Shopping at a socialist department store

Many of us imperialists have not had the chance to purchase goods in a socialist shop or department store. I did in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and in the DPRK. Rather than collecting the items you want and taking them to a single check out line, you are required to stand in three separate lines. I never really saw a published source explaining it all (though I am sure Lankov has written about it in one of his books), but happened upon a declassified (FOUO) document published on May 18, 1979 (the bracketed and italicized sections are my own comments).

[Line 1: Ordering] It is said that at the state-operated North Korean store the customer requests to the sales clerk what he wishes to purchase and have the name of the product and the price written on a small piece of paper. [Line 2: Paying] Then the customer goes to the cashier. After paying for his purchase in cash [and ration coupon if necessary] he gets his paper stamped; then [Line 3: collection] he goes back again to the clerk who [gets] the paper.

The purchased item is then finally handed to the customer.

I am not sure how many official retail establishments in the DPRK still practice these archaic control procedures. This practice is not used in the markets. In one encouraging sign, the recently refurbished Kwangbok Area Supermarket has transitioned to market-style shopping where individuals collect goods and pay for them in a single line.

Here is the citation for the quote:

“Translations on Korean Affiars (FOUO 1/79)”, U.S. Joint Publications Research Service, 18 May 1979. Release 2007/02/09: CIA-RDP82-00850R000100050036-6


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