It’s a tradition, the trip to the state alcohol shop just before Christmas. This trip ought to be made on the very last day, in the last hours, before the shop closes for the Christmas period – which is Saturday, around 2pm. But we went to the shop in Kiruna today, and while less busy than it will be on Saturday, it had much of the same spirit.
The information about each bottle of wine is extensive, the selection of beers, wines and spirits is vast, and the staff are helpful and courteous. ‘Well,’ says one, ‘ it depends if you are having a heavy sauce with the meat, or something lighter – in which case you might want to choose something like this -‘, she points to a bottle, ‘which will add a sharp fruitiness..’ So many options, so many important decisions to make before Christmas.
The state retains control of the sale of alcohol in Sweden, a charming anomaly in the EU. The aim of the state company is to reduce people’s consumption of alcohol. If that sounds odd to you, then you have to get into the mindset a bit more. This is a shop which doesn’t ever promote any kind of alcohol. It never has ‘special offers’. It’s only open normal working hours. It never makes it cheaper to buy in bulk. It warns you of the impact of alcohol, and provides information about its effects.
Today I saw an additional feature. Right by the tills – where shops are normally desperate for you to make a last, spontaneous purchase – was a large cardboard box with a sign, that read, ‘Ångrat dig?’ – ‘Have you changed your mind? : You can leave bottles of drink here that you’ve decided not to buy.’
A simple invitation to avoid spontaneous, unnecessary purchases – a regrets box. Wouldn’t it be good if all shops had that at Christmas?