I went to Subang Jaya last week and went to Subang Parade, a place I frequented a lot during my teenage years. Back in those days, this was the biggest and coolest shopping mall in the Klang Valley. That remained for about a decade or so before other more gigantic malls like Sunway Pyramid and Megamall were opened. My last visit to Subang Parade was a couple of years back and at the time, the place looked run down. But now, after some extensive interior renovation work, the place is glowing and packed again with visitors.
I certainly have some fondness for Subang Parade but the place that I am more attached to is the building next to it. It is splashed in orange these days (the corporate colour of its new owners) but as recently as two months ago, it was all-white except for the iconic double arrow symbol of red, white and blue. This was Carrefour Subang Jaya, the first Carrefour store and hypermarket in Malaysia.
I have always enjoyed shopping for groceries. As a young boy, I often accompanied my mother to the local pasar malam and pasar tani. Then, when the first Giant Supermarket opened in Kelana Jaya, we went for our groceries quite often there too.
But shopping at Carrefour Subang Jaya was something else. The store in Subang Jaya was just a single-storey building when it opened in 1994 but it was bright and looked so spacious. The items on display were of such great variety, and the way they organised and arranged them was just splendid and that really matters for an OCD borderline case like me.
All these years, even after other and bigger hypermarkets has sprung all over, Carrefour remained the place I would go to if time permits. My late wife was fond of Carrefour too. So fond of it she was, it was the first place she wanted to go to immediately after her confinement when our twins were born nine years ago. When we moved to Taman Melati, the Carrefour store in Wangsa Maju became our favourite shopping place even though the Giant Hypermarket in Batu Caves is perhaps nearer to where we live.
Our fondness for Carrefour is not entirely sentimental. It is also due to a few of its practical qualities, which for me, other hypermarkets; try as they might, they simply do not have.
The first is the systematic and practical arrangement of items. In some Giant stores, the bread section is located next to the poultry and fish section, which I personally find rather disconcerting because when I'm buying bread, especially fresh bread, I want to smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. At Carrefour, the bread section is normally at one end. Next to it are the cakes and cookies section, then the cooked/packed food, and then the fruits and vegetables, and finally the poultry and fish section at the other end.
And speaking of bread, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Carrefour had the best bread in town. Just take the potato bread as an example. Other hypermarkets make them too but potato bread from Carrefour was just a class above. Others tend to overcook it or make it too soft and too fluffy. Carrefour however had it all just nice. It had the perfect tender.
Another aspect I believe Carrefour triumphed over all its rivals is its spacious aisles. Others tend to crowd the aisles with promotional and discounted items. As a result, customers face great difficulty to move their shopping carts especially during busy shopping hours. Carrefour stores however, had most of the time kept the main aisles empty. Hence, it's easier and more convenient for customers to move around with their baskets and carts.
I do concede though when it comes to pricing, Carrefour is not the best especially when compared to Tesco. You can certainly buy many things cheaper at Tesco, perhaps even at Giant. But both my late wife and I agreed that although many things are cheaper in Tesco, we still prefer to shop at Carrefour because every time we shop at Tesco, we end up buying more and at times unnecessary things. The cheap pricing is very seductive but potentially detrimental especially when you end up buying things too large in quantity and things that you don't actually need.
So, as far as my shopping experience is concern, the time I've spent at Carrefour will forever have a special place in my heart. It pains me to witness the current 'orange invasion' in all its previous premises. But I do understand that sometimes in life, we have to make tough and painful decisions. Farewell my 'friend' and thank you for the services you had rendered us throughout the years. Au revoir!
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