Even if you always have the best intentions, you’re probably making little etiquette mistakes every day without even realizing it. Any time you step foot in public you’re at risk of a faux pas. Oops! You forgot to hold open that door. Oops! You slurped your soup at dinner. Whether or not you realize it, even a place as seemingly innocent as the grocery store has plenty of opportunities for blunders. In fact, there are a lot of ways you can be rude at the supermarket.
The slow, milquetoast music that you hear at the supermarket is one of the ways that grocery stores trick you into spending more money. So it makes sense that you may want to tune out and listen to your favorite true crime podcast or loud rock album. But like any time you have your headphones in, you’re less aware of your own surroundings and more likely to bump into other customers.
Your kids are cute, and we’re sure that you love them and everything they do, but your fellow shoppers may feel differently. Keep your children close to you, whether that means they sit in the cart or they walk right next to you while your shop. Don’t let them roam the aisles, tossing things in your cart (and other carts!) as they please. And please, don’t let your small children push a full-size cart; they can’t see over the handle and may run into other customers.
Shopping hungry is never a great idea; studies have shown shoppers may be more likely to buy more unhealthy items and unnecessary non-food items. But that doesn’t mean your grocery store should turn into a casual restaurant every time you go when you are hungry. Don’t hog the sample stations if your local market has them; politely take one piece and move on. Also, don’t start chowing down on your pasta salad, soda or chips before you pay for them. Even if you do intend to scan them at checkout.
Everyone can be nosy from time to time, but that’s an impulse that you should probably try to ignore as much as possible. Let others grocery shop in peace and don’t skim their carts and try to guess what sort of person would buy organic radishes and kale but also a bunch of boxed brownies and other guilty pleasure snacks. Think of how you’d like to be treated by others; even if you have a budget-friendly, healthy grocery cart, would you really want people looking at your weekly meal plan?
This is Grocery Store Etiquette 101. Please, no matter what else you do while grocery shopping, don’t leave your cart out in the middle of the aisle. A lot of common etiquette mistakes come about when you are not being respectful and considerate of those around you. The most polite thing to do is to move your grocery cart as far to the side as you can while you’re skimming the aisle for the best brand of ranch dressing.
After 20 minutes of shopping, you’ve decided that you’re going to ditch those fresh green beans for canned green beans. They’re on sale, and you know canned goods are one of the grocery items you should never pay full price for. After you grab those budget-friendly veggies, be sure to circle back and put your bag of fresh beans back in the produce section, where they can remain safely chilled and be purchased by someone else. Putting perishable items like fresh fruit and vegetables or dairy back wherever you want whenever is rude.
Now that we think about it, always put your grocery items back where you found them. Fresh produce, dairy and meat can go bad quickly and start stinking up the store, so those definitely need to be returned to the refrigerated section. But even putting a bottle of soy sauce from the international section back next to the cans of soup in another aisle is disrespectful to the grocery store employees, who will find the item and have to move it, assuming that it’s found in a timely manner and still even good.
A secret grocery stores don’t want you to know: The checkout aisles are narrow for a reason. You can't easily put things back and you want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. And that leads to lengthy lines and crowded spaces outside the actual checkout lane. But just because the line is messy doesn’t mean you can just edge your way to the front. Ask people whether or not they are in line, and if they are, get behind them.
We all want to get our grocery shopping done as quickly as possible, but even if the express line (you know, that one with “11 items or fewer” sign) has zero people in it and the rest of the lines go back as far as the eyes can see, respect the sign. Even if you have just an item or two over the limit, you know what you’re doing and why, and it isn’t kind to your fellow shoppers. If you’re unsure how many things you have in your grocery cart as you approach the checkout, you can always count them.
One surefire way to annoy your fellow shoppers: Hopping out of line as your items are being scanned to grab that bottle of hot sauce or bag of potato chips. Mistakes happen and everyone has forgotten that one final, integral grocery. But try to avoid ducking out of line as your items are being scanned. If you absolutely can’t leave the store without the item, the most polite thing to do is finish your first transaction and then go back into the store to get it.
Your checkout person and grocery store bagger are people too, and they should be respected. Try to refrain from talking on the phone, texting or swiping through Candy Crush as you’re going through the checkout process. Not only is greeting the supermarket employee and asking how they are an easy way to be more polite, but actually paying attention as your items are being scanned will allow you to catch any mistakes that may happen.
You’ve finished grocery shopping and you’re exhausted. All you want to do is load up your car as quickly as possible and get home before that pint of Ben & Jerry’s melts. But after you close your trunk and before you hop into the driver’s seat, do one last thing: Return your cart to the nearest corral. While many stores do employ people to collect carts, it isn’t their job to wander the entire parking lot, collecting single cart after single cart. Plus, leaving your cart wherever is most convenient for you can lead to accidents on the lot and scratched cars. You’d be pretty mad if your car got scratched up by a rogue grocery cart, right? So don’t let that be a possibility for people around you. Not considering others around you is actually one of the ways you’re being rude without even knowing it.
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