A - Z 2020 Switzerland - Opening Hours

Welcome back to another instalment of my Swiss themed A - Z. O is for opening hours, and today is going to be a bit of a first world's rant.

Any expat who first moves to Switzerland will tell you about their fruitless attempts to go shopping on Sundays or even at relatively random weekday times.

In the village I grew up, grocery stores used to close at 6:30pm on weekday evenings, and on Saturdays at 4pm. Some would be closed on Mondays (all day) and Wednesdays (afternoons).

Considering this, today's shopping hours are way better! Typical supermarkets are open Mondays thru Fridays from 8am till 8pm, and Saturdays till 6pm, some even longer. The longest I know of is 10pm, but those only exist in very densely populated areas.

Pedestrian density and flow are key for retail and gastronomy. I learned a lot about it while working for Starbucks during its growth stage in Switzerland. At times I would even help counting passersby at different times of the day, when it was raining, and when the sun was shining. This was relevant in determining whether a potential location was suitable to open a new store.

I guess these studies are being done everywhere, and they are probably an important factor to define opening hours. Why else would a fabulous restaurant like Dean & David close at 4pm? At least that's true for their location in Zug where Colin plays hockey. 

Don't they want to sell dinners?

Sometimes I'm lucky, and traffic is moderate. If I am able to drop him off at the arena around 3:45pm, I will call the restaurant and ask them to make a chicken avocado bowl for me to pick up, and they will do their best. 

I live in a more rural area (hence the scenic Hofladen you learned about) where next to us regular folks in our town houses, about 180 inmates reside in a penitentiary. Bad guys who committed murder, sold large amount of drugs or molested children. 

Now I am not saying those are my buddies, although I have met some cheerful Caribbean guys. How come? When I was a board member of a local women's charity, I have had a rare chance to visit this prison. Upon that "guided tour" we were told that the inmates do some work for outside buyers. So if you have a thousand Christmas cards that need to be put in envelopes, you bring them to the reception area (that's how far you usually get - unless you are a lawyer or a family member with a visitor's pass), and the guys do it for a small fee. 

They also run a groceries store for the public. Well, the inmates don't actually work at the store, but they produce yogurt, jam, wine, vinegar and the like. Every Wednesday you can choose from a large selection of savory and sweet pies. We like to call them "killer pies", and they are delicious. 

So Wednesdays are their busiest day of the week. They open the store at 9.30am. People will be waiting in the parking lot before that and neatly queue in the store, and it may happen that by the time it's your turn, some varieties are sold out.

This is why I started to call early in the morning and order to pick up. Typically I wasn't the only one, and the phone line was busy all the time. This is when a nice sales lady recommended to order via e-mail, which is what I have been doing ever since.

Back to the opening hours. Mondays are closed. On other weekdays they open at 9:30am and close at 12 noon sharp. They won't reopen till 3pm and close at 6:30pm. Saturdays are 9:30am - 3pm. 

These are just another regular neighborhood shop's opening hours. Sadly they are now closed due to Corona lockdown. 

Colin and I were joking: they should set up a delivery service, we are sure the inmates would be happy to volunteer ;-)

Sunday is still the holy day off, pretty much everywhere. Except for vital services which include medical facilities (not drug stores, though. They alternate in keeping their doors open, so if you need one, you need to call or google first to find out where to go) gas, including convenience stores (life saver!) and restaurants. 

Still many, many chose to be closed on Sundays. Even in Zurich and other large cities. Not sure why. There would be plenty of hungry people who'd love a good meal on a Sunday as well. They pay rent on Sundays as well, wouldn't labor cost be lower than sales if they opened the place?

I'm just having a though here. Maybe Switzerland was practicing for Corona caused lockdowns all along?

Bad costumer service

Oh my goodness. I grew up here, and I just thought this was normal.  Unless something you bought was clearly DOA, there's no point in taking it back. Sales people will give you a hard time. Do you have a receipt? It says you may only return an item within 10 days, today it's 11. What did you do with the item, maybe you mistreated it?

Large companies change their products, promotions and rules so often that employees don't follow. You have to tell them on the phone or at the counter where on the website you found a specific offer and insist you get it. It's annoying, you wait and wait until they get a supervisor, and they usually don't have a can-do attitude either.

If the food at the restaurant is not acceptable, you have to basically wait to engage in debates until they are ready to clear the table. Why? Nobody will swing by your table a minute after serving to ask "how's everything tasting?" 

So even if you have a chance to tell them you really, really think the meat was too well done, the "host" will defensively tell you there must be something wrong with you because they know how to prepare this dish. Happened to me several times.

The list goes on. Can you imagine my pleasant surprise when I first visited the U.S.? Wow! The friendliness. The attentiveness. The no questions asked, the customer is always right. 

Yes, please! Of course they want a tip, but heck, they deserve it!!! 

This is one of my all time favorite restaurants in the U.S. because they consistently provide tasty food and friendly and speedy service: Outback Steakhouse. OK, so  portions got smaller and prices stayed the same. For us as visitors it's still more than acceptable. 

As always there are exceptions to the rule: 

My contact lens lady is great and she'll replace the faulty contacts immediately. 

The manager at Dean & David is wonderfully accommodating. 

I don't have a family doctor (don't get me started on this topic. No GP will accept "new" patients. Never mind that I have been around for almost 20 years now. So if I need a doctor I will turn to my iron IV specialist who is also a general practitioner, only his office is a half an hour's drive, which is fine for an annual blood draw. So if I run out of my cholesterol meds, I will e-mail him, and he'll send me some in a parcel. He is one of the very, very few medical people around here who understands that a patient is a customer.

On that note, enjoy your day and stay healthy! 

What is your experience regarding opening hours and customer service? I bet it greatly depends on where you live! Let me know down below and be sure to come back tomorrow for the letter P. I'll be talking about Provisions, Pocket Knives and the infamous Platzspitz. 


  1. I love all the pictures and omigosh you are making me so hungry...I would love to try a "killer pie"!

  2. More and more stores are opening sundays. Mostly supermarkets.
    Love your beautiful photos!

  3. When I lived in Massachusetts they still had a lot of "blue" laws on the books in regards to limiting alcohol sales on Sunday and before certain times etc. but for general shopping most things are open fairly decent hours although that may change after we get out of our current situation. We'll have to see. Weekends In Maine

  4. Oh my - that avocado chicken bowl looks scrumptious! Might have to do that for dinner tonight. ;)

    I love that stores are closed there once a week -- helps with pollution. Love the photos!

  5. I enjoyed learning about store hours, service, etc. in Switzerland. In the US, it's the same with store hours, where the urban areas businesses have longer hours and many stores are open on Sundays; and small towns businesses have shorter hours and more likely to close on Sunday. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and other journeyman businesses, as well as health care professionals closed on Sundays except for emergencies, and for the journeymen, you pay a pretty penny for emergency calls. About wait staff in stores and restaurants, most restaurants you have friendliness from the time you walk in the door. About working for tips, yes it makes staff friendlier but they still barely make enough to live on with them. I wish they would be paid more base salary. They and the rest of the service economy are really suffering now in lockdown :(

  6. I spent three four days in Switzerland. Did not notice the hours. But I got the dinner one day that too in an Indian restaurant. You pointed out Novartis in my list of companies. Going through activities of Novartis was fruitful. I found an interesting explanation of IE in an advertisement of Novartis. I made a separate post on it and circulated.

    Industrial Engineering - Novartis Definition:
    Activity related to developing the most efficient ways to utilize people, assets, materials, information, and energy to make a product or service.
    Industrial Engineering - Novartis Way

    The regular post on Novartis: Novartis Way Industrial Engineering - Activities and Jobs

  7. Here shops and restaurants are open all week Monday - Sunday. Some supermarkets are open 24 hours (but not now in the lockdown). Thursdays and Fridays are usually late nights at some malls so shops and malls are open until 9pm. Restaurants and pub close times vary.

    Suzy Someday Somewhere Letter P

  8. As a kid, shops were open M-F 9-5 and Sat 9-12. But now they are open everyday of the week.


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