Friday, May 11, 2007

Venetian Retail Eccentricities

Some observations on Venetian, or perhaps Italian, retail culture.

1) Many shops have signs that say, "Entrata libera" (free entry). I am a bit puzzled, because it is not as if there are shops that charge admission just to look around. Museums, yes, but stores, no. And none of these shops could be confused with a museum. Hmm.

2) In many cases, it is cheaper (per bead) to buy a beaded necklace than to purchase the individual beads. I asked a shopkeeper why, and her response did not make much sense. She said the necklaces were less expensive because it is more convenient to the customer to buy the necklace than to make it themselves. Wouldn't a person pay extra for that convenience?

3) It seems that the shops that do not have the "Entrata libera" sign have other signs: Don't touch, or No Self Service. Now, these stores have the atmosphere (but not the appearance) of a museum, where everything on display (mostly glass art) is too precious to be handled. As a tactile person, I am not crazy about these shops and often I don't even bother to go inside.

4) Pastry Bars. Perhaps the rest of Italy has these, too, but Venice is the first place I have encountered the pastry shop and bar in one retail establishment. An interesting concept! Italians come here for a drink after work and to eat pizzetti (tiny pizzas), whereas I have ordered some tiramisu or a chocolate potato (a dense tuber shaped concoction of cocoa, liqueur, and other goodies, with a grape center and dusted with cocoa powder). Initially the bar aspect turned me off but the desserts I have sampled so far have been exceptional. Maybe I'll be ordering grappa to go along with it in a day or so....

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