Just like on the highway, there are rules of the road when shopping for your weekly soup, cereal and toilet paper. The grocery store is fraught with inconveniences and awkward moments but knowing how to navigate the aisles will make your shopping experience a bit more palatable.
Tips for Grocery Store Etiquette
- Stay to the right. When driving in the US, you must stay to the right of oncoming traffic. The same unwritten rule applies to maneuvering your grocery basket through traffic in the grocery aisles. When “parking” your basket to make your food selection, choose an area that is not directly across from another basket so as not to impede the flow of grocery traffic.
- If you see someone you know, by all means greet him or her with a friendly “hello” but if you decide to carry on a full-blown 30-minute conversation, take it outside or move out of the mainstream of rush hour traffic. It is annoying to fellow grocery patrons to have to detour around your diagonally parked basket, while you catch up with your friends.
- Push, don’t pull your grocery cart. You have better control if you are not pulling your cart with one hand, talking on your cell phone with the other and balancing a steaming cup of coffee on the front end of your cart. (Okay, I’m a little guilty of pulling my cart!)
- Strap in your baby. If you are shopping with your baby in tow, please make sure to securely fasten the seat belt. And don’t wander too far away from the cart – for many obvious reasons. I recently caught a little tyke in mid-fall while the mom was several feet away, looking at the canned veggies while talking on her cell phone.
- “Yield” at the grocery aisle intersection. How many times have you entered the main aisle of the grocery story and almost had a head on collision with another cart going 30 miles an hour? Your sheepish fellow customer shrugs his or her shoulders and says, “Oh, excuse me” or worse yet, says nothing at all. When approaching a grocery intersection, slow down and look both ways before proceeding with caution.
- Don’t let the fish sticks thaw. When making your frozen food selection, have an idea of what you are going to select before opening the frozen food glass doors. Standing in front of the ice pops for 20 minutes, with your leg propping open the door, while you decide between grape or lemon ice pops is a bit annoying to others trying to grab and go.
- Keep your distance. When checking out, don’t crowd the person in front of you while they are writing a check or entering their credit card and pin number. Tapping your feet or putting your entire grocery cart on the conveyor belt will not make the person in front of you write their check any faster. When it is your turn, have your coupons ready and your wallet pulled out of your purse or pocket and be ready to complete your transaction.
- If you decide against the shredded cheese, don’t dump it in the detergent aisle. Wait until you reach the check out stand and give it to the grocery store attendant. If you are feeling especially gracious, you might consider taking it back to its original home in the refrigerated area.
- The express lane is for those making smaller purchases. However, if someone happens to have an extra tomato or accidentally gets in the wrong lane, take the high road and keep your mouth shut. It’s happened to all of us and you would certainly not appreciate a rude comment from the man or woman standing behind you. On the other hand, don’t take advantage of the express line if you are outside of the item limit.
- Do not use the sample trays of cheese, crackers and weenies as a substitute for dinner. One taste, even two is fine but any more than that is too much.
- Do not spit out your gum in the parking lot and pass this rule along to your children. Nothing is worse than stepping in a wad of goo on a hot, muggy day.
- When approaching a heaping tower of lemons or grapefruits, make your selection from the upper half instead of the lower half. If you are unfortunate enough to have created an avalanche by taking a piece of fruit from the bottom, at least let someone know that you have caused a fruit frenzy. The same rule applies for a jar of pickles or anything else you may have spilled or broken in the aisle. Never leave it there for someone else to slip or trip on. Tell a manager or grocery store employee immediately.
- If you see someone in the pharmacy, picking up their prescription of diarrhea medicine or industrial strength athletes foot cream, don’t ask them about their medical issues. A little space between grocery customers (and friends) will be greatly appreciated!
- And finally, please put your grocery cart back in the designated spot. It’s a courtesy to fellow guests to ensure they are not accidentally hit or their car struck by a flying grocery cart. By the way, there are generally cameras in the parking lot if courtesy is not a good enough incentive to return your cart back to the store or cage.