My mom does many of her major grocery shopping trips at a particular supermarket. She’s mentioned to me before that what happens on occasion is she comes up to a cash register with a cart full of items and starts unloading them, and the cashier suddenly tells her to hold it because they (the cashier) would like to ring up someone with fewer items first. This type of store (it’s a chain) doesn’t even have “10 or fewer items” registers, nor any sort of rules posted anywhere about letting people with fewer items be rung up first. Also I would like to point out that this cashier-mandated line cutting is something that happens with no input whatsoever from the actual person at the end of the queue. To be precise, my mom is the kind of person who would absolutely agree to let the person behind her to go ahead if they have a single bottle of coke or something IF they actually made such a request of her, but this “order” always comes from the cashiers themselves in rather imperious tone. Mom actually had a chat with a manager about it before, and the lady acknowledged that it was wrong of the cashiers to do so and apologised. (I am pretty certain no firings or people being written up resulted from this- no names were named and we do NOT live in a country where the customer is always right, not by a long shot.)
Today I was there to help carry the groceries it and mom put her foot down- she firmly, but politely told the cashier that she is, in fact, the first person in line and it is her decision whether she would let someone cut ahead or not. The cashier did not take it well and basically reacted with a lot of eye rolls and “sorry about this crazy old lady” kinds of faces, which made both mom and me sad and uncomfortable.
I’d also like to point out that those incidents, and today especially, do not take place during rush hours or anything like it. It’s usually 3 people per line at the most, with 4 or so cash registers open and sometimes even one of them totally empty. Why the cashiers insist of doing this is a complete mystery to me. 0909-15
Next post: “Dropping By” Can Possibly Be Rude If Done Wrong
Previous post: Accommodating Picky Eaters
Comments on this entry are closed.
I wonder if the cashiers have some counter/metric that they need to have some amount of people checked out per hour or has to check out people with certain speed or if they get trouble when lines start forming. And having someone with large shopping would throw out their numbers or create longer line so they try to get the fast ones out before taking the large shopping.
Otherwise, no idea.
@Ulla – I think you’re right. If not, it’s as others have stated below – too weird for words.
It definitely wouldn’t make me feel good if I had just a few items, I’d feel like a total jerk.
Come to think of it, one store I go to has a Monitor inicating how many lanes are open and the expected wait time etc. I’ll be you’re right Ulla.
@Ulla, you may be right. Target used to score cashiers on speed from the time we scanned the first item to the time the receipt printed, which wasn’t really fair, and we were given weekly reports on how we did. We could be fast in scanning, but we couldn’t control the guest who couldn’t find their credit card (and they always waited until everything was scanned before starting to look) or who wanted to pay in cash down to the last penny, or the guest whose kids were paying for their own item with the change they had left over from their allowance. We didn’t do lane cutting, but I can see where a store that is real strict about such scores might cause the cashiers to want to get more customers through quickly. Luckily Target stopped that policy, which made the cashiers much happier.
That practice is completely unacceptable. While I can sympathize if this has to do with what Ulla is suggesting, then corporate needs to be informed how rude this is to customers.
I’m all for letting people go ahead who have just a few items, but it’s not the cashier’s place to determine this. Since informing the store manager hasn’t had the desired effect, written communication with corporate is next, and I would definitely includes names of employees and the manager, and dates.
I have never heard of a cashier telling someone that they have to let others go in front of them. That’s crazy and would annoy me as well. I think I would blame the people going ahead of me as well, though. If I were the second person in line, I can’t imagine just walking in front of the first person, without asking them if it was actually okay with them. Or just out right saying no, that it was the other persons turn, not mine.
Good for your mom for putting her foot down. I’d like to know though, if the other customers said or did anything when your mom said no and the cashier started making faces.
If it were me, when the cashier started pulling faces, I would tell the cashier to call the floor manager over immediately–because now you have two issues: the cashier deciding that the position in line is not relevant *and* the cashier being rude to a customer.
And if I were the second person in line, I would refuse to line-jump unless the customer in front of me insisted. I’ve been through that (a store was re-modeling, and part of the remodel meant that there were no express lines for a period of time), and it might be annoying to get behind someone who is shopping for an entire month with two full carts of stuff when I’ve only got five things, but that’s just life in a world in which other people exist.
What happens if Customer1 with the full cart yields to Customer2 with the three items, and then by the time Customer2 completes the transaction, Customer3 with five things and Customer4 with two things enter the line? Does Customer1 then have to keep yielding until there’s no one in the line with visibly fewer items? It seems much simpler to take customers in the order in which they have lined up.
Your last paragraph exactly.
Call the manager over immediately. If they can’t or won’t deal with it, then if it’s a small town, write a letter to the editor. Stir that beef up. There’s probably a lot that resent being skipped over and that stew won’t smell pretty very fast. And get it changed at the store.
At my local grocery store usually if someone has three items and the one ahead has a flowing cartful they will often voluntarily tell the other to go ahead. And you only have to let one through. If another small one shows up it is often then ignored. One is polite, two isn’t and three is jerkdom. Usually if they get a second person in line and there is a closed register they will call someone up front to run that register NOW.
If that store is so worried about lines then they should designate an express lane and have it open.
It IS weird that a cashier would take that on her/himself without even asking the first one in line if they mind– I am always aware of people behind me in and line and have often let as many as two or three go ahead if I know my business will take awhile – for instance, if I’m buying lottery or have a lot of items… but I live in a very small midwestern town, and it’s just as likely someone will insist that I go ahead of THEM… it can get kind of comical at times with everyone saying… “oh, no — YOU go first… No? Are you SURE?”… I have never had a really long wait by letting a few people in… and don’t even think much if someone “cuts”…. I try to save up my moral outrage for things that seem a little more important 🙂
This is very odd – it has never happened to me at any store. I have let people holding fewer items go in front of me, but the cashiers have never, ever, EVER gotten involved. Maybe it’s store policy? Perhaps the OP’s mom should talk to the store manager or perhaps switch grocery stores.
I think she should go straight back to the manager and inform him/her that the cashiers are still doing it, apparently contrary to store policy, and that she was made to feel uncomfortable and indeed outright mocked for refusing. There’s no need to name the cashier concerned, especially as you imply that it’s not just one cashier doing this.
If it is store policy that people with only a few items *should* get priority, they either need to create a dedicated ‘X items or less’ till, or put up a notice saying that people with X items or less will be given priority at any till. If that is not store policy, the manager should tell all their cashiers to cut it out.
I agree that approaching the manager once more would be a good idea, and if it still continues, then corporate (as OP mentions it’s a chain).
they either need to create a dedicated ‘X items or less’ till the sensible option, one would assume, or put up a notice saying that people with X items or less will be given priority at any till. Exactly! Ha, can you imagine. Instead of getting in line, people form a huddle near the till, and start comparing with each other exactly how many items they each have.
“OK, I have…um…wait a sec…fourteen items.”
“Right, well, I only have…umm…eleven. But one of them’s a six pack of lemonade. Does that count as one or six?”
“I’m not sure, but Henry here only has five, right Henry? What’s that? Oh, Henry says that’s right, but he also wants smokes and a couple of lotto tickets. How are we going to handle this, guys?”
“Oh shoot, looks like we’ve been standing here so long trying to figure it out that the store closed ten minutes ago.”
Too Funny Fortunately I had swallowed my tea before reading your post.
I also think she should go back to the manager and complain, and I absolutely think she should name the cashier. She was treated very poorly when the cashier insisted the other customer go ahead, and then again when the cashier didn’t apologize and showed contempt when Mom didn’t back down. Why that cashier shouldn’t be fired is a mystery to me.
I think the answer, however, is a firm declaration that if this behaviour doesn’t change then Mom will simply go elsewhere to shop. Or she can be a PITA and keep insisting that she be treated better. If she pushes her groceries up the belt to prevent space for anyone else to slip in front that may send a clear message. And what happens if the cashier still insists on serving another customer first? Well, Mom could simply state her displeasure and walk away, leaving all those groceries sitting there on the belt. And then repeat as necessary, each time she visits. It makes for a frustrating shopping experience but if you’re so inclined to stick to your guns, you can effect change that way.
Actually, it’s usually the only way to effect change. Policy, laws, etc., generally require a fairly big investment of time and effort by citizens before they are changed. If it means enough to you, go for it.
This…. This is weird. I’ve never heard of this practice elsewhere.
How extremely strange! Especially as the manager admitted it wasn’t policy when spoken to, and yet it seems to be several cashiers doing this, not just one with a bee in their bonnet?
Like your mom, I’m always happy to let someone with significantly fewer items go ahead of me. If I have more than a few items, and I notice the person behind me has only one, or a couple, I’ll offer to let them go ahead. Often they’ll happily accept. If they refuse, I’ll say once “are you sure?” in case they’re just being polite, and if they still say it’s fine then I’ll continue with my own unloading. Rarely does anyone take the initiative to ask if they can go ahead of me, but if they do so reasonably politely and I’m not in a huge rush, I’m happy to oblige.
The key thing is, though, that the offer and/or request come from us, the people in the queue, not from some high and mighty cashier who’s taken it upon themselves to police queue etiquette.
(Side note: I am grateful when cashiers keep an eye on the queueing order, and politely mention if someone (often unintentionally) queue-jumps. Normally I’m very aware of my place in a queue, but it is sometimes possible to make a mistake – for example if there’s a display close to the counter that can block your view of anyone else queueing. In that case, it’s easy enough for two people to start queueing on two separate sides, and be unaware of each other. That’s happened to me once or twice, and the cashier will usually say to one or other of us “excuse me, I think this gentleman/lady was ahead of you.” In which case, a simple “Oh! I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you. Please go ahead,” is the natural response.)
But what your mom has experienced is completely different from that. If such a thing happenned to me (and it never has, I’m glad to say) it would definitely put me on the defensive, because I’d feel as if my own manners were being called unfairly into question. If I were the person behind her with fewer items, it would also make me uncomfortable. I hope I’d say something like “no it’s fine, this lady was first,” but I admit I might be so taken aback by the cashier’s behaviour that I would meekly go ahead of your mom, feeling very awkward indeed. And then feel guilty and stupid afterwards.
As you say, a complete mystery! And an annoying one.
I have never heard of this. In most stores there is a line for people with a couple items, but the cashier is generally respectful of the line and when a new cashier opens says, “I will take the next person in line.” So if you are next, you go next. Since this is more than fair, everybody agrees with the policy and nobody complains. I will allow people with a couple items to go in front of me if I have a full order. I don’t agree with the practice at this store, it should be up to the OP’s mother if it is ok with her if the people behind her go first. It is not the call of the cashier. It sounds like these people are on some kind of power trip determining who goes next.
Interestingly enough this has happened to me before– but the cashier always asks politely and the person behind me always has one or two items max. In those cases I’ve never minded letting the other person go first– but if I were asked to let someone go that had ~3-10 items I’d be miffed! I agree with Aleko about going back to the manager about this.
Based on the description, I think the mother should just keep loading the belt and reply with something to the effect of “I’m in a hurry”, and always make sure to load the belt towards the front as much as possible. Basically just ignore the cashier, if she does this enough they probably will give up.
Never heard of such a thing. It should be the customer’s prerogative to let someone in front of them, not the cashier.
To me this says that the cashier thinks the other persons time is more valuable.
My first thought was that the cashiers might get yelled at if the lines get too long, so they try to run the “faster” customers through first. Either way, it sounds like it’s an issue that needs to be taken up with the management.
That is very weird. I also never experience a cashier telling me, or heard them tell another customer, that they’ll be taking someone with fewer items first. Usually that sort of thing is sorted between the two customers in question. OP your mom should go back to the manager and tell her what happen when she refused to let a customer with fewer items go first and how the cashier was rude by rolling their eyes and making “Sorry, this woman is crazy” faces to the customers in the back of the line. And I would mention/point out the cashier that did this too because even though all cashiers let people with fewer items go first we don’t know if all of them would act so rude when being refused so the cashier that your mom was with seems extra bad.
The manager needs to know this because customers should not be made to feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed about this. This could cause problems later on and since this isn’t store policy then cashiers should not be allowed to do this. The manager needs to be stricter about this and make it clear to all cashiers that this isn’t acceptable at all anymore or the manager should put up signs saying that customers with fewer items will be taken care of first so all customers are made aware of this. Or better yet make one of the registers a 10 items or less lane.
If I have a lot of groceries, I often will tell a person behind me with just a few to go ahead. That’s because at the grocery store I go to the cashiers are fast and the person will be all finished before I get all my groceries on the belt, anyway. It doesn’t hold me up. And it’s MY choice.
Your mother shouldn’t have to be held up because this store doesn’t have an express lane.
Cashiers who are rolling their eyes and showing annoyance like 12 year olds are a problem. In my experience there are stores where the employees are very well trained, and others where they are not. I’m lucky that there are 4 grocery store chains in my area, so I can pick the ones that have pricing and customer service that I like.
I’ve never heard of this either. I would also complain to management again- and I wouldn’t hesitate to name names. Especially the part about the eye rolling. That is completely unacceptable.
Something is fishy from the management side of things. The cashiers must be getting judged by some kind of performance metric, otherwise I don’t see why they would possibly care. Their day is just as long regardless of who gets checked out first. I would consider asking the cashier to page their manager as soon as their “request” is made, so store policy can be clarified once and for all in person (and make it clear that you have experienced this from several cashiers, so this particular one doesn’t feel targeted). I think it’s also possible that a senior cashier came up with this idea and has been telling new hires that this is the proper way to run their cash.
My guess as to why this is happening is the person behind the mother in line is likely a regular who is on a lunch break from a nearby establishment or catching a bus and the cashier knows this.
Cashiers should not be doing that at all. They can keep their averages within acceptable standards by being efficient with large and small orders. They can also help one another out by taking the next client from a neighboring line if they are free. If a cashier had made faces at me over such a concern, I’d have either been quite slow and deliberate in checking out or have asked to be checked out by the manager on the theory that something not within my purview was “off” with the cashier and I hadn’t the inclination to deal with it.
A grocery store is not a reasonable place to assume that if you pick up one or two items, you’ll be out the door faster. One can hope, of course.
But many people do large shops, obviously so they don’t have to keep going all week. And those customers shouldn’t be penalized for it.
There also shouldn’t be a policy that the cashier let anyone with only 2 to four items be rung through first. What if the next three people in line only have one to four items? Op’s mon would have to stand there with half her groceries on the belt while first one, then two, then three customers went in front of her.
To me if feels like the cashier is penalizing OP’s mom for consistently doing her weekly shopping at that one store.
It would be enough o make me switch if it were possible. That situation would make me really, really angry.
I have never encountered this from a major grocery chain before, but almost all of them have a few of the X item or less lines now. Logistically how does this work? I’m used to people using carts/trolleys/buggies when doing a big shop so the cart blocks the lane up to the cashier once you start in loading. Also, once the belt starts to clear out the person next in line puts the plastic blocker up and starts unloading, so the cashier can start scanning as soon as the previous transaction is complete. I imagine some sort of close shuffling trying to squeeze the person behind around the cart in the narrow lane between the belt and the candy stand, which could be awkward/uncomfortable for both people. I think your mom was well within etiquette to say no to the non-policy demand by the cashier.
The only time I’ve seen a cashier put their foot down is when they enforce the X items lanes. Telling the boar with the full cart to get out of queue because they obviously have more than the limit on their cart. I applaud those cashiers!
I wonder where they draw the line? It’s frustrating enough to have the cashier do this with one person, but if people with fewer items keep lining up behind, do they keep getting served first? How many people get to trump me? I’d give the store one more opportunity to correct this policy before I broke up with them.
Is there anything about the mother that stands out as different from the usual? Different race, or religion maybe? I suppose if that were the case it would have been mentioned.
Nevertheless, having spoken to management regarding the issue and being told that it is not policy, I would have immediately asked for a manager’s assistance as soon as the attitude started. I think it’s important to inform management whenever their staff decide on their own to alienate their clientele. At least let the manager know there’s something wrong with the cashier, in that they seem to be suffering from some very unfortunate facial tics that could be very upsetting to their customers.
A cashier did that to me once – I only had 3 or 4 things but someone pushed in with just one item. I said “excuse me, I’m next” and the cashier let the pusher-in go ahead. I told him I was unhappy about it and he said “it was an act of kindness” and made out like I’m completely heartless. I tried to tell him it wasn’t his act to give but he wasn’t getting it.
That’s awful Kristen! You try to stick up for yourself and you’re made to feel bad?
I would have just left my stuff on the conveyer belt and walked off. I’ve had people walk in front of me so many times, I feel invisible. I get so angry I can’t even speak up because I know I’ll go overboard.
I was in quite an upset mood anyway because of something totally unrelated, and I was too near to tears to spend time explaining clearly why he wasn’t being kind, he was making me be kind in a way I really didn’t want to at that time.
As a person selling stuff for living, the cashiers’ behaviors and attitudes were beyond pale. I am embarrassed for my fellow retail sisters.
What’s the reason that OP keeps bringing business to this particular outfit? Even Wal-Mart may have 2-3 stores in and close to one zip code.
Around here it is very common for someone with a lot of stuff to ask someone behind them with a few items if they want to go first- but I’ve never heard of a cashier doing the asking.
I’ve experienced this before at Costco. I waited in line for about 20 minutes then as I finally started putting my items on the conveyor belt, the cashier held up his hand and told me that if I didn’t mind, he was going to have two people check out before me who only had one item (they were having a plant sale that day). I DID mind, but I was flummoxed that he didn’t even ask if I minded, he’d just assumed.
As protest, I said I do mind, but he ignored me and allowed the others to pass in front of me. In retrospect, I probably could have walked away without purchasing anything or at least talked to a manager. But at the time I was so flummoxed, I didn’t say anything other than my meager initial protest.
I didn’t walk away feeling very good about the encounter.
I think it’s actually pretty easy to figure out what’s going on here. Speaking to the manager is NOT going to fix anything, it’ll probably just make things worse for the cashiers overall. I worked in retail a looooong time. Most places have strict limits on how many customers can be in line at any given time. One place I worked at had a limit of three- yes three. Didn’t matter if it was rush hour and the store literally only had 4 registers making that cap impossible to stay under. If someone from corporate walked in you could be fired on the spot and yes, that had happened. So here’s a thought, give the cashiers a break? Maybe ask them why they’re doing what they’re doing. There’s likely a very good reason. And repeated complaints are probably only getting them in trouble cause they should be able to work through the line faster… “insert eyeroll”
Also, please be aware that while it may look like a register is open it might not be. Ringing customers is just one task that may be completed while behind the register. Routine cleaning, stocking, signage, assessing cash drawers and more are all tasks that have to happen back there and some simply can’t be interrupted.
When in a store I try to be cognizant of the fact that many people do not treat the employees well. Some will come in and use them as a verbal punching bag simply because they had a bad day. Employees are not trying to annoy or harass you over the store loyalty or credit cards. Most cashiers have quotas they’re forced to meet on getting new accounts. In my store you could be penalized for using the store card and not the customers loyalty card, even though we obviously couldn’t force people to sign up for them. These employees have it hard and if all of them are doing the same “rude” thing, there may be a very good reason for it.
This is the proverbial “other side of the coin”. However, customers would not know that and cannot be expected to account for systems that are fundamentally broken. Nobody ever looked at a normal transaction such as checking out at the supermarket for hidden instances of abuse to employees unless there were behaviors that made it somewhat evident. Pulling faces at a customer isn’t helping anything, it’s being rude to a customer for no reason that they can understand. With respect to retail in general and some crazy job situations, I guess we’ve all had one or two jobs like that. Poor conduct on the part of management doesn’t entitle people to behave poorly to clients. While it may be perfectly understandable, it’s no more right than abusing employees with inadequate standards or poor systems and practices is. I’ve had clients throw food, throw fits, be publicly drunk, profane, grossly unkempt and unsafe. Sometimes “business as usual” does have to come to a stop to address these instances. But nothing good is going to come of encouraging customers to stare into what is not obvious in order to try and make intelligible sense of senseless practices that they must then compensate for. I will say that people who try to violate known standards by bellying up to a closed register, cutting in line, falsifying discounts or benefits and similar shenanigans deserve reasonable comeuppance. More extreme behaviors may warrant intervention by management or police. But “think! this cashier might get fired if I don’t let someone cut in line!” is a stretch for most retail clients to be expected to factor into their daily round.
Wow, working on a long line, I would never do that to a customer, I have, however, done this when working on an express lane. Some days, when full carts are in abundance, but small orders are in short supply, I will take a full cart to the express lane. If I have not started ringing up the big order, and a small order comes in, I ask the customer, if they mind if I take the small order. I have never had one say no, simply because I am helping them get through faster.
I would never do that on a full size register though, that is crazy, and rude. I would speak to the manager about the attitude of the cashier for telling her that you were not going to wait. If you are unsure of your cashiers name, or she claims it wasn’t her, the register and cashier ID number are on the receipt.
Sure, this has happened to me before and it doesn’t bother me at all, I’m more than glad to let somebody else go first.
I also agree with notifying the manager. However, I would ask the cashier to call the manager over immediately and let them know in front of her. So what if you “hold up the line”? The cashier is totally off base here.
In a regular line, if I have a full cart and am not in a rush and the person behind me has two or three items, I’ll almost always offer to let them go ahead of me. However, that’s MY call to make and I would not appreciate the cashier taking it upon themselves to allow a line cut, which is what they’re doing. I would complain to the manager about this, repeatedly if necessary. Snarky attitude from the cashier after that would have me posting on Yelp.
I’ve only had this happen to me when the “queue jumper” with 2-3 items is obviously another store employee buying a few things to eat on their lunch break. A break that is probably 30 minutes or less, so I don’t begrudge that.
Perhaps these queue jumpers are actually friends/family members of the cashier, getting sneaked in for faster service? Not fair though.
This is just so odd to me.
Where I’m from, you’re in line and you stay in the order you’re in, unless another til opens and the cashier calls people over. Even then you may not end up first if someone else notices it too and gets there before you.
I just can’t even fathom a reason why a cashier would do this unless it’s to hope you get impatient and go elsewhere so they don’t have to work as hard?
Wait – so the person spending MORE money in the store (probably, as she has more items, though I realize one expensive item could be more than a cart full of inexpensive items) is less of a priority than someone spending less money in the store?
Actually the amount of money spent is irrelevant. If I had any choice at all (as in, it’s not the only store in town) I’d shop elsewhere. This is ridiculous behaviour.
Also, how does the cashier know which customers are going to be quick and which ones aren’t? I’ve been burned before, letting someone with one or two items going ahead, only to find they needed to send the cashier across the store to get them a carton of cigarettes from a locked cabinet (and had to wait for a manager to get the keys), wanted 6 different kinds of lottery tickets, had expired coupons they wanted to argue about, demanded a price check because they didn’t understand the shelf tag that stated the packs of 50 were on sale and they have the 100-pack, etc. etc. etc., wanted to count out a year’s worth of dimes to pay, and basically were customers with problems holding up the line.
Only reason I could think of doing this was the cashier new the person that they wanted to help cut in line and so tried to do it.
Anytime I’ve “cut” in line, it’s the other customers telling me I can go ahead because I have so few things.
The one time I really did cut in line was when my mother and I got to the airport very late and had to rush through everything and people were nice enough to let us through when we asked and we just barely made it on the plane as they were doing last call.
I think the words your mother needs are, “Excuse me, I’m next.” and continue to unload her groceries. If she gets any crazy looks, eye rolling, etc., I would insist that manager be summoned right then and there, and explain to him/her in front of the offending cashier, that you do not appreciate being mocked when she shops in that store. I wonder if it would make any difference if the cashier’s rudeness is called out in the moment.
For me, the manager’s reaction would determine whether or not I would continue to patronize that business.
Not only is the cashier rude , but the person who cuts without asking is rude . I’ve never heard of such behavior. It’s extremely common where I live(Louisiana) for someone to let you go ahead , but it’s always offered first . I ve let people ahead of me many times, especially if they are old but I wouldn’t like for the cashier to let someone jump ahead of me .
I had never heard of this kind of behaviour from a cashier, and now twice in one week!
I’m with those who say to call the manager over during the incident. I’d explain very clearly that it isn’t the cashier’s place to allow other people to cut in front of me (I don’t care about any store policies. That isn’t my problem. The cashiers should try to get together and change the policy if they don’t like it.). I’d also very clearly state I don’t appreciate the eye rolls and deep sighs, either. At that moment, the problem is THIS cashier. And you should also say this isn’t the first time this has happened, and you’ve reported it to management before.
I’ve never known this to happen in Australia, although we do have ‘self-serve’ counters where the customer can go to, scan their goods and pay and away. That usually lightens the line with the cashiers.