A German supermarket's singles night takes off during the pandemic

By Agency

Juliete taking part in singles night at the Volkach supermarket in Germany. The weekly event has taken off during the pandemic as people can't meet others through the usual venues. Photos: Nicolas Armer/dpa

The young man's eyes move past the deli case and meat counter to land upon a woman. He tries to make eye contact, to no avail, with the 22-year-old woman wearing her hair in a bun.

They both have red hearts pinned to their clothes, a signal that they're at the supermarket this evening not only to buy more eggs and milk for the week, but also to potentially meet a new love interest.

People push trolleys up and down the aisles, checking each other out while pretending to look for whatever spaghetti sauce is on special offer.

It's "Single's Shopping" night at this supermarket in Germany, and with most of the usual avenues for meeting people – bars, restaurants, dinner parties – closed during the pandemic, it is proving popular.

"Curfew and contract restrictions don't make it easy to find a partner," says deputy store manager Steven Schellhorn. His boss came up with the idea: "He was familiar with the concept from the disco."Schellhorn is one of the people in charge of the supermarket in southern Germany that's put on a singles night once a week. Schellhorn is one of the people in charge of the supermarket in southern Germany that's put on a singles night once a week.

Every Friday from 6pm to 8pm, singles are invited to go shopping at this store in Volkach, in southern Germany. Red and yellow hearts are placed on a table for customers – the red ones are stuck on and the yellow ones pinned on. That's the only difference, says Schellhorn.

Two women pick up their hearts: number 14 and number 4. Annie and Juliete both travelled over 10km to attend the single's shopping night. Annie, 59, has been a widow for about eight years.

"I'm afraid of online dating, it's too risky for me," she says. Her daughter gave her the idea to go to the shopping night, and her friend jumped on board right away. Juliete, 60, has been single for two decades and is on the lookout for some "young vegetables".

The woman with the bun, Mona, is also there with girlfriends. She has let her fridge get a bit empty in anticipation of the event.
"We wanted to experience something again and have a little fun," says Mona, as a man walks by her with his shopping trolley a second time.Tina (left) and Mona tackle singles night at the supermarket as a pair.Tina (left) and Mona tackle singles night at the supermarket as a pair.
But not all the customers are wearing a heart. Or if they are, they wear it inconspicuously, like a woman who's put hers on her handbag.

Behind the deli counter, Daniel Cronau puts a heart on his shirt. He does it every Friday.

"You don't hope for too much, but it's still funny," says the 27-year-old. "The coronavirus means you can't go to the clubs at night anymore or a bar, so I think it's a good change."

The event has been around for two years, before the pandemic.

"I have the impression that it's only become public through the coronavirus. It's been noticeable since the last six or nine months that more people have come in with a heart," says the salesman.

"Before, you might see someone with a heart every four weeks. But now it's accepted better," he adds.Cronau, who works at the supermarket, also takes part in the matchmaking.Cronau, who works at the supermarket, also takes part in the matchmaking.

On this recent day, 50 customers are strolling the aisles while donning a heart, according to Schellhorn. For Annie and Juliete, the selection isn't what they were expecting – at least regarding men.

Number 19 – whose number the cashier calls out – has better luck, though no one answers to that figure. A customer has left behind a note with a "secret message". The supermarket plans to figure out who the mysterious owner of this number is with a social media campaign.

The man eyeing Mona from afar gathers up his courage and approaches her: Romance among the shelves of toilet paper and deodorant?

He hands her a sheet of paper with the words "game rules" at the top that are available at the store's entrance. On it are options that can be checked off, such as "I would be happy to meet you for an orange juice in the fruit department".

There's nothing checked off on Mona's paper – there is a cellphone number scrawled on it, however.

The man, Niklas, says he lives about 10km from the supermarket. A work colleague told him about the single's night.

"I'm not really someone who looks for love on the apps," says the 31-year-old. "Normally I want to meet someone at the pub or while out and about."

Currently, he's milling about by the store's entrance. Is he waiting for Mona? – dpa

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