“Do”s And “Don't”s For The Common Sense-Challenged
Let's face it, grocery shopping is one of life's necessities. I'm in my sixth decade of doing it and, by and large, I still enjoy it. By and large. There are exceptions, most of which are caused by fellow shoppers exhibiting an extreme lack of common sense and/or common courtesy. Neither of which, in the face of the “me” generation, are really all that common anymore. With that in mind, allow me to offer a few “do”s and “don't”s for the common sense-challenged.
Let's start out in the parking lot. What is wrong with people who can't be bothered to walk the extra three feet required to properly return a shopping cart? Is it a genetic defect that causes them to leave it sitting in the middle of a parking space? Or just an inflated sense of importance that won't allow them to use a cart corral or, heaven forbid, to walk back to the store entrance. “Well, they pay people to pick them up” is not an excuse. Those same employees are expected to stock shelves, bag groceries, sweep floors, clean bathrooms, and perform a dozen other tasks for little more than minimum wage. Every minute they spend chasing your cart around the parking lot is a minute they don't have to do something else. And don't get me started on what happens when an errant gust of wind drives the cart you left in that empty parking space into the fender of my car.
And while we're in the parking lot, how about saving handicapped spots for the handicapped? It toasts my toes to see somebody at the far end of the parking lot struggling with a cane, a brace, a wheelchair or something because some useless brat felt particularly entitled that day. And don't talk to me about “invisible” handicaps – unless those so afflicted also have “invisible” handicapped placards, stickers, or license tags on their vehicles. Laziness and an over-inflated sense of self worth are not handicaps.
Okay, we've made it into the store. So here goes:
Do have a plan. When you walk through the door, don't just stop a foot into the entrance way and stand there with a confused look on your face like you suddenly forgot why you're there. If you have to check your list or get your bearings or jog your memory, move on and stop blocking the door for the rest of us who know where we're going and what we're doing.
Do have a purpose, for goodness sake. Pay attention to what's going on around you and don't walk around like a lost zombie. Most stores post helpful signs above the aisles to tell you where everything is. Take advantage of that and move on.
Don't travel in packs. I get it that shopping can be a family experience, and that's fine. What's not fine is having said family spread out across the entire aisle, effectively blocking any chance the lone shopper has of getting through. And how about making your children behave in the store? Enough already of kids running up and down the aisles, pulling stuff off shelves, handling all the merchandise with their grubby little fingers, and generally being a nuisance to other shoppers. I saw a kid the other day randomly opening jars and bottles and examining the contents just because he could. And he could because his oblivious parents were ignoring him as they socialized with other equally oblivious parents. Speaking of which......
Don't hold conferences and reunions in the middle of the aisle. As my old friend James Gregory says, “It might be a law, I don't know.” There's just some force of nature that seems to cause people to forget where they are when they see a friend, a family member, a coworker, a fellow churchgoer, or whoever in a grocery store. All thought of shopping stops while an impromptu reunion takes place. And those of us silly enough to want to “play through” are forced to squeeze by the laughing, chatting, backslapping, handshaking, gossiping group or even to just abort the mission and try another aisle.
In the same vein, don't block the aisles by parking your cart on one side of the aisle while you look for something on the other side of the aisle, usually done with your hand still resting on the handle of the cart, thereby creating an effective blockade for anybody trying to get past you. And please don't stop your cart adjacent to that lone display that further narrows an already too narrow passageway and makes it impossible for people to get by. Push your cart past the display and pull over out of the way.
Don’t leave items you don’t want in random places. “But they pay people to straighten up” doesn't apply any more here than it does in the parking lot. If you decide you don't want something, either take it back and put it back on the shelf where you got it or bring it on to the checkout with you and then tell the cashier you don't want it. This is especially true for perishable goods. Leaving a box of cereal in the middle of the cat food is one thing. Leaving a gallon of milk, a package of ground beef, or a bag of frozen peas out among the dry goods is just stupidly wasteful. The store can't resell that stuff, you know. It has to be written off as waste, which will ultimately wind up costing somebody money.
As you wander aimlessly up and down the aisles, alternately plodding along as you work your way through the merchandise then accelerating around the corner to the next aisle, don't weave from one side of the aisle to the other. Pick a lane, already! I think I was behind you on the highway a few minutes ago. You drove like an idiot there, too.
One more thing: would it really bust your ass to bend over and pick up that box of Hamburger Helper you or some other careless clod knocked on the floor? I know, I know – “They pay somebody to do that.”
Okay, let's check out.
Don’t abuse the Express Lane. The sign says “10 Items or Less” for a reason. Maybe you can fudge with two or three items over, but don't take your cart with a whole damn week's worth of groceries through the “express” lane. You're just not that important.
Don’t use your cellphone at the checkout. It's rude and dismissive, like the cashier isn't deserving of your attention. If my phone rings while I'm checking out, I answer and ask the caller to hold on a minute. I finish my transaction and then resume the call in a place where I'm not holding up the line or being rude to the actual human being standing there in front of me. You'd be outraged if the cashier were to whip out his or her phone and start yakking away while ringing you up. The courtesy street runs both ways.
If it happens to be that you know the checkout person, don't stand there and gab to the point of holding up the rest of the line. If you want to catch up on the latest gossip, exchange phone numbers and talk later. My ice cream is melting. And a word to cashiers: don't carry on a distracting conversation with the bagger or a fellow employee while you're checking me out, especially if it slows you down. If it's a necessary, business-related conversation, fine. But if it's just chit-chat, wait until your break. In the first place, it's rude and in the second place, my time, and that of other customers, is valuable. We don't want to spend it standing in your line listening to you talk about your boyfriend, your work schedule, your plans for later, or whatever.
Do try to be a good neighbor once in awhile. If you're standing there with a cart full of groceries and the person behind you has a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, what's the harm in letting them go first? I know you can't do it for everybody all the time or you'd never get out of the store. But how about a random act of kindness now and then?
When you get to the checkout stand, quickly and efficiently begin to unload your groceries onto the conveyor at the furthest forward spot. Don't crowd the person in front of you or invade their space, but get on with it, okay? You don't have to wait until they are finished checking out before you start. Place a divider at the end of you order to allow the person behind you to do the same thing. And, by the way, items can be placed on the belt next to each other, or even on top of each other. You don't have to line them all up single file. The cashier can handle it.
Here's how I check out: The person in front of me has their stuff all on the conveyor and it's being processed. Space opens up for me to begin unloading my cart, so I go around to the front of my cart, put a divider on the belt if one's not already there, and start unloading my groceries. I stay in front of my cart, allowing the person in front of me plenty of space to finish their transaction. When that person is done, I move forward, pulling my cart behind me and moving it out of the checkout aisle to where the bagger can load my groceries into it, at the same time giving the person behind me ample room to unload their stuff while my stuff is being scanned and bagged. I then go back to the payment area, organize any coupons I might have, get out my loyalty card, my payment card, and whatever else I need while the checker is scanning my items. When the checker is done, I hand over my coupons and my loyalty card and swipe or chip my payment card. I hit the buttons, sign if necessary, and when that's done, I move to the end of the checkout line, giving way to the next person. When the checker hands me my receipt, I accept it, say thank you to the cashier and to the bagger, grab my cart and get out of the store. Simple, courteous, and efficient.
The ones who drive me crazy at checkout are the dawdlers. You know them. You may even be one of them. They are the ones who are apparently surprised by the fact that they have to pay for their groceries after everything is rung up. They must be caught off guard because they have spent the entire time in line chatting with their neighbors, fussing with their kids, playing with their phones, reading the headlines on the tabloids, or just simply staring into space. Now the groceries are rung up and the cashier has presented the total. And now they begin the process of fumbling through their purses or their wallets in search of their coupons, cards, cash, etc. Or worse, their checkbooks.
I don't remember the last time I wrote a check at a grocery store. Fifteen or twenty years, maybe? I gave up on seventeenth-century banking practices about the time we moved into the twenty-first century. But there are still those who remain tethered to the past, and that's okay. Just be a little organized about it. You know you are paying by check, right? So why not have your checkbook out in advance, hmmm? You could maybe even be filling out the check while the cashier is ringing you up. Then when you get your total, it's just a matter of writing in the amount. But, no. Most people wait until the groceries are all totaled up and bagged. Then they fish around in their purses or pockets for their checkbooks. And then they have to find a pen. And then they have to write the check. And then..... “What's today's date?” “How much was that again?” Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh! Meanwhile, my milk is that much closer to reaching its expiration date.
There's a simple theme throughout all these suggestions and observations: be aware of yourself, of your surroundings, and of the effect your actions have on other people. In spite of what you may have come to believe, it ain't all about you. For better or worse, we still live in a society, defined by the dictionary as “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.” By being aware of yourself, of your surroundings, and of the effect your actions have on other people, you can at least promote the “more” ordered rather than the “less” ordered community in the grocery store. We'll have to talk about the highway later.