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Culture

Prince Charming Among the Tomatoes?

Besides the groceries, clothes and other goods available at Dortmund's Wal-Mart, customers might just find the love of their lives. The store's "Single-Shopping" campaign looks to increase business by promoting flirting.

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Where's he hiding?

Need to stock up on toilet paper, get some bananas, or replace those worn-out socks? It's easy to head down to the local Wal-Mart to get it all done in one fell swoop. In fact, if you're in the market for a boyfriend or girlfriend, Dortmund's Wal-Mart might be just the place to take care of that as well.

The retailer in Dortmund is running a promotional campaign christened "Single-Shopping." On Friday nights, those looking for a little romance in their lives, or at least some good flirting, can get a red ribbon tied onto their shopping basket, which signals that they're available.

"I feel a little like a ape in a zoo," Michaela, 39, told Reuters news agency during her first foray to this retail singles night as she pushed her cart bearing the scarlet ribbon from the produce to the dairy section. She had just ended a relationship a few days ago and wanted to see what the offerings on the singles scene were like.

She liked the idea of finding a new partner at the retailer, or at least doing a little flirting among the frozen pizzas, since according to her, a quick glance into the shopping basket speaks volumes about a person.

"I can see if I like his taste," she said.

Boosting sales and building relationships

The idea to do a little retail matchmaking was the brainchild of the Dortmund store's manager, Rudolf Baumann, who admits his motives are not completely altruistic. While he wants to ease the often painful search for a partner, he also created "Single-Shopping" to boost sales and develop relationships with his customers so that they'll continue to shop at his store.

Einkaufswagen im Supermarkt

Let's see, I need bottled water, pasta and...a man!

According to Germany's Federal Statistics Office, there are some 14 million one-person households in the country. The potential target group for such promotions, therefore, is large. The Dortmund store is the first of Germany's 92 Wal-Mart outlets to offer a singles night.

Christian Thiel, who gives advice to single people looking for relationships, told Reuters that shopping was a good place for making that first contact with potential partners. He said flirting could be done just as easily in a supermarket as at a singles bar or party.

"People can easily get to talking about instant soups, champagnes and wines," Thiel said.

Can it work?

But he added only a few people are spontaneous or extroverted enough to get to know somebody completely new at the local store. He believes the chances are fairly low that one's future life partner will be found among the avocados. Other venues, he said, such as a singles night at a museum where people of the same educational level and interests gather, would be more effective.

Michaela, however, thinks the Wal-Mart way could work even though after about two hours of trawling the aisles, she only got to engage in some serious flirtation with one man. Still, she said she's not disappointed in the idea itself, rather in the men there, who she hoped would be a little more adventurous.

Another problem she found was the store's size. Wal-Mart's warehouse-like shopping floor is simply too spread out for her liking. "Because if I'm in the yogurt aisle," she said, "my Prince Charming might just be over by the eggs."

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