Grocery Store Etiquette

Sometimes grocery shopping can be about as relaxing as a gunfight at the O.K. Corral. But before you rush to that checkout line, check out these 3 easy do’s and don’ts for happy shopping.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #175


What can be more American than a good ol’ fashioned grocery store? You know, where the baker offers you free samples of fresh bread, the manager knows your name, and local high school kids help you with your bags.  A good grocery store is something straight out of the movie Pleasantville.  Unfortunately, that type of experience has gone the way of the dinosaur. No longer can you leisurely wander in to pick up a few things. Now, it’s more like the start of a 400 meter dash, with people fighting for the checkout line.

Proper Grocery Store Etiquette

Don’t get me wrong, I do love grocery stores. The one by my house is beyond amazing. In fact, when I got out of town, I love seeing the grocery stores in different communities. It’s a bizarre fascination I have. Still, no matter how nice the amenities, sometimes it’s the patrons that will ruin the visit.

So, before we solve that clean up in aisle 9, let’s enjoy my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for proper grocery store etiquette:

Tip #1 – It’s Not NASCAR

Every Saturday and Sunday morning, since my daughter was one, I have taken her to the local grocery store to grab breakfast together.  I can’t tell you how much I love that time with her.  And ever since she learned to walk on her own – with confidence – I’ve let her walk beside me, rather than sitting in the cart. That was until I realized my local, friendly grocery store was turning into a NASCAR track. Carts carelessly whip around the aisles, at unheard of speeds. And if you don’t move fast, you may – as my NASCAR watching friends tell me – “get put into the wall.” I feel like my daughter and I are in the Indiana Jones scene when Harrison Ford runs from the boulder. It’s frightening. Needless to say, I prefer for my daughter to stay in the cart these days.

So what’s the lesson here? While grocery shopping, don’t rush.  There’s no need to make it an all day trip, but you’d be amazed at how relaxing it can be if you took your time. Yes, you may want to get your shopping done quickly because you have other things to do, but I should not have to tell my daughter to look both ways before we go down an aisle. Grocery carts are metal and they hurt. And when you load it up with food, it becomes a pretty lethal weapon. Think about that next time you swing it around like a line dancing partner.

Also, drop the cell phone. If you have one hand on your phone, how can you maneuver the cart? Try a headset, if you are taking calls. I do. It makes shopping by myself even easier.  If someone who hasn’t heard this podcast cuts you off, say something. Even a simple, “Wow! Slow down buddy,” will do the trick. I’ve tried this and it works. People can be reckless and need to be reminded of how to properly handle navigating a grocery cart.

Tip #2 – Over the Limit?

Ever see someone go to the “20 Items or Less” line with well over 20 items? You know you have, and if you are one of them, you know who you are. Yes, that line was open and you swear you’ll be fast, but that does not mean you get to use it. That’s like saying, “I can park in the handicapped space because no one is using it at the time.” Just because no one is there, doesn’t mean it’s proper to hop in.

[[AdMiddle]If you are planning on using the “20 Items or Less” line,” then don’t indulge. If that box of cookies puts you over the limit, then guess what – you have to go in the regular line. Or put the cookies back on the shelf (Nutrition Diva would be proud).  I don’t know who invented the concept of “limit lines” but it works and it will work much better if you don’t break the rules. As well, it’s not mannerly to throw on 10 other items that you couldn’t resist while waiting in the check-out line, just because before entering the line you did have 20 items or less. Cheater!

Tip #3 – Plan Ahead

Have you ever seen what happens to some people when they get to the register? Why is it that they’re shocked when they have to pay? They’re like, “Oh, money? Okay, wait…hold on one second…let me go deep sea diving in my purse or pocket to find my wallet…It’s got to be here somewhere…” It’s maddening! Then, there are people who get confused about how they are going to pay.  It’s simple: cash, check, or charge. You do it all the time.

An earlier Modern Manners Guy episode about crowding in line comes to mind. I can’t get over how inept people become when standing in lines.  Let’s start with paying by check. The least you could do is have everything filled out on the check, up to the amount. It’s polite to plan ahead and at least write down all the other info. Don’t start from scratch with a line of ten people behind you. And if you’re paying by cash or a credit card, have your wallet ready. You went to the store with the intention of buying something, so why not have your wallet out? Also, show some kindness to other patrons and offer that person behind you with one bottle of ketchup the chance to go ahead of you.

Lastly, have you noticed how strange people act with the little plastic bar you put on the counter to distinguish your groceries from someone else’s? Ever see someone slam it down with authority? As in, “This is MY stuff and THAT is YOUR stuff!..” Yeah, that’s necessary. As if I’m going to really try and scam you into paying for my food?

The bottom line is this: Karma is king with manners. So next time to you go to the grocery store, do what you can to make it reminiscent of the old times when people were friendly, kind, and didn’t run you down with their shopping carts.

Do you have a great story about a trip to the grocery store? Post all the details in Comments below.  As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips.

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