Tuesday, September 28, 2010

5 annoying habits of grocery store customers (Part I)

Hello again...here we are at day 2 and I hate to start things off on a negative note but this blog entry is going to be about the things customers do that drives me crazy or the things that just piss me off. Every person who works in the customer service industry has a list of things that customers do that drive them crazy. You may suspect that talking on a cell phone while waiting in the checkout line is one the list and you would be right, it is. Talking on a cell phone while at the grocery store checkout (or any checkout for that matter) is pretty rude. But surprisingly it is not at the top of my personal list. I think talking on a cell phone is (sort of) forgivable for a few reasons. Look, people lead busy lives and standing in the checkout line is boring (maybe even more boring then being the cashier at the checkout line--ha ha). Talking on the phone helps it go quicker and sometimes it's tough to end a phone conversation that you're right in the middle of. Trust me...I've been there. But what I can't stand is when the person on the cell phone doesn't even acknowledge that their behavior is rude. All it takes is an apologetic look or for the customer to say, "I'm sorry". An apology can go a long way. And if you apologize chances are the cashier will smile and say, "No, problem." (most of the time).

I will also take this opportunity to point out that you may miss out on savings or you may miss it if your cashier makes a mistake, or if an item rings up at the wrong price if you are distracted by talking on your cell phone. The store where I work has a store card (like many grocery stores do) that gives special discounts and savings on certain items in the store and there have been times when a customer has so blatantly ignored me while talking on their phone that rather then "interrupting" their conversation I just won't ask them if they have a store card--and 9 times out of 10 some of the things they have bought are on sale. So they missed out on the sale prices of their groceries by talking on the phone. And that's why in my opinion it pays to wait to talk on the phone until you are out of the checkout line.

So, here's the list (in no particular order):

1. People who come in one minute before the store is supposed to close...I said this list was in no particular order...but this one really, really annoys me and it was the first thing I thought of when I started writing so it's at the top of the list. I think it's just disrespectful (or at the very least shows a lack of common courtesy). For example, the store where I work closes at midnight and by 11:59 I'm just ready to get the hell out of there! I mean, wouldn't you be? So to come in one minute before a store closes basically says, "Screw you." to the cashier. You are basically saying that your time is more valuable then mine and that frustrates me. Just as a quick example I had a customer cruise into the store at 11:59 (so he had already pissed me off). He bought ground beef, taco shells and taco seasoning. Now my question to you is this...was this some sort of taco emergency? Was this a shopping trip that couldn't have waited until tomorrow? Was he really going to go right home and make tacos? And hey at 11:30, even 11:45 come into the store and buy all the taco stuff you want but why wait until (literally) one minute before the store closes. (My sister's theory was that he was high and had the munchies. . .) But hey, who am I to judge--maybe one of his kids had a school project on the history of the taco that was due in morning...who knows.

Just as a quick P.S. to this--I am (umm most of the time) a pretty reasonable person...if someone rushes in at 11:59 and is grabbing diapers for their kid who is at home screaming or a sick person coming in to buy medicine I have absolutely no problem with that.

2. Putting cash, credit cards, or coupons on the conveyor belt...you may not realize it but there is a thin space between the conveyor belt and the scanner at the register and if your money or credit card goes down the conveyor belt guess who has to try to fish it out (I'll give you a hint--it's not the customer). And I say this because I've actually had a customer's money go down the belt because the customer put the money down on the belt and I couldn't turn the conveyor belt off in time. It was a $20 and it took 3 of us to get it back. It happened a long time ago and it still frustrates me because it was so easily preventable. It just seems like a pretty simple concept--don't put your money on a moving conveyor belt. Make sense? Or should I say Make cents? Ha ha. But people do it all the time. Also many people set their money on the belt when it isn't moving but there is a motion sensor that moves the conveyor belt so even if the conveyor belt isn't moving when you set the money down it may start moving again when the cashier starts scanning your groceries. So save everyone a little trouble and just hold onto your money. And don't shove your money in the cashier's face like a guy at a strip club shoving money down a striper's g-string...just hang onto it like a normal person until the cashier tells you what the total is.

3. Talking on a cell phone at the checkout...(well you've already read my thoughts on this).

4. Not bagging your own groceries...I have to explain this one a bit. When I first started working at a grocery store (all the way back in high school) I HATED bagging groceries, absolutely hated it (which is ironic because I was actually hired as a bagger before I became a cashier) but I have really gotten to like bagging groceries. I have sort of turned bagging groceries into a game--like a sort of puzzle or a game of Tetris. I like trying to make all the pieces fit together as they come down the conveyor belt. So, no, I don't mind bagging your groceries for you and I do recognize that this a part of my job working at a grocery store. What I do mind is when you have a pretty large order, there is a line of customers behind you and you stand there and stare at me while I try to bag your groceries as quickly as possible because there is a line of people behind you. So when you see there are other people behind you in line and I'm rushing trying to get people through the line as quickly as possible try to help out by bagging some of your own groceries. I also hate when a group of people come through the line together and not one of them helps the cashier bag the groceries. So for example, it was a Friday night and there was a group of three people, probably around 18 or 19 (two guys and a girl---all seemingly healthy and perfectly capable of bagging their own groceries) who came through my line. It was sort of later at night so I was the only cashier there. I scanned their groceries, their groceries went down the conveyor belt and they all just stood there. So there were 3 pairs of eyes just starting at me, watching me bag their groceries and not one of them lifted a finger to help. Come on people...there's three of you (that's six hands) and one of me...and not one of you can help me out here? I was so pissed by the end of the order I was throwing things in the bag and biting the inside of my lip to keep from yelling at them. So please help cashiers bag your groceries because it just makes the whole thing go much faster for everyone.

5. What's the magic word? There is very little excuse for a lack of common courtesy (unless you were raised by a pack of wild wolves or something). So my most annoying habit number five is people who don't say please and thank you. Here's a little tough love for you. Your mom and dad should have taught you to say please and thank you when you were a kid but in case they didn't here it is...Be polite! Saying please and thank you is a simple thing that goes a long way! Even if your parents didn't teach you manners, you're an adult now so you should have learned this by now because this is how civilized adults behave. Manners are important. Being polite is important. Learn it, live it, love it! And just one final note to the parents who come through the check out line with your kids...your kids are learning by your example. You can tell them to say please and thank you until you are blue in the face but you need to practice what you preach. The fact of the matter is they learn so much more by watching you, so try to set a good example for them. And that's all I have to say about that.

Well that's all for today shoppers but stay tuned for Part II.

Take care and happy shopping!


  1. Hi, I just happened on your blog entry after doing a search on why grocery stores require those annoying discount cards in order to get the discounted prices.

    I enjoyed reading this list, but as I used to be a cashier as a college summer job for a while, I wanted to respond to a couple of your complaints. "#4. not bagging your own groceries", for example. I've been in the same situation as you, but I've never minded. I'm grateful when a customer actually does bag their own groceries, but the fact of the matter is that there are bargain grocery chains that have "bag your own" policies and others (like the one you work at, and the one I used to as well) are full service. People shop at Aldi's, Price Choppers, Costco, etc. because they pay a bit less and in return expect less service (bagging, carry-outs, etc.). Others shop at full service ones for the convenience and pay a small premium for this extra service. I'm not sure why you'd think it's fair that they pay the higher prices versus the budget stores and get the budget service policies. In my mind, they're entitled to stand around while the store employees provide the service. The store managers are responsible for making sure that they're staffed appropriately to handle the customer peaks (paid from the extra margins that a non-budget store charges on its products).

    If you expect them to bag their own, then by all rights they should be able to demand compensation for their efforts (since they're paying more for the groceries in the first place).

  2. I'm a writer and contributing editor for Reader's Digest, and I'm working on a story called "50 secrets your grocery store won't tell you." For the story, my editor wants me to talk to all sorts of people involved in supermarkets: managers, stock people, deli people and yes, cashiers. I was hoping you might be willing to help me with the article. You can be anonymous. To see some similar stories I've written (which all include anonymous sources), google my name and "50 secrets" and "rd," If you can help, please email me at michellecrouchwriter(at)gmail(dot)com and we can set up a time to chat by phone. It shouldn't take more than 20 minutes. Thanks so much! -- Michelle Crouch, freelance writer