The past few days in Zürich have been beautiful ones. The sun is shining, the air is mild. On Saturday, there was a farmer’s market in a square near our apartment. We didn’t buy anything, but had fun browsing. Today, the same square was filled students eating lunch and soaking up the sun when I headed across it, on my way to the supermarket.
But there is a mystery afoot.
Lately, when I’ve been going shopping at one of the two major supermarkets in Zürich (the one I prefer, called Migros), I’ve been going home with more than just the groceries that I’ve selected. Before presenting me with my total and asking me to pay, the cashier tosses one or more of these onto my pile of purchases:
These are children’s toys, known as “nanos”. Each one of them has the same bullet-like shape, and a weight inside so that you can roll them around, stand them on end, and so on. They differ in their facial expressions and their colours, which makes them “collectible”.
In other words: they’re the typical cheap and inane plastic toys we’re used to seeing in Canada.
The difference, though? Here they’re foisted upon you. No one asks you if you might be…oh, twenty-odd years too old to play with such a toy. If you might not have any use whatsoever for these toys.
Isn’t this a little bit crazy? What strikes me is how at odds this is with Switzerland’s general policy on reducing waste. After all, I am living in a city where garbage bags cost 2 CHF apiece (that’s right — garbage bags cost over 20 CHF for a roll of 10. Really makes you think about ways to reduce your waste), a city whose garbage and recycling guide (a tome that I am still in the midst of translating) admonishes you for even producing certain types of garbage (“try not to buy things in cans”) before telling you how you can dispose of it — a city that prides itself on being exceptionally neat and tidy, and here are these ridiculous toys being littered into people’s grocery bags.
I knew I had to do some investigation into these nanos. If there was a German phrase that I could learn and utter in order to avoid getting them, I was willing to do it. What I learned, unfortunately, was that one nano is “available” (read: forced upon you) per 20 CHF of groceries purchased. Also, that this campaign will last until mid-March. Oh, and the nanos have a most unimaginative slogan, at least according to my Google-translation of the website: “the nanos are coming — and they’re everywhere.”
Is this a big deal or a little deal? Yes, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small deal. But it bothered me. I didn’t like the feeling of supporting this idiotic campaign against my will. It felt like…well, like fascism. I strongly considered boycotting this supermarket for the duration of the campaign.
Until I saw one of my cats playing with gusto, having great fun batting a nano across the floor. That’s when I decided to just give in to the nano-fascism.
Have you heard? Nanos are coming, and they’re everywhere.