Opening packages, tasting fruit … what is allowed in the supermarket?

Germans love their supermarkets, as a survey by the German Ministry of Agriculture shows: More than half of all consumers shop there at least once a week. But what is allowed in a supermarket and what is not? The legal experts at Stiftung Warentest have compiled important rules.

Nibbling on not-yet-paid-for sweets is prohibited, because the goods still belong to the store owner. Consequently, eating or drinking first and then paying is not allowed. Anyone who wants to buy fresh eggs can open the carton to see if the contents are intact. But it is not allowed to exchange broken eggs. Customers are also allowed to open cartons of special offers, if neither the contents nor the packaging are damaged in the process. This also applies if there is a sign: “Öffnen verpflichtet zum Kauf“, meaning “If you open it, you must buy it”. However, it is important that packaging is opened and closed carefully. Anyone who damages the cardboard boxes or the contents must pay for the product.

Many customers want to try fruits and vegetables before they buy them. This is not allowed, strictly speaking it is even theft. Anyone who wants to taste it first must ask the sales staff. However, it is allowed to check the ripeness of fruit by carefully touching it. And what about cosmetic products, are you allowed to sniff perfume, shower gel or shampoo? Yes, but only if the contents and packaging are not damaged while doing so.

What about exchanges if you accidentally buy something you do not want? Customers have no right to exchange goods that they have purchased by mistake. The situation is different when food is spoiled before the best before date. In this case, retailers must take them back.

Carrying shopping bags is annoying. Is it allowed to take the goods home with the shopping cart? No, because trolleys and baskets are the property of the supermarket. They may not be used outside their premises. Stores take this very seriously. The losses caused by stolen baskets and trolleys often amount to several thousand euros per year for retailers.

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