By the way, basically half of the big stores in Israel these days is calls Machsan-something. Machsan means "warehouse" (or storage room, as in the machsans on the ground floor of most apartment buildings) and I guess it indicates "cheap" and "big" to the Israeli consumer. I bought our fridge in Machsane-Chashmal (Electrical Warehouse), I passed a lamp store called Machsan-Teorah (Lighting Warehouse) last night, a butcher shop might be Machsan-Basar, etc. Machsane-Lahav means "Flame Warehouse"... I'm really not sure where that one comes from.
Anyway, on my first day in Israel, I strolled into the grocery store (known as a super in Hebrew--pronounced "soo-pear" and short for "supermarket," I guess). A guy standing at the door tried to get my attention as I waltzed in, but I had heard Israeli men tend to be aggressive. Was I going to be the clueless American who made eye contact and encouraged Israeli pickup artists? Not me! I was Israeli! Cool as a melafafon, I strolled towards the bread section, only to see the guy coming after me and shouting... and he had a gun.
Turns out he was the security guard at the door who was supposed to check my purse before I entered. Oops. And for the record, having pretty decent Hebrew when you arrive backfires when you need to convince a security guard that you are a fresh-off-the-plane olah who didn't know any better.
These are some other fun things you should know about shopping in an Israeli super:
- Be nice to the security guys. If they get to know you, they'll let you go in without being searched. Also, they can watch your little-old-lady-wheeled-cart (post about that later) or your bags of veggies from the yarkan (post about that later too) or your stroller at the door while you go shopping.
- The grocery store (unless it's a non-kosher basar-lavan-selling chain like Tiv-Taam) will close early on Fridays and be closed all day on Shabbat and holidays.
- If you have just one or two items, Israelis almost always let you cut in front of them in line if you ask.
- The check-out lady might not say "thank you" or "have a nice day," but she will tell you that you have only bought one bottle of olive oil when you get a better price for buying two, and she'll wait for you to go get another bottle. She will also attempt to sell you a range of products from dark chocolate to hand lotion that she has sitting on her checkout counter. She will also do this for all of the people ahead of you in line, which means you should be prepared to wait for a while to check out.
- Buy-one-get-one-free in Hebrew is denoted in simple math: 1+1 (echad ploos echad). Buy two get one free is 2+1 (shteim ploos echad) and is WRITTEN as 1+2... Hebrew goes right to left, remember? (Thanks for a commenter for reminding me of this!)
- You probably need to bag your own groceries and you probably need to ask the checkout lady to throw some bags up on the checkout counter for you.
- When you buy more than, say, 200 shekels of groceries, you will be asked "kama tashlumim," which means "how many payments?" If you want to pay everything at once, you can say "echad" or "ragil" (normal). A rumor circulates among olim that the way to ask to pay everything at once is to say "makah" (hit), but when an Argentinian told me this in the checkout line once, the checkout lady said she'd never heard it before.
- On your receipt when you pay with a credit card will be two lines. The top is for your signature, and the bottom is for your phone number. To be really Israeli, don't write your phone number in this space unless the checkout lady insists. This would be giving away information. I've barely ever written my phone number on a receipt, despite the fact that every receipt contains a spot for it.