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Berlin Kiosk Blues On A Holiday

I'm in Berlin and it's early Monday morning and I decided to rent a bicycle for 24 hours as it's my second full day in Germany's capital. I learn by doing, which means to get around this spacious city with many public squares, a bike was the right play. I'm hungry and wanted to stop at a grocery store looking for some water, cheese, bread, and fruit. You see, I arrived late on Saturday in Berlin and wasn't able to buy any food staples that day to get me through until Monday. Because most grocery stores are closed on Sunday in Germany, I need to stock up before my sightseeing begins.

Leveraging technology, I see several grocery stores within a few kilometers of my hotel. That's the good news, the bad news, I quickly learned it's a holiday on Monday (in Berlin) which means all grocery stores are closed. Information is critical, if I had known this at the time of my arrival on Saturday, I probably would have made a gallant attempt then to purchase some staples before the grocery stores were to be closed for two consecutive days.

Ok, plan B, there has to be a kiosk or small neighborhood store that sold at least refreshments that day. After about 30 minutes of cycling through several unfamiliar neighborhoods, I found a kiosk with the door open. The middle-aged man working the kiosk looked as though he wanted to be anywhere but working his kiosk -- especially on a holiday when his family and friends may have been enjoying the fine weather that day.

The kiosk had no food but gum, sweets, beer, and water so to make the best of the situation, I started to survey his beer selection. I said in German, " Wie viel für dieses dunkle Bier?" and he replied "ein und dreisig Euro". What about "Für ein Weißbier?" He deadpanned, "ein und vierzig Euro." (€1.30 and €1.40). Realizing he didn't take credit as I dug into my pocket and determined my limit was 6 Euros so being price conscious was key. I asked him why there were no prices above or below the beer, water, and soda. He said, "Because I know all the prices."

He persisted in broken English, "If they want know, they ask me, I'm owner so me know." He saw that puzzled look on my face and said, "If price everything and change in prices, much work for me. I persisted, (while in my head I could hear my mother say, "Kevin, you don't always have to thoroughly examine everything") "I know, but having prices would allow a customer to survey what they could and couldn't afford and not bother the salesperson."

In retrospect, I was a fool to think he understood what I was attempting to communicate. He wasn't a business consultant or customer service professional, he owned and sold stuff from his kiosk. I didn't think to change the prices once or twice a year was that much work. But again, what do I know? And besides, it's none of my business and he's the owner.

After purchasing 2 German beers and a bottle of water for 5 Euros, I then said exasperatingly, "I can't believe how difficult it is to find a any place open on a holiday. I've been everywhere without success." He just looked at me as he turned up his music to drown out any further communication. Of course, that meant, shut up, and leave my store as this conversation is over. As I gathered my supplies and hopped back on my bike back to the hotel, my only thought was that he doesn't major in empathy. In other words, it's not his problem.


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