If you want prune juice in Cyprus, do you go to the health-food shop or the supermarket? In Dubai, do you buy table lamps from the same shops which sell teapots? In Budapest, can you buy newspapers from a bookshop?

In England you buy axes from the same places which sell toasters - namely hardware shops. Axes are used mostly for heavy gardening, but other heavy gardening equipment (shears, secateurs, trimmers) is in gardening shops. So do you get chainsaws from there? No - you probably rent them from the same businesses where you rent skips and incinerators.

Shoes and sandals are in the footwear department of a clothing store, but socks are probably in the underwear department. So are the socks near the lingerie? Um, no.

Soap, suntan lotion, pregnancy test kits and prozac all come from the apothecary, but not washing powder, which is in a different shop, near the toilet paper. Some shops sell nothing but printer ink cartridges - not even printers or paper.

Josticks, essential oils and scented candles are in the new age shop - all ways to make air smell nice. But air freshener is next to fly killer and carpet cleaner in shops that would never sell aromatherapy stuff. Electric hair trimmers, scissors and safety razors seem never to be together under the same roof. Cut throat razors are in the army surplus store.

If I want a replacement power lead for my tower computer, I probably get it from the domestic electrical shop. They don't stock computer parts, but they have power leads for kettles, which have a plug that, to my knowledge, is used only for kettles...and computers.

But not laptops. The lead connecting my laptop to the power converter also has a plug found in one other place - domestic cassette recorders.

MP3 players are next to disco lights in the music technology shop - which also sells USB cables and SCART leads for video recorders. But synthesisers are sold in the same places which sell pianos.

Why? I don't know. Some of it makes a kind of sense, but you can always think of more sensible alternatives.

Okay, so different cultures have different semi-arbitrary ways to decide which products are grouped together in which kinds of shop. But we all know our own culture pretty well, don't we?

Well I'm rather unsure where I'd pick up these items:

  • Pumice
  • Keyrings
  • Coathangers
  • Posh specialist cutlery - salad forks, pastry forks, spaghetti forks etc
  • Chopsticks
  • Piano wire - not seen it in music shops
  • Video/Audio tape splicing equipment - used to be in consumer electronics next to the walkmans.
  • School chalk (gypsum)


  1. Piano wire? Are you planning to garrotte someone? :-P

    Just for the record, I despise all forms of shopping - although I will quite happily browse a bookshop for hours on end.

  2. All these items can be found at my local superstore--where you buy groceries and furniture and tools and clothing! And right by the register, are diet books next to loads of candy and soda on sale!

    And out front, you can pick up a few illegal immigrants for your landscaping or remodeling project, maybe other recreational activities--but I'm not sure as I've never picked any of them up. But since when has doing something illegal (or immoral) stopped people from earning money? Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?

    In Wal Mart, the shotguns are in the sporting goods section!

  3. Whenever I needed to purchase say - safety-pins, novelty drinking-straws, coat-hangers, a thermometer, ear-plugs, an egg-timer and a can of pop, I'd head straight to Woolworths.
    Sadly no longer.