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Saturday, September 10, 2005 


Shopalotology--the science of shopping.
Buy one pair of sneakers, one birthday present and some groceries. That's ALL I had to do today. I managed to do it all and now it will take me all of Sunday to recuperate from the whole ordeal. I know what you're all thinking..."She's bitching about shopping??? How can she possibly complain about shopping?? And she's female!" Well if ONLY it were that simple.

Shopping in Athens is not done inside an air conditioned mall with 500 stores under one roof, with escalators and plentiful parking. Oh no. If you plan to buy 3 entirely unrelated things (in my case...shoes, appliance, groceries) you need to have a plan. A good one.

The Plan
Driving or walking? This is a big decision. If you pick driving, then you can go to the big stores like Carrefour (Walmart wannabe) and possibly accomplish all 3 things at once in the same place. If you pick walking, you have more chances at finding a wider brand selection and this is something just as important when it involves footwear for an 11 year old boy who believes his mother is hell bent on destroying his budding social life by buying him sensible shoes.

Where? Once you've settled on how you're going to do you your shopping, you have to figure out where you're going to do it. At the hyperstores where prices are cheaper or neighbourhood shopping where prices are usually higher and there's no air conditioning as you walk along broken sidewalks in searing heat. I chose a combination of the two...I drove to a street in Nea Smyrni which is home to all the athletic name brand outlet stores and then I parked at one end and walked both sides of the street till we found the Old Skool sneakers my son wanted from Nike. Of course, it HAD to be the VERY last shop. Then I drove 3 districts away to get the groceries which had on-premise parking.

To get the microwave birthday present was the easiest part...it was on the way to the footwear street but because of the size of it, that was determining factor in my decision to take the car.

So after my careful planning last night, the price I paid was 5 1/2 hours of my time, 2 blisters, one aching ankle, 1/4 of a tank of gas, 300€ and a massive headache. Without the planning, I'm sure I would have been hospitalized for nervous exhaustion, my son would have called the Fashion Police on me for child neglect and I would have only got half of what I needed to do done.

The Solution
I need to become a celebrity. That's the ticket. Pay someone else to do my shopping, while other people take pictures of me and praise the results. But then, what would I blog about? The trials and tribulations of Fashion Week in Paris and my $20 million per movie paycheques? I can live with that.

Don't you have internet shopping with delivery to your home?

I buy all my books from amazon.co.uk but for the rest of the things I need, I pound the pavement for them. I'd love to be able to order more things besides books and cds from amazon but they don't deliver the really cool stuff like appliances here. I tried internet shopping on a greek site once but whatever I picked was not in stock, had a 2-3 week wait or I couldn't proceed to the checkout so I just gave up. Maybe the greek sites are better now, I just haven't tried them since then.

Yea, that is the bad thing about big city life in Greece. Athens was the worst, but our neighborhood (the edge of Neo Psykiko - right up from the Katehaki metro stop on the blue line) had about everything we needed in semi decent walking distance from our apartment. Still, buying big items without a car was a major issue.

On Kos, and in Litochoro, using the car to shop wasn't a problem, it was more like suburbia in America.

Now here in Thessaloniki, we are screwed again, but luckily, we have a supermarket and a pharmacy across the street, so that takes care of major needs. A heavy shopping district is a street away as well, and we can always drive out to the IKEA area for big things. Its the finding the parking place when you get home that is the trouble.

But having to walk around for stuff when you have a collapsed hip is even more difficult. I sometimes have no idea how I manage.

Well, the first Greek mall is supposed to open in Marousi, at the Neratziotisa suburban rail station, in November. I've seen the monster from a distance, I have no idea how it looks inside... There's underground parking for 2,000 cars. Still, the problem in Greece is PRICES... I wouldn't mind walking the extra mile if I could find good stuff at reasonable prices. Everything in this country is expensive and quality is generally poor. I have been buying books and clothes via mail order from the US and with the expensive euro the bottom line is worth the trouble. Overall though Greece is a shopping desert. Now try to imagine how it was 20 years ago -- when we would engage friends and family traveling abroad to bring back sampoo, suntan lotion, cigarettes, and booze. We're still in the Balkans... big time!

I don't understand, what is different in cities of other European countries or USA? Here in New York I never go to malls because I would have to drive, they are far and they don't have as much choice either. In the centre of Athens there are many stores concentrated you can walk arond them too. Malls were never successful in Greece anyway, possibly because the weather is not cold, I think the mall in Marousi is doing ok though.

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