Are Germans Stingy?
The German statistics office reports that Germans spend only 14.2% of their income on food, compared to 20.4% for the French. Is this why we call them stingy?
Part of the reason is the prevalence of hard discount stores and strong price competition in Germany. However, the current market trend is to buy local organic products, which are more expensive. According to GfK, overall demand in 2015 decreased while sales remained stable: Germans are spending more to feed themselves than ever before.
Buying groceries in Germany is cheap. Those living along the French and Swiss borders know this well. Conversely, Germans are shocked when filling up a shopping cart in France. According to a GfK survey, 53% of German consumers buy products based on their prices.
The hard discount, these little supermarkets selling a variety of products at prices reduced well below average, was invented in Germany. The Albrecht brothers created this concept after WWII. The Aldi brand was born from combining their name AL-brecht with the word DI-scount. Ninety-eight percent of German households shop there at least once a year.
Germany’s high concentration of distributors
Another reason for low prices is found in the retail concentration in Germany. Five companies handle 3/4 of the market. These are Edeka, Rewe, Lidl, the Schwarz group, Metro and Aldi.
Central purchasing departments, and not just the hard discount ones, are in a strong position to negotiate contracts with producers. Milk, yogurt, chocolate and coffee in Germany are among the lowest-priced products in Europe.
High quality despite low prices
German rationality is at its best here. Germans like facts, and independent institutions deliver them regularly. Stiftung Warentest and Ökotest are the two most well-known. Every month, they test a multitude of products purchased in supermarkets and publish the results in their monthly magazine. So, in 2013 Ökotest tested many brands of strawberry yogurt and announced that the winner was actually the cheapest one. This is often the case and the Germans know it.
Producers too! Having Stitung Warentest’s seal of approval “Sehr gut” (Very good) can make the difference in the stores.
Old clichés die-hard
Germans have a worldwide reputation of being reliable, orderly and for building beautiful automobiles. Reliable and orderly is incompatible with spendthrift, at least if we rely on clichés! All Germans shop at Aldi and Co., but does that mean Germans are stingy? Probably not, but they appreciate the good quality at low prices that is offered to them.
One example is Saturn, a German appliance and multimedia chain. Well established in Europe, Saturn boasted low prices until 2011. The German slogan “Geiz ist geil”, translates literally as “Being stingy is sexy!” In France, the same campaign used the slogan: “Stingier is smarter”.
The latter is certainly closer to reality in Germany. In fact, Germany is a country of experts, and this is also found in the hunt for low prices. Finding the best item at the lowest price is somewhat of a national hobby. It doesn’t mean that Germans are stingy, but simply that they are well informed.
Germans aren’t stingy and the mentality is changing
In 2015, a new Nielsen study showed that Germans are becoming hedonists. While in Europe, price is the most important point when making a purchase, it’s only in third place in Germany.
The French are stingiest when it comes to tipping!
In terms of tipping, the French are notoriously stingy. Direct Line, a British insurance company conducted a survey to determine the tipping index. According to figures published by Le Figaro, the French tip on average 5% of their bill while the world average is 11%. Americans and Germans are viewed as the most generous tippers. So no, Germans aren’t the stingiest. At least not any more than others!
Photo credit by olly