Self-service counters appear on Latvia's roadside

In Latvia, this is not yet a common practice, but gradually stands, cabinets, and tables appear on the roadside, with a variety of home-grown products that can be paid for without a vendor. What is the self-serving sales experience? Latvian Radio went to investigate on July 25.

Dobele municipality Penkule parish's "Bērzāji" self-service shop is a small outbuilding on the side of the road. The owner, Ilze Jansone, said it was created during the Covid crisis, inspired by experience seen abroad. At first, it was just the table at the end of the farm's driveway with produce.

“This pandemic began in the spring, we had a full greenhouse with produce, I and my husband were sitting one evening and thinking what to do now, because there was a lot of produce, but Covid banned markets and fairs. And then there was the idea of this principle, at first, we put the produce here at the end of the road, but in Latvia the weather conditions are what they are – then everything had to be collected again. Then I saw such a beautiful hut on social networks, so we've introduced such a self-serving point.”

Local crafts can also be bought here.

“I have addressed the local crafters to put their products here, and the experience is very positive that someone can come, pick up the goods that they are interested in, and leave the money,” Jansone said.

She did not hide that at first there had been concerns about the fairness of the buyers, but the current experience showed that people were paying fairly.

“I would say that it is a good thing, I hope that Latvia is changing and people are becoming honest; I concede that 20 years ago it would not be possible, but when traveling abroad, both Nordic countries and Germany, where there is this self-service principle, that the farmer is putting his products on the road - I also had the idea - why cannot we? It turns out we can. I don't have to think where to put our products, because we don't produce huge quantities [..]. The commodity is fresh: strawberries and raspberries picked in the morning.”

On the other hand, at the edge of the Burtnieki Road, a refrigerator with honey has been standing for several years now. The passers can pick up the honey and settle there. Owner Mārtiņš Rags estimated that in the three years since there was this self-serving fridge, he couldn't complain about the fairness of the buyers.

“I've had one small case, but the man was found very quickly and they handed over the money. 99% seem to be honest on our side, Vidzeme, but those people are already coming from all over, our neighbors Estonians are coming. I've had nothing wrong happen,” Rags said.

Rags who is busy in his day-to-day work as well as working in the apiary, estimated that this type of trade was profitable enough and allowed time savings.

The farmers also acknowledged that this kind of trading in the big city was unlikely, but Rags and his honey had decided to try it in Riga.

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