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Miss Jeanne, Grocery Shopper Etiquette Expert To The World

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s happily awaiting my turn to browse the frozen foods section. I like to browse the whole frozen case because they often have unusual and interesting ethnic foods. I stopped my cart because a lady was in front of me and then waited for her to proceed.

She didn’t move, and I realized she was on her cell phone. She turned and looked right at me, so I smiled, and she turned away and continued talking. I waited a bit more, then said “Excuse me?” She continued talking. I wasn’t in a big hurry, so I decided to browse a different aisle and come back to this one.

I came back and she was gone by then, so I continued my browsing behind a different woman, accompanied by a teenager, who was moving along at about the same pace as I was. Another teenager approached, and the three of them stepped to the middle of the aisle to chat, leaving the cart blocking my path.

The adult turned toward me once, so I smiled encouragingly, thinking she’d get it, but she went back to chatting. When next she turned, she asked, “Am I in your way?”, and I smiled and said, “Well, yes!” But in a nice way, with a chuckle. She did grab her cart and move it away.

As she pulled her cart away, a woman who had been waiting behind me cut in front to get something out of the case. I sighed loudly.

And that was apparently an invitation for ANOTHER woman to cut in front of me.

I lost it then. I screamed, at the top of my lungs, “ALL I WANTED WAS TO LOOK AT THE TANDOORI CHICKEN! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?”

Just kidding–I laughed. And then I browsed the case and found some lovely spinach dumplings. 0404-13

I freely admit that the grocery store is *the* place I fantasize most about blog posts I’d write on Ehell.    As I push my cart up and down each aisle, I dream of educational videos I would film exposing the common faux pas made by my fellow shoppers. As I ponder my shopping list I am simultaneously composing the video script in my head.   The dos and don’ts of grocery shopping.   I would become the world’s leading authority on shopping etiquette.

My personal favorites are the people who stop dead in the middle of the aisle or to one side and then cross over to look over something on the other side leaving the aisle completely blocked.  I’ll stand there quietly just biding my time until they finally move out of the way.   Lately I’ve run into more people stopping at the end of the aisle or mid aisle to chat on their cell phone completely oblivious to anyone wanting to get past them.    Oh,and the people who meet a friend in the store and clog the entire aisle with busy “get reacquainted” chatter and utterly clueless how they are blocking everyone from going down that aisle.   To me it seems so obvious….wanna chat it up? Get out of the way where you inconvenience no one.

It’s rare but recently I encountered a woman who rushed ahead of me to get into the check out line, realized she had forgotten something and abandoned her half emptied cart to go get it.   The seconds and then the minutes ticked by and there was nothing to be done as half her groceries had already been rung up.   I do not have a temper but this was testing even my patience and I was slowly starting to percolate into  full blown anger at the raw, unadulterated, blatant entitlement this shopper exhibited at the expense of the cashier and every customer behind her.  The mental video scripting went into high gear with me wishing I could have filmed this secretly from a hidden camera in my jacket button.   You forget something once in the check out line?  Chalk it up to your own forgetfulness which the consequences of you WILL NOT inflict on others.   You either get it on another trip or you finish checking out and go back for it and wait in line again.

And my real favorite, the cart abandoners.   They are ahead of me in the check out line, they deposit their purchases on the belt, pay for their items only to leave the cart blocking the check out line requiring me to push it forward and out of the way.

Trader Joe’s is a challenge to shop at due to the small store size, the narrow aisles and the crowds.   I plan my trips right as the store opens at 8 am when the crowds are not as dense.   My lat time there, admittedly not early but later in the morning, there was a field trip in progress!   Yep, a whole gaggle of women on a tour of the store blocking the already narrow aisles while paying close attention to the “docent”.   Lovely.

{ 129 comments… add one }
  • Goldie April 9, 2013, 8:59 am

    Saucygirl, well isn’t that an amazing coincidence, because my pet peeve are people who glare at me if I try to put away my receipt and card, even though I’ve already stepped away from the credit card pad. Unless you’re in charge of the nuclear button, you can wait the 20 seconds it takes me to put those things away. Some days I end up walking out of the store holding my card and my receipt in my teeth, because I just cannot deal with the glaring after a day at work. Have to add, I do not mind waiting the extra 20 seconds myself for the shopper in front of me. Heck, make it 30 seconds, I’m nice like that.

    To the poster that said children have the right to be in the store, yes they do. But if you have small children with you when shopping, please, for their own safety, keep an eye on them. Don’t just give them a child-sized cart and send them off on a tour of the store by themselves. Nobody in the store hates your children — most of us have children too. We just don’t want to ram a full shopping cart into your kid by accident!

  • Mrs. Lovett April 9, 2013, 9:24 am

    As to the X items or less checkouts, it would certainly be nice if cashiers would enforce that rule, but often they’re not even allowed to, even if customer has 150 items in a 10 items or less checkout. This is especially true at large corporate superstores. Often, employees are given to power to police their lines, and it is expected that they follow the rotten old adage “the customer is always right,” no matter how wrong the customer may be.

    Jakester: Bint is being neither callous or cruel. Grocery stores provide a service, and that service is to make groceries available for purchase. That service is not to provide for the social needs of others. Believe me, I understand to an extent the plight of the lonely old man. I work in an office where it is not uncommon for me to be the only one there (there are a few different offices where my coworkers often need to me.) My roommate is almost never home when I’m awake, my boyfriend and most of my friends live at least an hour away, and I often get lonely. However, my desire to socialize should never be used as an excuse to inconvenience others. If someone wants to socialize with a store employee, this should only be done when he is not preventing the employee from doing their job, which is to provide service to ALL customers, not just him. Ten seconds for a few pleasantries is okay, but a couple minutes of holding everyone else up is unfair to everyone else, including the employee who is probably under pressure to keep the line moving.

  • Majuba April 9, 2013, 9:59 am

    I’m a supermarket cashier in Australia.

    In answer to the comments about people abusing the express checkout. Staff are NOT ALLOWED to tell a customer they have too many items and we CAN’T refuse to serve them. I would love to do it but I can’t. However I do love when a customer does the scolding for me! I would seriously love a register that locks up after 8/10/15 items, however many items your express lane is set to. Maybe if you had to stop and pay multiple times it would actually make you think next time?

    Just before christmas -when people are most tense- I had a woman come through my express register with way to many items, not just a little over a lo-o-ong way over. The woman behind her literally began to scream at her, stuff like “How f*ing dumb are you? Can’t you f*ing read? are you f*ing illiterate? are you f*ing stupid or something?” poor woman looked like she wanted to climb under the register and hide, she wouldnt have fitted cos I was already under there!!

    The problem is that people just don’t look around them, they don’t read signs and they don’t pay attention.

    And what I wouldnt give for one of those little pocket-sized cell phone jammer devices!! Seriously people, you DO NOT need to answer the phone EVERY time it rings, that’s what message bank is for! text messages and facebook updates can wait 20minutes, the world wont end! How many times have you nearly been run over by some idiot trying to steer the cart with one hand or even their elbows because they were so busy tap-tapping at their phone? The person on the other end of the line can wait the minute or so that it takes to pay for your groceries; don’t just wave your card at the poor cashier and expect her to lip read or understand your sign language.

    I am a big advocate of the idea that, if someone is blocking your path, speak up!

    P.S. -If you go through the checkout with something small like a candybar or pack of gum just to break a $50 please be aware that your checkout operator WILL hate you!! You might not think its much but you didnt see the 8 others before and after you that did exactly the same thing. I only get change delivered twice a day and it doesnt take much at all for you to drain my till dry just because you had to break a $50.

  • Me April 9, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Grocery shopping is the worst! If other people could just be a little more aware of others, it *might* help.

    One of my two biggest pet peeves are the ones who have a family or high school reunion in the aisles and pretend they don’t hear you when you say “excuse me” or “can I scoot past you”. Even if I see people I haven’t seen in a long time, I generally just wave, say hi and move on. If they really want to know how I am, they can call me. I have had the same telephone number for 20 years.

    My second pet peeve is the adults/parents who don’t *try* to tend to their kids while shopping. I’m a mother; most of the time I went shopping when husband could watch the kids because it was easier to get in, get what I needed and get out. On the occasions when I did have to take them, they stayed right with me, were not allowed to run up & down the aisles with the cart, blocking and ramming other people or causing choas. I know that no child is perfect and most parents are just trying to get done and get home like the rest of us, but the ones who do not even *try* to tend to the kids while shopping are the ones that make me angry.

  • joye April 9, 2013, 12:49 pm

    I once was at a grocery store during a slow period. This grocery store (a Wegman’s) had a little area off to the side with various mini-cafes like a submarine sandwich shop, a pizza shop, etc. There were two registers there. I had been shopping in the store, so I had some items in my cart from the rest of the store, and I also bought some submarine sandwiches for a party. Then I picked a register at random.

    I don’t have very good vision so I didn’t see until I got up to the register that the sign on the register said “cafe items only” (it was a small sign on the till itself, not a large hanging sign). I asked the clerk if I should move to the other register (which was open) and she said not to worry about it, she would ring me out.

    While I was being rung out, a couple came up behind me and started waiting in line with their cafe items. The woman began complaining loudly that this was the “cafe item only” line. Keep in mind that there was another register about five feet away unused! I just ignored them. At the end of the transaction, I pulled out my coupons and handed them to the clerk. “Oh great, she’s got coupons!!” whined the woman.

    At this point, the clerk at the other till, who in retrospect seemed amused, said “I can take you over here.”

    She was still muttering and complaining as she walked over! The man never said anything at any time; I almost wondered if he could talk!

    This is the story I always bring up as an example of how some people PREFER to be inconvenienced and complain. A register was open the whole time; she inconvenienced herself, solely for the pleasure of complaining!

  • KD April 9, 2013, 1:04 pm

    Majumba: THANK YOU. I work retail in the States and our Corporate office has decided we are superhuman. We are not allowed to ask a customer to do anything outside of the payment screen. We cannot ask them to move, suspend their order if they decide to continue shopping after being in line, nothing. Our express lanes have a “suggested order size” – we have to take anyone in them, even if the customer has three carts, a scooter, and a pack mule loaded with items. I would love to speak up, but I’d risk unemployment in a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. I have a family to support, student loans to pay off; I can’t risk it.

  • KD April 9, 2013, 1:15 pm

    (Apologies to Majuba – I even said to myself, “No ‘M’!”.)

  • Saucygirl April 9, 2013, 1:28 pm

    Goldie, there is a big difference between the twenty seconds you say you take and the four to five minutes that I regularly experience. Numerous times I have had my groceries all rung up and bagged, and yet I can’t pay for them or put them back in my cart because the person in front of me is taking the time to sort all her dollar bills, take everything out of her purse to find the keys, etc. sometimes it is so bad that the cashier will actually speak up and ask the person to step aside, before I do. Twenty seconds would be wonderful.

  • Wren April 9, 2013, 2:36 pm

    Regarding people with full carts who try to go through the checkout lane for 12 Items or Fewer… once time at Kroger in Westerville, Ohio I accidentally got into the line for the 12 Items or Fewer register. I had a full cart. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I was unfamiliar with the store and I did not see the hand-written sign. When I got up to the register, the clerk told me to go to a different register. He was polite, I apologized, I went to a different check-out line, it probably cost me a minute of my life, all was well. I mention this to illustrate that some stores do enforce their policy of 12 Items or Less.

  • Bint April 9, 2013, 4:45 pm

    “Ahh, Bint, how cold and cruel you sound. So some person takes an extra sixty seconds talking to the clerk. You probably haven’t had to live alone and not had anyone to talk to for a couple of days.”

    Ahh, Jakester, how much you assume based on knowing nothing at all about me, my life or that situation. And for someone telling me to ‘have a heart’ and ‘join the human race’, it’s ironic you should end your post with a nice little threat to me. How warm and caring, indeed.

  • Miss-E April 9, 2013, 7:23 pm

    I just have to echo Majuba here: talking on or playing with your cell phone while being checked out is just about the most insulting thing you can do. It says “I could not care less about you, checkout servant.” Unless I hear you describing how to disarm or remove an appendix, your call can wait.

    I know people who exact revenge on customers who ignore them in favor of their phones by bagging really poorly: putting the chips under the milk, etc. So beware, if you treat people like dirt, they may return the favor!

    Oh, and Bint: I sympathize with your frustrations with people who yammer away. As a cashier, I don’t like it much either. I get a lot of people in my store who complain endlessly about things just to have someone to talk to. Sorry if I sound just as cold, but I’m not a psychiatrist, it isn’t my job to be your friend. A little small talk is okay but monopolizing my time only earns me dark looks from waiting customers!

  • kingsrings April 9, 2013, 8:14 pm

    I will chime in on the subject of shoppers putting their card or money away before they leave the checkstand. Yes, I will take the time to do that. I’m not going to risk leaving my cards/money at the counter, dropping them, losing them, etc. I will make sure it is securely put away before I leave the counter. I hate it when the next person is all in my face about it! It only takes a few extra seconds to do, surely, they can wait those few extra seconds for me to do that.

  • MichelleP April 9, 2013, 9:56 pm

    @syrse, I feel your pain, but as someone who used to work as a cashier, in retail and in fast food, I can tell you firsthand that cashiers have no control over any situation you described. When I worked as a cashier, particularly in fast food, I was concentrating on doing my job. I couldn’t keep an eye on who was next, nor could I tell a customer I couldn’t wait on them for any reason. I resented people complaining about others’ doing what you described, as I didn’t see it, couldn’t control it, and could do nothing about it even if I did. My job was not referee or babysitter.

    I absolutely agree that people shouldn’t do that, but it isn’t an employee’s job to stand up for you. Take it up with the person that did it.

  • MichelleP April 9, 2013, 10:00 pm

    @syrse, I feel your pain, but as someone who used to work as a cashier, in retail and in fast food, I can tell you firsthand that cashiers have no control over any situation you described. When I worked as a cashier, particularly in fast food, I was concentrating on doing my job. I couldn’t keep an eye on who was next, nor could I tell a customer I couldn’t wait on them for any reason. I resented people complaining about others’ doing what you described, as I didn’t see it, couldn’t control it, and could do nothing about it even if I did. My job was not referee or babysitter.

    I absolutely agree that people shouldn’t do that, but it isn’t an employee’s job to stand up for you. Take it up with the person that did it.

    To the posters saying they will put their money/cards/etc. away before leaving, please explain what is stopping you from stepping forward to do that? Every grocery store I have ever been to has plenty of space for you to step forward a few feet and put your things away before leaving the store.

  • NostalgicGal April 10, 2013, 12:13 am

    @Saucygirl If I have an issue where I need to sort, hunt, etc, I at least take 1-2 steps to the end of the grocery area at the register, past the pay/check/cardmachine bit, to do so. That way the next person can at least get going while I either sort/fold/tuck/hunt keys/glare at my nag(cellphone) and get my groceries fully gathered. If I can’t put it into my pocket or purse and step away, I at least try to get to the end of the area past the bagup spot. If some people would do only that… I agree.

    @kingsrings some people are totally cheesed off for a second or six inches… if I step a step or two that way I can still do the check/tuck/fold/find keys and if there is an issue I am still right there with a flat surface to dump purse if needed because the keys evaporated. If you’re just taking seconds, I agree there too about do it then move. If it’s going to be longer, take a step that way.

    Only way I’m going to be on that cell at the checkout is going to be a pretty serious reason, that happened while I was in the store, and instead of leaving the cart I’m heading for checkout to go deal; and I’m going to tell that caller just a moment or I will call you back, and mute or hang up. The clerk needs my attention and I need to pay attention, my money is involved!

  • NostalgicGal April 10, 2013, 12:38 am

    @ Snowy, #92

    I had the fortune to shop at a place that had megaline… this is both bad and good…

    A retired neighbor was career military and most of his sight was gone so he couldn’t drive, though he kept his own car. At times I would drive him in his car to one of two base BX (groceries and other things) in the area, so he could do his shopping. If I wanted a thing or two I would pay him afterwards. Anyways, once you got to the registers you went into a long line with permanent railfence that went from side to side a few times, and during most times of the day this could take awhile. The one at the front, you would be called to whatever register was open by a green light over the register. It would be flicked red when you got to the belt. There was zero line cutting and no arguement on who was next, and once you got to a register checkout was fast. (they had about a dozen registers and most were open when the line got long enough to take the first turn). So I totally agree, megalines cut the crapola, but waiting when there are that many people in the megaline can seem like forever. There was NO ability to dart back either… once you got into the megaline you were THERE. And until you cleared the register completely (pushing cart or carrying bags away) would they call the next one.

    One thing it did cut, was long leadins full of impulse purchase stuff to tempt you on the wait to unload your cart….

  • Joni April 10, 2013, 7:00 am

    I think that making friendly chitchat with the cashier when you are checking out shows that you regard them as human and not as an automaton or an underling.

    I’ve been reading a book about domestic servitude in the Edwardian era and not only were ‘the help’ not allowed to speak in the presence of their ‘betters,’ in some houses they were expected to turn and face the wall if one of their employers was passing by them in the hallway! Thank goodness we don’t treat people in the service industry like THAT anymore, huh?

  • delislice April 10, 2013, 7:06 am

    Ooh, ooh, Miss-E! Please tell me how to disarm an appendix!

  • Mae April 10, 2013, 11:13 am

    I think speaking with the cashier a bit while they are ringing up your purchases are fine, but if you continue to talk after business is settled, with other shoppers waiting, is rude. Most cashiers will talk with someone if they are slow and have no line but they are usually the ones who catch hell from the other shoppers if someone is talking and holding up the line.

  • Jenn50 April 10, 2013, 11:27 am

    I dislike the megaline because it usually has a corral directing the queue, and I find myself terribly claustrophobic in them. I hate feeling trapped inside the corral, and if I have a cartful of groceries, there’s no chance of getting out of the line with my cart if I remember something I’ve forgotten, or if one of my kids needs an emergency bathroom break. I like the concept, because it does eliminate a lot of the usual issues inherent to the multiple line situations, but I’ll avoid them like the plague until the figure out a way to offer periodic “escape hatches”.

  • Miss-E April 10, 2013, 2:29 pm

    Hahaha…I forgot the word “bomb” in there! Disarm a BOMB or remove an appendix! My bad!

  • grumpy_otter April 11, 2013, 8:02 am

    OP here–I have enjoyed reading most of these–seems I struck a common theme!

    I just wanted to clarify that I am perfectly capable of being assertive and definitely have a spine. On this particular day, I wasn’t in a hurry and was more amused by the whole thing than irritated. The people who dashed in front of me at the end were just fine–I will do that in front of browsers too if I know exactly what I want, too. I just found it funny because of what had occurred previously.

    Thank you all for your input and feedback!

  • mumsyjr April 13, 2013, 11:00 am

    At my Trader Joe’s, at least, there’s no reason to abandon your cart at the check out: if you forgot something the cashiers will send someone to go grab it for you while they continue ringing up the rest of your purchase. Because Trader Joe’s goes out of it’s way to be nice like that, I guess. Of course, there also genuinely isn’t room to step forward before putting away your change or card because then you’re just blocking a different set of people (those who have already checked our and are trying to get to the door). Everywhere has it’s pros and cons. I agree with the cellphone at the check out comments. This is one of many ways to treat your cashier like a non-entity. The last time I was grocery shopping the cashier asked me “how are you today?” and I said “fine, thanks, how are you?” and he stopped mid-scan, leaned in conspiratorially and whispered “I’d be a lot better if you weren’t the first person to ask me today, thank you, it makes a difference”.

  • Joy April 14, 2013, 12:28 pm

    At the grocery store a few weeks ago I had a new-to-me incident occur. I was three seconds away from getting into an almost-empty checkout lane when a man swooped in front of me, stopped, and made waving motions with his arm. I looked at him quizzically and he said, “I’m just waiting on my wife – she’s coming”. I was taken aback with this and looked at him incredulously. His wife, her cart and their small kids arrived and unloaded their order. I continued to watch them as if they were an anthropological study in poor manners. He looked at me one more time as they were leaving, said ‘thank you’ with a sheepish look on his face. I gave him a half-hearted nod. In hindsight, when he said “I’m just waiting on my wife…” I could have replied, “Well, she’s not here yet” and barreled around him. But the whole thing caught me off guard, and a small part of me wondered if I would have been making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Enna April 20, 2013, 9:25 am

    @ Majuba, my mum has been told she has too many items by the cashier, even though she still had a basket: I had a school mate who worked at the same shop admit he did the same. The supermarket doesn’t have limits like that anymore: just basket only checkouts.

  • Enna April 20, 2013, 9:25 am

    But it does really annoy me when people block up gangways and pathways.

  • lnelson1218 April 20, 2013, 9:35 am

    My friends couldn’t believe when I used to go food shopping at the Harris Teeter at 7am on Saturday morning when I lived in VA. It was great very few other customers. Most just minding their own business. Somehow everyone just seemed to be friendlier at that time. The cashiers weren’t stressed out. Only down side, the side bar wasn’t open. And much of the pre made food weren’t prepared yet. However for the peace and ease it was worth it.

  • http://coachellavalleyvideos.com/ May 26, 2013, 10:40 am

    I think everything said was very reasonable.
    But, think on this, suppose you wrote a catchier post title?
    I ain’t suggesting your content is not solid., but what if you added a post title that grabbed a person’s attention?

    I mean Miss Jeanne, Grocery Shopper Etiquette Expert To The World is a little boring.
    You might peek at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create news titles to grab people interested. You might add a related video or a picture or two to grab readers excited about everything’ve got to say.
    Just my opinion, it could make your posts a little livelier.

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