. In fact, for a while my partner and I gathered all the receipts from all the supermarkets that hadn’t applied the discounts at the point of purchase and it didn’t take long to have a small handful. Nor was it just Fakta that was to blame, but more expensive brands like Irma and Super Brugsen, but the biggest offender was Netto.

The last thing Denmark needs (ever) are huge corporate supermarkets like Tesco and Wal-Mart, who have been accused in the past of running things rather unethically. For example, Tesco are No. 1 on celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s hitlist when it comes to sustainably-caught tuna. And it’s no secret that most farmers are now losing money when it comes to selling their dairy products to these particular supermarkets, who want to sell it on at insanely low prices.

Walking around Danish supermarkets you always see a healthy selection of organic products, which are of course always a little more expensive, and more and more seem to be stocking sustainably-caught fish products. But unfortunately it doesn’t excuse the poor customer service that seems to take place in most stores. Below are some of the more common problems I encounter on a day-to-day basis (especially in Netto).

1) Items are stacked together in completely random places

“Excuse me, can you tell me where I might be able to find some sauce to make a Thai Curry with?”
“Have you tried with all the other sauces?”
“Yes, you have everything there except Thai Curry sauce.”
“Then we don’t have it.”

I later found several packets and jars of the sauce, side-by-side with some chocolate brownie cake mix, some plasters, and some olives! Also, in Netto in Valby there’s a whole row dedicated to beer and soft drinks, so why can the “good” ale, such as those from smaller breweries and foreign countries, be found next to the sweets several rows away?

2) Items being located in one area one week, then moved to a completely different area the next

“Excuse me, all of the cereal was stacked here last week, and the week before that, actually. Now all I can find are the porridge oats, so where’s the rest?”
“They’ve all been moved to the opposite end of the store next to the half-price DVDs and light-bulbs”
“Thank you.”

3) Not displaying the price. At all.

Supermarket Prices, Netto, photography by matthew james, pbmj, guinness, danish supermarkets

Can anyone tell me the what the price of these cans of Guinness are?

Some stores now have barcode scanners for you to go and find out the price yourself, you lazy skank!!

4) Making you pay full price for a discounted item

OK, so I mentioned this one briefly already. But if you never check your own receipts, how many times have you seen the woman or man in front come back in to the store seconds later, pointing at something on their own receipt? Thus, the check-out guy or girl then has to get someone over to go and investigate whether the discount exists or is just an urban legend created by the lying individual in front of them.

Recently I met a guy who was an ex-employee of Netto. When I told him of my observations he nodded in total agreement. “Most of it is done to encourage impulse buying or to buy a product anyway, even if you don’t know what it costs,” he told me. Interesting.

So choose your supermarkets wisely, foreigners. And always check your receipts.