Sunday at the Races

Vienna supermarkets: Shopping at Billa on Sunday

Opinion | Vienna Review | July / August 2012

One recent sunny Sunday afternoon in Summer a throng stood outside the sliding doors of the Billa at Praterstern, waiting for a bouncer to let a new group of shoppers into the overly packed aisles of the supermarket. Why the commotion? Because it is one of the two fully-stocked (and not over-priced) supermarkets open on Sunday in the Vienna city centre.

As the doors glided open, the trapezoid-shaped crowd shoved its way in through the opening, raising alarm for one father who sheltered his son among the mass of legs. "Stop pushing!" he yelled in growing distress as the throng pressed in further. Eventually, everyone made it inside safely, only to find a sea of humanity to navigate, and register lines stretched through the aisles over halfway through the store. Is this Austria’s idea of a day of rest?

The long-held notion that no one should work on Sunday is disappearing fast, and is ancient history in the U.S.. But in the Billa at Praterstern or in Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof on a Sunday, one wonders why Austria still clings to the idea. Is it worth the misery, not to mention danger, of enduring such scenes?

There comes a time when common sense trumps ideals. For sure, Sunday should be a day of rest. But many EU nations like Ireland have supermarkets that are open on Sunday, without sacrificing the general sanctity of Sunday. Even cities in France and Italy have numerous supermarkets open on the day of rest. Well, at least more than two.

Those who want to rest, can. Those who want to earn wages on Sunday and rest on some other day of the week, ought to be able to do so as well. It’s about time to consider the economic benefits and the sensible logic of such a policy change, before someone gets crushed in the stampede.

– CA

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