1 loaf of bread for free with a 2 euro purchase

Wolfgang Haas
Wolfgang Haas 26/05/2023 3 minutes


Shortly before eight o'clock in the morning I enter a social market, the "VinziMarkt" in Vienna, where socially disadvantaged people can shop with a permit. They get this permit if their monthly income does not exceed 1,050 Euros after taxes (the average monthly income in Austria is 2,700 Euros before taxes). I am not a customer, but I will offer my services for one day as part of the "Social Active Day". My colleague arrives, who will also help with sales and servicing with me today. Store manager Oli introduces us and assigns us to the two volunteers Eva and Helga, who have been providing voluntary support once a week for many years. 

A long queue has already formed in front of the shop. The market is small and a maximum of 10 people are allowed in the market at any one time. The market is filled with donations from supermarkets. Volunteers collect food, laundry products and cosmetics by car, which are sold at a maximum price of 30% of the normal price. The fresh produce is usually close to its expiry date. I am assigned to sell fruit and vegetables. The selection is very modest, unfortunately not much was delivered, and we have to dispose of some of it immediately.

The market opens before 9 a.m. and the customers stream into the shop impatiently. There are strict rules, the shopping trolley must not be left alone and everyone is only allowed to go through the shop once. The fruit and vegetable stall is a fixed point for everyone. Anyone who buys something for at least 2 euros gets a loaf of bread for free. The first ones still have a choice, depending on what bread the supermarkets have provided. I sell apples, which are particularly nice today, fresh raspberries and strawberries, which are gone in no time, mushrooms, lettuces, carrots, courgettes, grapes. In between, I take turns wrapping loaves of bread with Eva. But there are many disappointed faces: no potatoes, onions, cabbage today. An elderly woman with a headscarf gives me a sweet and thanks me because I was able to give her the last raspberries.     

My colleague stands at the entrance and makes sure that people get in properly. He helps the customers put their purchases in their bags, holds the door open for them and politely thanks them for their purchases. Many are not used to this and leave the shop smiling. We swap places, and now I make sure that the customers only enter the shop if there is a free shopping trolley available. The queue waits patiently in front of the shop, no one pushes. Suddenly, a young family with a girl is standing in front of the door. They open the door and ask me how to apply for a card to go shopping. I call manager Oli, who takes care of the future new customers. Next to the cash register, which is operated by Ursi, also a volunteer, is a container of snacks. Five pieces per person can be taken for free. The little girl points to the container and asks for a packet. I give her one and the girl likes the little "kangaroos" inside. The income check fits, and the family is allowed to go shopping for the first time. When they have paid at the checkout, the mother asks me if they can take more packets of the snacks. I reach into the container and even want to give her more than the five she is entitled to. No, she is only entitled to four, because she already got one, the mother says, and gratefully gives the rest back to me. I am very impressed by her modesty and honesty.

The shop will close soon, and so the many packs of sushi that have their expiry date on the same day will be given away for free from now on, because the rest has to be disposed of in the rubbish container anyway. I pack everything into a shopping trolley and go to the checkout to advertise the goods. There is a lot of interest, a customer hesitantly asks me if she could possibly take a second pack. I say, "As much as you want, the trolley is full," and I think of the rubbish container, where everything that is not taken now will end up anyway. A young mother smiles happily, grabs two packs of salmon sushi and whispers to me: "I couldn't afford them at the normal price". The normal price in the "Vinzimarkt" is 1.80 euros per pack, making it one of the most expensive products in the market. I have a very nice chat with a lady who tells me that she can't eat sushi, but she's happy to take some for her neighbour, who will surely be pleased. Market manager Oli tells me later that the lady has terminal cancer and says she is happy to see everyone in the market because she doesn't know how long she will be around.

The last customers have paid, the market is closed, my work is done. A job that has filled me with great humility and also gratitude that I am doing very well, and that there are people, organisations and donors who are committed to helping those who are not so fortunate, for whatever reason.

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