Slurping Through The Bulk Bins

by admin on August 10, 2010

Your previous story, “Doing the Jelly Roll Stomp” ( and one of the comments reminded me of a particularly disgusting incident at a local grocery store a little while back.

The store sells food in bulk, and some of the bulk items come from dispensers with spouts that you open and close with a handle. One afternoon, I went in for just a couple of things. I saw a woman with, I presume, her two daughters. The older girl was a teenager, the younger one a preteen of maybe between 10 and 12. I have to wonder if maybe the younger girl was younger than she looked, or maybe had a mental disability, because she seemed much too old to behave as she did. I’m not a parent but I can’t recall that me or any of my friends still had no concept of hygiene as preteens. Maybe that’s just how poorly she’s been taught all her life.

Some of the bulk items are sweets and salty snacks. Apparently something in one of the dispensers had some kind of tasty coating that stuck to the inside of the spout, because the girl proceeded to lick her hand and fingers and stick them up the spout so the powdery stuff would stick to her hand. She then licked it off and repeated. The mom was ignoring this behavior. Ignoring it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so appalled. I stopped, looked the child in the eye and told her very firmly and said disapprovingly, “Don’t do that!”, and went on my way before the mother could give me any kind of flak about it.

I was in a hurry that afternoon, and somehow it didn’t occur to me to go get a manager and ask that the dispenser be cleaned. I really wish I had done more, but I think between wanting to get out of the store and just being so shocked, my brain didn’t even go there. I realize what a failure that was and sincerely wish I could take it back. No one should have bought anything from that dispenser until it was sanitized.

Do I even need to say I’ve never bought anything from the bulk dispensers in that store?   0707-10

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Skoffin August 10, 2010 at 5:38 am

Most people seem to lack basic sanitary standards when it comes to anyone but themselves. I used to like the lolly dispensers as a kid, I no longer touch the things though as no matter where it is at some point someone has put their grubby hands all through the things in order to swipe some free sweets. Even more disturbing is when you catch adults doing it.


Scarlet August 10, 2010 at 6:10 am



Xtina August 10, 2010 at 7:56 am

That’s exactly why I tend to avoid those bulk dispensers as much as I possibly can. You can count on the fact that there are probably ten scenarios a day that occur that nobody sees that are similar to this one, and I imagine stores rarely clean those bins. I’m far from a germophobe, but there are too many people in the world who don’t wash their hands, or even think it would be humorous to do something gross for unsuspecting customers to run into, for me to buy anything unwrapped from a store like this.

Shame to the parent who doesn’t teach their child basic hygiene, though.


Jillybean August 10, 2010 at 8:28 am



josie August 10, 2010 at 9:30 am

Some people just do not have a concept of gross behavior…think of how many adults you see picking their nose, scratching their… The girl probably wasn’t being any grosser than she is at home. Yes, you should of informed the manager or even called the store later and let them know. Your “don’t do that” was called for. If the mother was truly ignoring the daughter’s behavior, that’s where I’d have my problem…she needs to teach the girl about germs, public behavior and manners. Don’t think I’ll be hurrying off to the bulk candy aisle anytime soon.


Sue August 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

This is why I never buy stuff from those bins. Gross gross gross.
So did the girl stop when you called her out on it?


Joe J August 10, 2010 at 9:51 am

Stuff like this is why I stick to the individually-wrapped candies in the Pick-a-mix displays at the grocery store. I don’t want to know if the Gummi Bears are sticking together naturally or because an unsupervised child was plunging his/her dirty hands into them.


Tana August 10, 2010 at 10:01 am

My family was at a buffet with an ice cream sundae bar a few years ago. We saw a child that looked to be around 10 sticking both arms up to the elbows in each bucket of candy toppings. We decided to go elsewhere for our dessert, but not before notifying the manager about the candy diver.


Margaret August 10, 2010 at 10:37 am

I could see my 5 year old thinking of something like that, but I would expect my 7 year old to know better! Of course, my kids are more likely to find a bag and try to buy a bunch of candy than steal from the bins. And speaking of stealing from the bins — I HATE SAMPLERS!!! My friend used to sample from bins, and I would always look at her in horror and say really loudly, “THAT’S STEALING!” She stopped doing it around me. Besides the little kids who I don’t suppose know better yet or have enough impulse control to resist, it’s the little old ladies who I see doing this all the time — eat a grape from each bunch, take a candy from the bin. Drives me crazy.


Kelly August 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

Stuff like this is also why I never eat the free samples at stores anymore. I used to love them, until I witnessed a little kid poking, licking, caressing, and sneezing on an entire tray of tempting-looking candy samples. The mom was totally oblivious, turning around once for an ineffectual “Stop that!” which was followed up by absolutely nothing. In retrospect, I should have asked the clerk at the counter to replace the tray, but I was so grossed out all I could do was escape!


Dear! August 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

Oh, dear!

I am appaled to see things like this. One of my favorites was when I was in college. Needless to say the food is horrible, but one thing they had that I liked was the peach crumble, the best part being the top. So I go to get a piece of the crumble that was just put out and this girl is there before me, and she goes and scrapes the entire top off of the WHOLE PAN. I give her a dirty look and she just continues doing it. Disgusting.

And don’t get me on Salad bars/Buffets. I was behind several families, and several occasions and this is what I’ve observed.

Picking food up, sniffing it, and putting it back.
Putting food on their plates, touching it, and putting it back.
Using their hands to take food out.
Sneezing into their hands, and using the same hand to use the utensils to take up their food.

I also had an experience at a person’s home where they allowed their children to eat out of their plates (we all know that children are not the most concerned about hygene whent they eat) and when the child had had their fill, they put the leftovers back in the pots. Then, they offered me food from the same pots!



Scarlet August 10, 2010 at 12:07 pm

My best friend was just telling me about this experience she had: She was walking her sweet and spunky yellow lab around her apartment complex and was headed back to her own unit when a neaigbor lady who was having supper at the table outside her unit with her family called over for her to come say hello. Friend walked her pup over and neighbor lady proceeded to fuss over her, petting her and rubbing her belly. Then she asks if she can give the dog a treat. Friend says sure, so neighbor lady [b] reaches into the pot on the table and takes out a chunk of beef [/b] from what I assume must have been stew (yes after giving doggy a good rub down) She then lets pup eat the beef from her hand and lick off the gravy.. and THEN [b] reaches BACK into the pot to get her another chunk! [/b] Friend said she kept going back for more, and each time she let the dog lick her fingers clean first. Then she asked Friend if she was hungry and wanted to sit down for some! hehe… Friend was quite polite and simply said “No thank you, I’ve already eaten.” But it took all her will power not to burst into laughter over the bizarre situation until after she got inside her apartment.


CC August 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm

This story reminds of the time I took my grandparents out to eat. There was an unsupervised child walking around the restaurant and licking the tops of all the ketchup bottles and then putting them back on the tables. We notified the manager and didn’t use ketchup there after that.


Yikes August 10, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I saw the same stuff as Dear! while on a cruise at the buffets. I couldn’t believe that grown adults could be so disgusting. Now I know how people can get really sick on cruises.


DGS August 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm

That’s gross – I’m glad that you said something, and hopefully, the manager was notified as well.

Sadly, adults who know better are many times just as gross as the children they are supposed to be supervising, like many pp’s have already said. Dear’s comment made me think of an incident a year ago. My husband and I were driving back from a weekend trip and stopped for lunch at a chain restaurant with a buffet salad bar. Shortly after we were seated, my husband and I took turns excusing ourselves to wash our hands before eating. While I was washing my hands, a woman with her young daughter (4 or 5 years old) walked out of a stall – the child had been using the restroom, and the mother had been helping her. I am reasonably sure that the little girl was defecating. The mother did not direct the child over to the sink to wash her hands; she simply adjusted her daughter’s dress, and the two of them left the restroom. I had dried my hands and walked out right after them, and they had made a beeline directly for the salad bar, where the mother was putting the food on her daughter’s plate and her own plate, while the little girl was holding her plate with her hands. Then, the little girl picked up a dinner roll and placed it on her plate. I watched in astonishment, as they sat down at a booth directly across from us and began eating. Needless to say, neither my husband nor I ordered the salad bar, making sure to order the food that had to have been made in the kitchen and bypassing the salad bar entirely. We also mentioned to our waitress that there was a patron who did not wash her hands after using the restroom and then proceeded to use the salad bar – the waitress’ response was, “It’s horrible, but it happens all the time. I never eat off the salad bar here”. Absolutely disgusting – one can’t blame a 4-year-old child who doesn’t know any better, but shouldn’t have the mother known better?


kingsrings August 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Is she talking about the “overhead” dispensers that are upright, you pull on the arm, and it dispenses from a spout below?? Because I always use those at the grocery store as they seemed to be fool-proof when it came to hygiene issues. But now that I read this, uggh!!

The same issue comes up at those self-serve yogurt places. I’ve seen little kids doing the hand-to-mouth thing at the bottom topping dispensers, while their parents do nothing to stop them. Or if they do stop them, they don’t bother to tell the clerk that they need to throw away what was in the bin because it’s been contaminated. That’s why I never use the bottom topping dispensers at those places.

I also had a couple of parent friends think nothing of trying to serve me a piece of cake that had been licked and touched by their two little girls. When I protested, I was laughed at and told, “You obviously don’t have kids, because if you did, you wouldn’t care about stuff like that”. I really, really hope that this mindset isn’t common amongst ALL parents.


librarianinhell August 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I remember when I did demos in the grocery stores:
1) one woman picked up an egg carton that had broken eggs. Instead of getting the paper towels from a dispenser right next to her head, she grabbed ahold of my clothe towel I was using for my demo to wipe her hands. I gave her a look and she said, “my hands got dirty,” as if that was a good enough excuse for touching my stuff. I pointed out the paper towel dispenser.
2) This happened to someone else. A demostrator went to the back, but left spoons in the 3 containers of samples. I woman went up to the demo, got ahold of a spoon, licked it, then put it back in one of the containers. The manager saw this (why not say something?) and told the demonstrator what happened and told her she had to throw away all 3 containers of samples.
3) I had a sign that said, something like “will only give samples if parent is present.” This kid wanted a sample (I remember it had peanut butter in it) and I said I needed a parent. Father came and said, “he doens’t need my permission.” Um, so you rather some stranger gives your kid something?


Enna August 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

yucky stories!

I have a firend “Katie” – she has a little boy who is forever picking things off the floor and eating them yet his mum doesn’t tell him not to. I was at a BBQ and I managed to knock off one of my veggie suasuages off the BBQ by mistake – an couple of hours later junior picks it up and sucks it – if it had been a meat one he’d been very sick!


Simone August 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm

@kingsrings I will admit that when my beautiful daughters were toddlers I was remarkably tolerant of gross slobber etc etc because otherwise I’d have gone stark raving insane.

HOWEVER I did realise this was a temporary state and would NEVER have expected or asked my friends to eat something my children had handled or licked. Even at mother’s group get togethers you didn’t expect another mother to tolerate your child’s yukky stuff, they had enough of their own frankly.


Margaret August 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

kingsrings — I have to say, that once I had kids, a lot of gross stuff doesn’t gross me out as much as long as it’s my own kid. And think about the birthday parties where the kids blows out the candles on the cake before it is served.

After my rant about sampling, I had the kids at the grocery store. I let my two year old choose some chocolates from one of the bulk bins and then gave him the bag to hold until we pay. I turned away to pick up some fruit, and when I turned back, he had the bag open and was eating the chocolates! Good grief. One old guy was watching and just laughed at us.


AS August 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

OP, you seem to have been brought up by parents who took to responsibility to teach their children basic hygiene and to be cognizant. Your story reminds me of a cousin of mine who was visiting our house. Once he licked his hands, and immediately reached for a water bottle (that all of us used). My mother immediately stopped him, and told him in a very sharp voice that that will not be allowed in her house. Luckily, no one in our family dares to argue with my mother when she is stern about something, though his mother, my aunt, was giving him sympathetic looks! This cousin was no kid – he was a teen ager then with absolutely no developmental disorder. His mother does not behave so gross, but I don’t understand why some parents just cannot bring themselves to teach their children some basic behavior!


Syzygy August 10, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Several years ago while grocery shopping I saw a grown woman take a jar of spaghetti sauce off the shelf, open it, smell it, then stick her finger into the sauce and taste it. Apparently she didn’t like it because she then closed the jar back up and returned it to the shelf. As I turned around to notify a store employee she was reaching for the next brand on the shelf.

Prior to that incident I never really paid much attention to whether or not a jar was still factory sealed. Absent the lid falling off in my hand, I just assumed it was. Since then, however, every jar gets checked before I put it in my cart.


Bellawitch August 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I think the grossest thing I saw was in a grocery store. This couple was walking around, and there was every indication they had a very casual relationship with soap and water. They were opening jars on the shelves, tasting the contents, and then putting the jars back on the shelves. I made a beeline for the manager.

Also, my daughter used to work for a restaurant that specialized in buffets. She said you had to watch the customers like hawks. One night she caught an adult picking up the ladle from a fresh pot of soup that just came from the kitchen. He tasted it from the ladle, didn’t like it, spit it back into the ladle and then placed the ladle back in the soup. They had to throw out the entire pot.


Jillybean August 10, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Since we’re talking about gross unsanitary things adults do … lol …

Years back I had made a cake for a BBQ. It was designed to look like a pool, had a thin layer of blue jello on top to look like water, and then had gummy bears floating in the pool in life preservers (life savers) and on floats (sticks of chewing gum with the ends curled to look like lounging floats). Before the cake was even cut and served, one girl decided she would have a little war with the gummy bears on top. She picked them each up in turn and bashed them into each other while making little battle noises. As if that wouldn’t have been bad enough, she had spent the day sneezing and wiping her runny nose – not once had I seen her use a tissue or wash her hands. I was appalled, and needless to say the cake went to waste because there wasn’t a single person willing to eat it after she’d had her grubby, germ-y hands all over the top of it.


The Cat Whisperer August 10, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I can top this.

Husband and I were eating dinner at a restaurant, when a not-so-appetizing smell wafted our way. I looked around and could not believe my eyes when I saw a young mother changing her baby’s poopy diaper on the seat beside her in a banquette across from us.

Need I mention that this restaurant had a complete baby changing station in the bathroom?



Jemma August 11, 2010 at 8:14 am

Reading this story/comments reminds me of something that I witnessed today!

I was in the doctors surgery and a lady came in with her two young sons. The oldest one (maybe 7) was sitting on her knee. The youngest one (maybe 3) was playing on the carpet directly across from the mother. He had his bottle full of milk and was tipping it out onto the floor then licking it off the floor. He was also putting his hands through it and then licking his hands. Now we dont expect the 3 year old to know better, but the Mother! She looked at him and said, “Baby stop that, yucky” but then did nothing else, didnt even grab the conveniently placed tissues on the counter to clean it up! The lady next to me and myself were horrified.

I can understand that Mothers can become less engrosed by childrens actions once becoming a parent, but to not even clean it up in a public place. I statred to become uncomfortable on the seat I was sittting on, wondering how many children had done similiar acts on that!


Xtina August 11, 2010 at 8:50 am

@ Kingsrings–no, that mindset is NOT common among all parents. Agree with the spirit of what your friend says–it’s true that once you have kids (or pets) that you don’t mind touching or dealing with some pretty gross stuff, but it does not change the fact that hygiene rules should be observed. I think some people get the idea that a little cute, cuddly and harmless baby or kid couldn’t possibly do something like spread germs and therefore overlook washing their hands or whatever, but I can assure you that some of us parents do not forget to be sanitary and make sure our kids are clean as well–and do NOT let them stick their fingers into cakes and bins and salad bars and what-have-you. 🙂


Xtina August 11, 2010 at 8:56 am

You know, after seeing two stories here about customers in stores who were opening sealed jars and tasting the contents, I submit the following for your thoughts–what do you want to bet that these same people would be just as grossed out as you and I about encountering or buying a jar of food that had been the victim of a roving taster like themselves? I would be willing to bet good money that they would be the first to dance around while crying, “gross!” and “unsanitary” while they call the manager over to point out the open jar and demand that “something be done about it”. There are many out there who think it’s OK when THEY do it and don’t see that as a violation of someone else’s health.


Princesssimmi August 11, 2010 at 9:14 am

Ewwww! Thanks to all the posters- I’m never eating out again!

My little cousin did something similar recently. She was eating a lollipop and decided she didn’t want it any more so she gave it to me. I took it, rinsed it and decided to finish it off. About 30 seconds later I took it out of my mouth to say something to my other aunt and my cousin grabbed it out of my hand and shoved it straight into her mouth! I was mortified and my Aunts both freaked out until I assured them I haven’t been sick for ages. Kids- love them, love their germs, I suppose.


ErinAnn August 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

My 3yo tasted the edge of the scoop from the bulk powdered-sugar bin. I grabbed it before it got back into the bin and took it to one of the employees to be washed. …Some parents are responsible.


sophronia August 11, 2010 at 10:18 am

A few months ago I bought a container of ready-made frosting to take to a cookie-decorating party, only to discover when I opened it that someone had peeled off the foil lid liner and taken a big finger swipe out. Thank goodness it was frosting, though, so I could see what they had done and throw it away before anyone else ate it.


Asharah August 11, 2010 at 10:21 am

Well Princesssimmi, at least you kept the germs in the same family. I can deal with a certain of germ spreading from people I’m related to, but not total strangers.


Dira August 11, 2010 at 11:26 am

I have to take issue with the suggestion that the child might have been backwards. At that age, I was exactly that filthy – and it wasn’t down to lack of intelligence. I was by most measures very bright for my age. Then, at eleven or twelve, I did an about-face and have been a big fan of hand-washing ever since, especially before going near my own or anyone else’s food.

So what changed? Simple – the science teacher told us about microbes. Finally I understood that not all dirt was visible, that saliva wasn’t just water, and so forth. At last those apparently-arbitrary adult commands made sense! It wasn’t just a boring waste of time to wash hands that looked perfectly clean already!

Yes, I was an arrogant little twerp. (And this certainly isn’t to say my mother would have ignored the kind of behaviour you describe.) Nonetheless, I have to ask –why did it apparently never occur to anyone in authority to try *explaining*? Rather than expecting mindless obedience to their directives, had anyone clued me in that I was spreading around invisible stuff which made people sick, I’d have started washing my hands many years earlier. I wonder how many of the children and adults pilloried here just don’t understand the problem because it’s never been explained to them? Is there an age at which a member of our society should be expected to get it regardless?

And Margaret – I have to laugh. You handed a bag of yummy treats to a two-year-old and he started eating them? Yup, kids are certainly unpredictable!


Patti August 11, 2010 at 12:12 pm

If I am at a buffet and want to taste something to see if I like it…..I place a small amount on my plate and do the taste test.


BusyBee August 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm

@ Margaret–I totally agree, people who “sample” or snack on their produce before it has been weighed or paid for drive me nuts. For some reason, they don’t seem to view it as stealing, even though it is. I was talking to a cashier at the grocery store once and she told me a story about one woman who brought up a BANANA PEEL and told the cashier to ring it up. She’d grabbed the banana (which wasn’t individually priced) and proceeded to eat it as she shopped. And she couldn’t understand why the cashier couldn’t weigh and ring that up. People are unbelievable sometimes.


Victoria August 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

At a salad bar recently, I saw a grown man taking individual mushrooms from a bin, eating them, and reaching into the bin for more. I just gave him a disgusted look (he was oblivious) and told an employee so she could clean the bin and put out fresh product.

Some people’s kids.


Sharon August 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm

BusyBee, snacking and sampling on produce before it has been paid for is theft, and I agree it is wrong for that reason.

BUT… I always want to walk up to those people and ask them, “Did you wash that before you ate it? Do you really think that the people who work out in those fields picking your grapes and other fruits and veg actually get apotty break? Do you think they have restrooms for them out in the field???”

Believe me, these workers are pushed to work as fast as they can with NO leaving the field… when nature calls what do you think happens????

Wash all your fruit and veg well before you eat folks. (Oh, and by the way, pay for it before you eat it as well.)


LETTER WRITER - Maryann August 15, 2010 at 3:15 am

Oh hey! I haven’t been on E-Hell for a few days and I didn’t realize my story had been published. =)


Yes, that’s precisely the type of dispenser I was talking about.


I made multiple suggestions as to why the child acted the way she did, including that maybe she simply hadn’t been taught any better. I’m sorry I offended you, but you also latched onto just one possible explanation. I was merely offering my thoughts on the matter and trying to exonerate the girl, lest anyone have any harsh words for her.

Frankly, there has to be some explanation, even if it’s just that she’s a kid with hygiene issues, because that behavior was definitely out of the ordinary for someone that age. This girl, unless she was younger than she looked, was probably in junior high.

I would also add that I’m in my mid-twenties and grew up in the neighborhood where this grocery store is located, attending public schools. All through elementary school, I had germs and why we wash our hands pounded into my brain in the classroom.

If this girl didn’t get the same message in school, then the quality of our area schooling has really fallen in the last 12 years or so.


As I said in my last reply, I was actually taught about important hygiene matters in school. Yes, my mom enforced the matter, but that’s why I was shocked that any kid would act this way.


LETTER WRITER - Maryann August 15, 2010 at 4:12 am

Oops, I missed some replies.


She gave me a shocked look and desisted. I passed her again briefly before I left, and she was behaving herself. I have no idea how much effect I really had on her, though. Probably next to none.


Urg. That truly makes me a little bit sick. Failure to wash hands before leaving a restroom is inexcusable. I’ve never confronted anyone, but I’ve heard people say things like “But I didn’t get anything on my hands!” when conversations like this one take place.

Well, quite aside from the fact that, yes, you probably did without realizing it, what about the people before you who definitely did and then touched everything you just touched?

People just don’t stop to think!

Just as bad are people who basically pretend to wash their hands.

A while back I saw a woman come out of a stall, rinse her fingertips – just the tips – for about two or three seconds, and then take a paper towel and use it to touch the door handle.

I know she thought she was sparing herself from other people’s germs, but I silently thanked her for saving other people from her’s.


I was thinking and I remembered something from when I was a kid. I was maybe eight or nine.

A friend of mine invited me, last-minute, to go with her and her parents to an event that honored her babysitter, I think for her charity work. It was a huge event at a Scottish Rite Center. I was shocked by how big it was when we got there; I dressed up but I thought I was just going to a small party.

There was a banquet dinner afterward. For whatever reason, my friend and I were seated away from her parents (there were no children’s tables, adults were there, too.)

There were colorful marzipan butterflies in dishes along the tables. My friend decided to sample one. She took one, took a small bite, decided she didn’t like it, and put it back at the edge of the communal dish.

I told her in no uncertain terms that she must take it back. We had an argument where she repeatedly refused because it was “gross” and she didn’t want it near her food and I insisted that she keep it on her plate or napkin so that no one else would eat it or another candy it might touch. I told her she should have taken just after touching it, let alone biting it. She just didn’t get the concept at all of why what she’d done was wrong.

Our argument finally ended when the elderly gentleman seated across from us, whom we didn’t know, told her to listen to me and take the candy back. She complied, and the man smiled and winked at me in approval.

On further thought, I guess I must have been taught about this stuff better than a lot of kids.


Oh dear God. The ladle thing really takes the cake. A fully-functioning adult acting like that? There is no hope for humanity!


Jill November 4, 2010 at 9:32 am

I’m not sure why you think that bad manners = a mental disability?? Yes, many people with mental disabilities do not act their age but that is not their fault it is a disability. Most likely, since the mother wasn’t even scolding her own child, this girl was used to doing whatever she wanted and never getting in trouble for it or ever being taught any manners. I just don’t appreciate people assuming all ill mannered people are mentally disabled or chastizing the ones that are for not learning manners or other life lessons as quickly as others. I hate it when people stare at my sister (she is 24 but has CP and her mind is that of a 3 or 4 yr old) because she still wears pull-ups or she throws a fit. I mean it’s not like you can tell her to stop and she will understand, acting like a toddler is her disability and unfortunate yes but it is amazing the things you can learn from someone who is disabled and who doesn’t even realize the impact they have on your life…I love my sister just the way she is. 🙂


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