Dateline Zagreb: making film about new school experience…experiencing retail from the old school .
October 21, 2013
The past week I’ve been in Zagreb, Croatia helping produce a case study film for one of our clients. Much of the time was spent in a local high school, documenting the use of technology among the student population. Surprise, surprise; teens here like electronic devices as much as teens everywhere else…
What is different (forgive the rough segue) is what I observed of the retail experience in Zagreb. No doubt Croatians have big box stores and supermarkets (like in America) but a prevailing way locals purchase day-to-day items are from huge open-air market places, called Trznica. The one by our shoot was as big as several football fields and bustling as a beehive.
It wasn’t just expected items being sold here (produce, flowers, baked goods) but also hardware, clothing, toys and electronics. To my American senses, it felt like a cross between a farmer’s market and a flea. Which is exactly what it was. However, unlike in American locales, in Zagreb Trznica operate every day and are pervasive.
The juxtaposition of items is at first discombobulating. An array of pastries flows into a row of purses then drill bits and screws. And so on, ad infinitum. While it is pleasingly familiar buying fresh produce from such places, what struck me as strange were all the hard goods being consumed. Things like pipefittings and power tools.
Chewing on a delicious ham and cheese sandwich I observed the hardware man demonstrating a fan to a customer, a smoldering cigarette dangling from his lips. What? Where was the packaging? The receipt? The guarantee?
Yet, before judging such a tableau, we must realize that this is how retail has been done for well over 2,000 years. While buying a ceiling fan from a stall in a giant open-air market seems precarious to we who have towering brand expectations, it may likely be more reliable than going to the Home Depot. After all, if Madam’s fan has issues she can bring it back knowing she will deal with the same chain-smoking fellow who sold it to her. No corporate protocols or receipts necessary. Just some good old-fashioned bitching and voila: a new fan! Maybe it doesn’t work this way; I can’t know. But it seems entirely possible.