Sunday, 18 March 2007

Supermarket etiquette

Forget about foreign languages, what kids need to learn from an early age is how to shop in supermarkets. We acquire that skill by watching other people, mostly our mummies; unfortunately these days women are as bad at it as men so young shoppers don’t have any role models and Supermarket Rage is a very common occurrence.

Don’t leave your basket or trolley right bang in the middle of the floor! When did this habit start? When did it become OK to block everybody else's way because one is too lazy to carry one's basket to where the pomegranate-juice cartons live? No one would leave their bags unattended in the middle of the pavement while they went into a shop so why do it in a supermarket?

If it says ‘Less than 10 items’ (by the way, resist the urge to tell the manager it should be ‘fewer’: he’s not interested), do not turn up in the queue with a trolley full to the brim and then smile apologetically to the people behind you: it won’t wash.

Don’t leave the stuff you want to buy on the belt while you go off to get an item you forgot to pick up earlier? It's a neat trick, isn't it? You reserve your place in the queue and no one can move your groceries aside without feeling like a louse.

When the cashier begins to check out your purchases, don’t stand there flirting with them or nattering into your mobile; unless you’re very old or suffering from some handicap and are therefore slower than an able-bodied person, don’t wait until you’ve paid, start bagging the stuff now, otherwise the next person will huff and puff and probably curse you to the twelfth generation for keeping them waiting.

Don’t act surprised when the cashier requests money from you. What did you expect? Did you think it was Free Food Day and you wouldn’t have to fork out for your over-packaged cook-chill meals? Hand in your card or cash and then resume packing so by the time they give you your change or ask you to key in your PIN you will have finished and no time will have been wasted.

Finally, don’t hang about checking your receipt while the next person – me – is trying to access their items, which are now tumbling all over the place, get out of the way!


  1. . . and don't use the supermarket as a venue for your kids to run off their energy before bedtime; otherwise evil old bats like me will stick out a leg and send them crashing to the floor.

  2. Oops, kids in stores! They probably deserve an entire Slap to themselves. Grrr!

  3. ...and if shopping with a friend don't go down the aisles two trolleys abreast and oblivious to all the other shoppers whilst you gossip and block the way.
    Thanks for this Slap, give them a second slap from me too.
    (Is a second slap like an after-shock following an earthquake d'you think?)

  4. And a slap for those who think the supermarket's a great place for an extended family day out.
    And for those who surely must arrange to meet up with friends and relatives in the fruit and veg aisle around 10.30 Saturday.
    I live in France and it's terrifying that the behaviour's the same here..
    Great blog you have.
    Thanks for visiting me..

  5. Ha ha - you have trolley rage!

    I like the thing about suddenly realising you have to pay and only then hunting for your wallet. The number of people I see standing there dreaming while all the food is processed by the checkout clerk and piles up at the end, then paying, then starting to pack.

  6. H, *nodding furiously*.

    Thanks, A, I enjoy your blog too. And, like you, I deplore the fact that the French are just as bad as us Brits, LOL!

    L, I always feel like slapping those people to wake them up. I do grumble a lot.

    I have supermarket rage very often: yesterday, in Tesco, the PIN machine thingy wasn't working: it kept telling me the PIN I'd keyed in was incorrect; I keyed it in three times until it said I only had one more try. Since I didn't carry enough cash to cover my purchases, I didn't want to do it again just in case I wasn't allowed to pay for them in another way or my card wasn't released or something. The checkout person called for help - which took ages, of course - and I was finally asked whether I would agree to sign the credit card thing instead!!!! Why couldn't I have been asked that before?! Grrr!

  7. "Did you think it was Free Food Day ?" LOL I know exactly what you mean about this phenomenon.

    Of course I shop online, which, as with most things, makes life much easier. Except when there aren't any delivery slots. Then I just go hungry. It's a reasonable price to pay for not visiting supermarkets full of rude and ignorant soap dodgers.

    Excellent slap.

  8. so what does everyone suggest people with young kids do with their kids when they want to go to the supermarket?

    leave them at home alone?

    and don't tell me that i should do my shopping online for the next decade - i reserve the right to pick out my own fruit and veg like every other citizen

  9. No, UC, I don't think anyone objects to well-behaved kids in supermarkets: it's the running around, the shrieking, the picking up items and dumping them in inappropriate places, the bumping into shins with trolleys, the general air of mayhem that unruly children give to a place that is already stressful (noise, bright lights, crowds) and a source of aggro and frustration that people object to.

    That goes for restaurants, caf├ęs and elsewhere too. The other day, in my doctor's surgery, a mother was reading a book aloud to her daughter, a little boy was repeatedly banging on a toy that made a very shrill noise, another little boy was chattering non-stop at the top of his voice while fiddling with the thermostat on the wall - all in full view of their parents who never said a word to them. I, like most of the other people waiting, was feeling unwell. What's wrong with, 'Can you please stop doing that, Rupert/Mabel. It's very annoying; there are people here who are not well and need a bit of peace and quiet.' What's wrong with teaching kids that there is a time and a place for everything? It might serve them well later in life. You certainly have the right to pick out your own fruit and veg, but I have the right to not be driven bonkers by your kids. Don't I?

  10. well, my children are pretty well behaved in such situations but even they can get fed up after an hour in the supermarket and might occasionally run down an aisle to let off some steam

    and in a bid to get them back, i commit another cardinal sin and sometimes have to abandon my trolley for a minute or do

    whilst i try to have my credit card etc. at the ready at the till, sometimes i am still packing my weekly shop (those offers of help with packing don't always materialise, you know) and/or cajoling two three year olds to stay in the trolley for two minutes longer

    the alternative, of course, is for me to do my shopping in independent stores, meaning a trawl along my high street to take in half a dozen or more small shops

    but guess what? not welcome there either! i have my children in a double buggy (strapped in to minimise disruption to other shoppers) which makes me an even bigger social pariah

    oh, and on most buses nowadays, drivers can only permit one buggy per bus unless you collapse it (try doing that with baby twins on your own and then working out how to hold them securely and reconfigure it all when you want to get off)

    sometimes it feels as if the world would conspire to keep parents of young children (even well-behaved) young children stuck at home 24/7

  11. Butting in here...

    I'm just as annoyed by being held up in supermarkets as Bela and all the others - but really, the people who are maddening are not people obviously hampered by being old, infirm, or struggling with kids and pushchairs. Those people, one would have patience with (on most except one's very worst days!). It's usually clear, for example, when a trolley's been left for a minute in a mad dash to retrieve a toddler after sweets, or for some other good reason, and when it's a 25-year-old who thinks all the world's space belongs to them and that they can minimise their own effort in the shop by dumping it at the end of an aisle and going to fetch all their stuff unhampered, while not caring that their trolley is making other people's experience more difficult. And there's a clear difference between being justifiably held up in the checkout queue by a mum with a week's shopping and two bored kids plus a screaming baby, and by a young woman glued to her mobile attempting half-heartedly to pack slowly with one hand, or three guys byuing party food and having a lovely time joking around and flirting with the checkout girl while you wait behind, tapping your fingers. You know which are the ones who don't care - they refuse to catch your eye, and pretend the whole queue behind them doesn't exist. Most harassed mums look desperate enough to look at you and look - well, harassed.

  12. I know these scenes well.

    My beef though is with the checkout people who will pack the bags with too many heavy items, so that I cannot carry them easily, or so that the bags break between the drive and the kitchen.

  13. J, I tried the Tesco delivery service a few years ago: it was very handy, especially for very heavy items like bottled water, etc., but they kept sending me 'replacement' stuff I didn't want. I would use it again, though, if my partner and I were housebound for any reason.

    Thank you for describing the difficulties you encounter in your everyday life as a mother of small children, UC. I and others have pointed out what our problems are and I hope we can all take one another into account. As L says, the main culprits are not mothers and children but inconsiderate young adults.

    L, I know the feeling soooo well.

    M, from what you said about packers and bags breaking I assumed you were in the USA. LOL! Packers are few and far between at my local Tesco. Actually, whenever the check-out person tries to pack for me, I tell them I'll do it myself, thanks: let them concentrate on one job. And, as you say, they don't necessarily pack the way we'd like them to.

    As for bags breaking, those plastic bags seem to me to be indestructible. Isn't that a big pollution problem?

  14. Ah no I mean Asda whose plastic bags are especially thin. The ones that Morrisons use are much sturdier. I reuse them as waste-bin liners. If I remember, at Tesco, they shove the bags at the back of the checkout so you have to manage yourself. I tried the online shopping a couple of times but you have to spend a minimum of £75 now to get free delivery -- it used to be £50 which I could manage by stocking up on cans and bottles. I find it is cheaper to go and then get a taxi home.

  15. What I hate about Morrisons bags is that they're transparent. I too re-use them in my bins but in our building rubbish is collected in the morning (the one convenient thing we get for our exorbitant service charges) and who wants their stuff in full view like that? Even when I come out of the store, why would I want everyone to see what I'm buying? Not a good idea. But they are tough.

  16. I am a cashier at a Walmart where I have to bag the items as I ring them up. I only have six bags to my little turntable and I can't count the number of times people have just stood there staring at the prices of things while I run out of room to put their stuff. I'll even begin to pile it up on the little counter I'm given and they won't get the hint until I ask them nicely to please free up some space and put their bags in their cart.

    And express lane...ugh! I'll have people with full carts look over from their spot in the line at the next register and ask if I can help them. No, I can't. I am here to help people with <20 or <10 items. And because of that I only have three, not six, bags. That's even worse trying to bag a full cart of items with that little space.

    Don't get me started on self-checkout etiquette. Oops, too late.
    1. DON'T LEAVE YOUR CARTS IN BY THE REGISTERS. We are not your cart boys! You're walking out the door anyway, why not push your cart thirty more feet? I can't move, I have to stay put and continue monitoring other transactions.
    2. It tells you how to do everything. Please read the screen. And feel free to ask questions, that's why I'm here. But before you try to scan something over and over and over again with no luck because you neglected to bag the item before it... I can't help with you being that silly.
    3. While I have my own register up front that is for overflow and special ringups such as cell-phone activations, etc. It is so frustrating when someone looks down the lane of self-check registers to me standing at my little kiosk, walks towards me and then proceeds to ask if I can help them. No, I am SELF CHECK. I usually end up pointing at all the little registers they passed, smiling, saying "Nope, self check, sorry!" and sometimes they look so upset.

    Whooo, that felt good.

  17. Thank you very much for commenting, Brynne. It's interesting to hear from someone who's 'on the other side', as it were. I see you have just as much to complain about as us shoppers. I couldn't do your job: it must be incredibly tiring and frustrating.


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