Carts and baskets have become standard shopping accessories, but retailers say you do not have to use one if you do not want to.
But according to a handful of shop owners and employees in Spišská Nová Ves, the rule is not a rule at all. "You don't need a basket. It's just normal in Slovakia for people to carry baskets," said one clerk.
"During socialism it was more or less a rule intended to keep people from stealing - if you only have one free hand, it's more difficult to pocket goods. Also, for smaller shops, it was a way to make sure that too many people weren't crowded into the store at once. But now there are so many grocery stores and so much competition that this is no longer a problem."
Rule or habit, it's still strange for many shoppers. The Slovak Spectator asked four people what they felt of the Slovak shopping norm on November 27 and 28.
Karina Kogan, 25, a Ukraine-born American citizen travelling through Slovakia, said: "I really don't understand it. Twice I've been in Slovak supermarkets and I thought it was so odd that people were carrying baskets even if they only had one thing. I saw a little girl with a basket who was buying a single juice box. I thought she was just trying to be like her mom, but then I saw it happen again in Bardejov. Then someone explained it was a rule and it started to make sense," she said.
"But that basket is about six times heavier than a juice box. Isn't the point of carrying carts to ease your shopping experience? If you have only one item that basket makes it more difficult."
Miroslav Turčan, 32, of Spišská Nová Ves, said that carrying a basket was an unwritten rule he had grown accustomed to.
"It's logical to have a basket, to me it's normal. I don't know why it's that way, it just is that way and I see no problem with it," he said.
"If I have to buy clothes, it would be stupid to carry a basket. But if I'm buying food, then of course it's normal. And it's the same in Hungary. It's not that it's strange only here in Slovakia, it's the same all over.
"Besides, it's really not that important to me. If they want me to carry a basket, fine. I've accepted it as a rule."
Mrs. Sokolová, a 65-year-old Slovak from the same town, agreed that the shopping cart habit was "normal". "Well, where else are you going to put your stuff? If you don't have a cart you can't buy everything you want!" she said.
When asked if people should be expected to use a cart even when buying only one or two items, she said: "Of course. It's normal. I absolutely agree with it as a rule."
Michelle Weinberg, a 24-year-old American living in the southern Slovak city Šahy, said the shopping basket habit was one she followed only when convenient.
"I don't have a problem with it unless it's crowded and everyone is waiting in line for a basket. That's when I just go in and let everyone stare at me. I've gone in plenty times when I just wanted a soda or something without taking a basket. People stare, but I'm used to it."
3. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri