Welcome back to my Swiss themed A - Z challenge.
Today's post is about Migros, one of our two grocery giants.
Everybody in Switzerland knows and loves Migros.
Well, probably not everybody loves Migros, because our country is divided into "Migros children" and "Coop children", meaning, growing up you were tending to either of the two, and to this day you're sticking to your choice - even though you may buy certain items at the competitor's.
At the end of the day, Migros comes out as Switzerland's retail market share winner (2018)
Every year Europa Park, the popular fun park in Southern Germany, is exclusively open for 25,000 Migros family customers.
A few years ago Migros sent me there free of charge to blog about it. Up to this day this blog post is my most successful in terms of visits.
During our day at the park, we discovered the Migros bus which I was all excited about. The guys shrugged and said "it's an old bus, what's so special about it?"
Well, boys, everything is special about it!!! In the olden days, when I was a kid, not every mom had a car to go shopping, and the closest Migros store was a 10 minutes' car ride away!
That's where the bus came in. It was loaded with groceries. When Gottlieb Duttweiler, the founder, started out in 1925, it was only six items: coffee, sugar, pasta, rice, coconut fat and soap. (Replace the coconut fat by toilet paper rolls, and you have yourself a lockdown consumer basket...)
On a weekly basis the bus stopped in various neighborhood streets. Ours came to Parkstrasse, which is a 5 minutes' walk from where I grew up. So on bus shopping day (Wednesdays for us), people would come out of their houses with their grocery list and large shopping bags at hand and wait for the bus to arrive.
Of course there was not much space in the bus, and not everybody could go in at the same time, so it was usually an opportunity to chat with people from the neighborhood and for the kids to run around. Good times!
Today this bus can be admired at Lucerne's transportation museum.
I asked around within the Swiss Moms' community on Facebook, and I had many nostalgic reactions. Many shopped at the bus with their Grandmothers. Some told me their particularly heart-warming stories:
Esther was about five years old, and she totally loved the Migros bus experience. So much so that she kept sitting outside on her folding chair, waiting for the bus to arrive. She had coins ready to buy gummy bears, and of course she knew the bus driver's name. Fast forward some ten years, and she was ready for her career orientation. Retail had always been her passion, so she applied with - guess - Migros. And guess more. In the dairy department she came across an elderly man who kept looking at her funny until he asked her where she grew up, and was she by any chance that little girl on the folding chair? He was the bus driver.
Petra's Dad used to work as a Migros bus driver. On rare occasions she was allowed to join him. Here's what she remembers: Daddy used to start at 6am, he had to stock the bus, and at 7:30am he started his route. When the bus service was discontinued, his loyal customers were waiting for him at the curb. They brought coffee and cake.
Barbara remembers a special Migros bus customer: a lovely, well-fed, short lady whose husband was very controlling. He would check her grocery list, the bill and the change, except the pennies. She gave these to that girl from the neighborhood, Barbara. The pennies added up, and when she had saved up enough, she would buy peach rings (gummy candy). I asked if she ever found out what happened to this lady? "Of course I do! Her husband passed away, and she resided at the same retirement home as my Grandma, I often visited her and brought some peach rings."
I love these stories!
Duttweiler and his helpers ran the bus business for a good 15 years while in parallel they were building stores in different Swiss areas. in 1941 he transformed his privately owned companies into ten regional cooperatives that to this day still exist. In my area it's called "Migros Genossenschaft Aare." Aare for the river I told you about yesterday.
About two million people (out of the less than nine million total citizens) are members of the Migros cooperative and hold a free share that allows them to vote at the general assembly.
Of course this does not happen in person. It's an "Urabstimmung" = strike ballot. Not unlike federal voting I told you about in my post about democracy, they will send you a voter's card as well as a chocolate bar as a thank you for your participation. Who will disagree with their way of doing business..?
I loved when Colin was old enough to be able to sit in the shopping cart. We loved our grocery runs. Today he's almost 12, and he spends his pocket money for gummy candy just like the kids back then, except he doesn't get them at the Migros bus.
What early memories do you have about grocery shopping?
Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check in tomorrow. I'll be talking about Switzerland being politically neutral.