Reminds me of when I bought my vinyl copy of The Pixies' "Trompe Le Monde" from a record shop in Moscow. Having spotted this album in the rather sparse rack, I went to pick it out but a stern lady assistant left me in no doubt that this wasn't the correct procedure. I then had to join a queue, and when it was my turn, another lady followed me to the rack and lifted said LP, which she took back to her counter. I was then presented with a small piece of paper, which I had to take to a pair of ladies at the till. I duly presented my little docket, and paid (in US dollars. Well, one anyway, for which I received some small change). Another piece of paper was presented, which I then had to take back to the other lady. But wait, there's more...
I had to join another queue, LP in hand, to have it carefully placed in a paper bag, before I could leave the shop, presenting my receipt to another lady at the door before I could get out. Good LP though.
Nice story Tony.
Back in the 1980s I was in the old Soviet Union, and buying anything (when there was anything to actually buy) was a huge headache.
Soap, for example, was sold by weight. So you had to tell a shop assistant that you wanted to buy soap. They would fetch someone who would then cut the required amount of soap off a block. This would then be weighed. Once it was weighed, you were given a chit which you had to take to a counter (this inevitably involved queuing), and you would pay. Then you would be given another chit, and you would queue yet again to pick up your (misshapen) bar of soap, wrapped in brown paper.
When shoes came in, they were dumped on a counter or a big box. If you liked a particular shoe and it was your size, you had to hunt around for its mate. Often it wasn't there. And if you did find it, there was the purchase system to negotiate. Often if you were a non-Soviet, you'd get a lot of questions about why you had roubles and why you weren't at a Beryozka (state-owned tourist shops that sold goods - often not available to ordinary Soviet citizens - for foreign currency).
Of course you could go to a Beryozka but hell, where's the fun in that?
I remember being in the famous GUM department store just by Red Square once. This store was spectacular and was one of the very few in the USSR which actually had stuff to buy in it. Consequently there were queues everywhere (especially given the agonisingly slow purchase process). That wasn't a problem - Russians seem to be good (almost as good as the British) at queuing , and there were never any problems.
Except for the day when a large consignment of Polish-made bras came in. My girlfriend of the time, Ludmilla, used to say that the bane of Soviet women's lives was the lack of decent, comfortable underwear. Soviet-made bras were apparently particularly uncomfortable - always ill fitting, badly sized and with straps and bands that snapped or wires that would stab you. Polish bustenhalters were not great either, but better than the Russian ones.
On this particular day, a large delivery of the Polish ones came in. They were just dumped on a big table and there was a mad scramble for them. It degenerated into quite a fray - I'd never seen so many women scrapping so violently before.
Ludmilla managed to grab one - it didn't matter that it wasn't her size, she could swap it for one that was, or sell it on the black market (the black market on the USSR in the 1980s was enormous).
Yep, shopping in the USSR was certainly an experience.
I remember going to the Melodiya record shops (all state-owned of course) and having similar experiences to you, although I only bought classical and Uzbek and Kazakh records. Surprisingly, the records were of very good quality, and I still enjoy the LPs I bought out there more than 30 years later.