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E. Germans Revel in Shopping Options

`LISELOTE, put those eggs back. These ones over here are much cheaper!'' It hasn't taken the East Germans very long to acquire comparison shopping skills, as this little exchange between two sisters illustrates.

Liselote Gra"fendorf and Rosemarie Michaelis are shopping in the new open-air market in front of East Berlin's red-brick city hall. Rosemarie proudly shows her purchases: eggs and butter, nestled at the bottom of her thin, white plastic bag.

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``For basics,'' she says, ``this [market] is very cheap, and good quality, too.''

The twice-a-week market is a new development in East Berlin. It sprang from the frustration of farmers who were locked out of East German grocery stores when West German currency moved in on July 1. At that time, the stores here switched completely over to brightly packaged, high-quality Western goods. They also charged more than West German stores did.

This drove East Berliners, as well as other East Germans near the border, to shop in the West. Peter and Rosemarie Venske go to West Berlin twice a week to buy meat, wurst, and bread. For Peter, a retiree who does most of the shopping, running all over the city looking for the best deals ``is a lot of work.'' He recites price differences with fluency. ``They're learning,'' he says of the East German street vendors. ``Now the potatoes are washed before you buy them.''

Customers at the market say that East-West price differences, which were in part the result of the inexperience of East German retailers, are beginning to balance out. Werner Ambrasat, spokesman for Konsum, the main East German grocery store concern, says Konsum followed price suggestions of its Western suppliers. In any case, says Mr. Ambrasat, ``we've lowered our prices considerably, especially for meat.''

Konsum is also selectively stocking more East German products, at little or no profit, to show ``solidarity'' with the farmers. ``We'll stock them until they are up to par with Western products. But this must happen quickly,'' Ambrasat says.

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