Why I shop at France’s most expensive supermarket

In the early morning of April 17, 2020, I was walking my dog when I saw two wild dogs wandering in the middle of the road. Our eyes locked just long enough for me to know what was about to happen. I scooped my dog into my arms and went into a brace position.

A high-pitch screech brought me back into my body, and when I opened my eyes, I realised it was me reacting to the sets of teeth piercing my skin. “They are going to kill you,” the voice in my head alerted. Somehow, I started running, dog clenched in arms. I darted across the street with the two beasts relentlessly chasing me as blood dripped down my legs.

This was halfway through the first covid lockdown so there were few vehicles passing by at 5:30 am. One knowingly drove by me but the 4-door car behind stopped. I jumped into the back seat. The dogs leapt onto the car as the driver tried to scare them off by honking. Eventually, the two (as I later learned) Malinois trained guard dogs that escaped from their villa continued toward Monaco and the young couple in the car dropped me off at home where I called the Police (the driver had already contacted them) who patched me through to an ambulance.

It wasn’t until after I was home from getting stitches and filing a police report (the dogs went on to attack three other victims in Monaco) that I realised I had no way of thanking the strangers who, literally, saved me and my dog from being mauled to death.

A few days later, a neighbourhood friend called to say the couple in the car worked at our local grocery story, Casino in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

When I reunited with them to express my gratitude, the driver told me a remarkable story. That same morning of the dog attack his two-door car wouldn’t start so he borrowed his girlfriend’s sedan to get to work on time. He said it was fate because with his coworker as a passenger there would not have been room for me in his car.

From that moment on, I have been a loyal customer of Casino Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. And I would be remiss, then, if I did not address this week’s headline calling it “France’s most expensive supermarket.”

Yes, it is pricey. This is a secret to no one. The staff talk about it, locals talk about it. It’s like saying people live in Monaco to avoid paying income tax.

Yet the store bordering Monaco has its advantages. It opens weekdays at 7:30 am, so you can shop before going to work. For the budget sensitive like me, there is the CasinoMax app which gives you a 10% discount on each item. And unlike the super-sized Carrefour Monaco chockablock with shoppers, this Casino has manageable floor space with less people hogging up the aisles.

It is a store all about proximity for the Saint Roman community of all ages who shop without cars and prefer to haul their buggies and recycled bags with daily provisions rather than shop online.

The couple who run the place go out of their way to say hello to me; when my native Canada is in the news that ask about my family. I am in no way defending the owners or their retail pricing strategy. The survey (see video below) did not reveal the details of their operating expenses. Maybe they could reduce prices, I don’t know.

What I do know is that they have an exceptional staff. Every time I walk into the supermarket, there is a sense of family. I am greeted with a friendly hello, and some chit chat. These workers are mostly thirtysomethings trying to live their lives like anyone else. Some are single parents; others have had tragic loss. Some are fanatic about Christmas and baking; others have lost 20kg and are now passionate about sports. They are all accommodating in their roles and I am not always the most patient of customers.

These human connections matter to me more than the bottom line. And I think we forget that behind every headline there are lives impacted. I will continue to support France’s most expensive grocery store because someone who works there once did the right thing to help me. And doing the right thing is priceless.

Article first published on September 7, 2023.

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