Germany: Shopping Hell

For lots of weary consumers, the labors of Tantalus

There is something soul-destroying about the German Ladenschlussgesetz -- a trade-union-inspired law that closes all the shops most of the time -- and, right across the land, weekends in Germany are a mind-numbing experience.

-- Len Deighton, Spy Line

You don't have to be a secret agent to buy something in West Germany, but it may help. The federal republic can be a consumer's nightmare, a land of seemingly permanently closed department stores, supermarkets and haberdasheries, where goods lie tantalizingly out of reach behind brightly lit show windows. Call it Shopping Hell.

For this, thank the Ladenschlussgesetz. Basically, shop hours are...