Originally Posted: 2003-02-03 19:33 (no longer live)

Grocery store etiquette

What is it about grocery shopping that turns people into completely insensitive idiots? I've worked in various grocery stores for about five years now, doing all sorts of different jobs in them, and in all the settings in which I've found myself, only one thing has held true: grocery shopping kills brain cells. By the millions. Just walking in the door lowers your emotional and intellectual quotients by 30 points, which puts the average human being just above mentally retarded-status when they're buying corn flakes.

I am here to help you. The following is a list of things you should or should not do when shopping anywhere, but particularly at grocery stores. If you have found yourself doing any of the following, you are most definitely disliked by those who provide you with service at your local grocery store. I will be as step-by-step and comprehensive as possible for all the slower people out there. In fact, let's just go in chronological order:

1. Parking: Depending on where you live and shop, this may or may not be a problem. If you shop at any San Francisco store, Market Hall (you ninnies), Berkeley Bowl, etc., you are going to have a pretty hard time parking anywhere near the store. Take my advice, really, you shouldn't even try. Why, please tell me, are you willing to sit in a parking lot with no vacancies whatsoever and block other motor and pedestrian traffic for fifteen minutes just so you can park close to the store? I'll tell you why. You are lazy. You probably only live six blocks away and should have walked in the first place. If you had searched the surrounding neighborhoods, you would have been parked in two minutes, and you'd already be in the store probably doing some of the following:

2, Cart traffic: Again, this one applies more to busy stores, but all stores nevertheless. In the business, we call certain hours of business "rush hour"--perhaps you've heard this term before. During this time, the number of people in the store rises, and, hence, the number of carts. It's just like driving a car, you see, during "rush hour". Now, let's pretend the store is a microcosm for big city traffic (should be easy for you commuters). On a given street, the moving cars tend to drive down the center, while the parked ones tend to remain on either side of the street. Although it is sometimes slow going, this tends to work rather well. It can work in a grocery store too, I swear. When an item catches your eye, kindly park your cart off the side of whichever aisle you happen to be on, then peruse the object of your fancy. When you are driving down Van Ness, see Starbucks, and have the sudden urge for a mochafrappaccino, do you just park your car in the second lane and walk on over? I didn't think so. Same inside the store.

3. Pulling from the back/bottom: Ah, the clever clever people who have the system down cold, who are hip to the game and proud of it, who wore their secret decoder rings and KNOW that us evil grocers actually ROTATE our product! Holy hell bunnies! You're a genius. The older product does tend to be on top or closer to the front of a given display, or "showing" as we say. This is good business for the store/company. It is smart. We're not trying to pull one over on you, really, so could you please, if you're gonna do it, be a little tiny bit careful when you pull that single orange from the bottom of the eight-foot tall mountain of citrus I have just finished erecting? I understand that you aren't stupid and that we can't fool you. Also, please don't tell me with a smug look on your face that you know how product rotation operates. I don't care, for one, and if you think about it, it's pretty damn obvious now isn't it? In plainer words, try to be respectful of the work that grocery people do. I don't come into your office and start throwing documents on the floor. Trust me, if you show care, it will be appreciated by a worker. We love respectful customers greatly, due to the fact thay they are so rare (ie; one's that do not do things discussed on this list).

4. If you make a mess: Grocery stores have lots of stacks in them and are just as subject to the laws of gravity as any other place. Accidents, as well, may happen in stores. It isn't the person who knocks over the wine display or the cucumbers that really gets on a workers nerves, it is the one who does this then walks off. If you show a little initiative in helping to clean something up that YOU'VE spilled, I guaranTEE I will come help you and tell you that I'll take care of it. I'm not asking you to pick up broken glass or anything, just inform someone you've broken something (and no, I will not mark that item down before you ask). Also, no need to appologize incessantly, once or not at all will do, Just don't pull a grocery hit and run is all we ask.

5. Getting assistance: My name tag does not say "Hey" on it. I do not contain eyes in the back of my head. Nor do I speak Chinese or French or Kalamazoo. If you need help, please approach me from the front or as close as you can to it. I chop vegetables with a very sharp knife and I tend to enjoy having ten fingers, so please don't tap my shoulder while I'm doing this. I have been a cashier too, and must also say that I cannot help you find Sterno on aisle four and check someone's groceries at the same time. I wish to god I could because it'd be a pretty wicked talent, but I can't. So, don't get mad at a worker who is engaged with another customer if they can't help you right away. First come, first served, like at Mc Donalds, you know?

6. While I am helping you: If you work at a big-ass store like Costco or the Berkeley Bowl, etc. etc., it's pretty much an impossibility to know EVERYTHING about everything in your store, item location, fat content of ding dongs, whatever. If I cannot answer your questions, which are often stupid ones, please do not scowl at me as though I'm the idiot in the situation. Some of you customers should hear yourselves, really. It's absurd. And just because I work a blue collar job does not make me a moron. I have a college degree punk. You try memorizing one thousand produce codes without the aid of your cellular phone and then we'll talk, okay? Great.

7. Saying thank you: This is always appreciated and usually will evoke something along the lines of "you're welcome" or "sure, have a good afternoon," maybe even a smile god forbid. It's nice to say thank you to people who help you. You usually say it to waiters and waitresses, right? How is it different when I tell you the simple difference between a turnip and a rutabega? It isn't. But somehow a grocery or produce clerk isn't as high up on the eschelon of respect. Strange. Are we the untouchable caste of the blue collar work force? (Also, FYI, turnips are white and purple, generally round, whereas rutabegas are beige-ish and purple, generally longer and funnier shaped).

8. Hand Baskets at the checkstand: Empty them. It is easier for your cashier, trust me.
(This rule does NOT apply if you are shopping in Bakersfield, CA).

9. Produce Department and the "freshness" phenomenon: It is natural to desire fresh produce and we try our best to cater to that want. Same goes for meat and seafood departments. We do our very best to pull bad stuff when we see it and keep the good stuff good. However, we DO NOT HAVE A FARM IN THE BACK OF THE STORE with cows and broccoli and chickens grazing. When you order a lobster at your favorite seafood restaurant, you don't assume that it walked out of the bay and jumped into a pot of boiling water of its own accord, do you? It's a fact, people, stuff is shipped frozen, on ice, in coolers, etc. Usually from central California, South and Central America, New Zealand, etc. And in big loads too. So when I'm putting out some carrots and you reach your grimey paws into the box and say like an idiot, "Ooh, fresh carrots," you are only annoying me. They aren't any "fresher" than the ones already on the shelf. Most likely, they are from the same load, shipped from the same farm, pulled out of the same dirt, as the ones on the shelf or the ones in back. True, certain items like basil and lettuce wilt if left on the shelf too long. We replace them with better ones. Don't ask if the oranges in the back are fresher and if I could please bring out some new ones. Just don't. It's simply bothersome. I am not lying to you right now. I am trying to make your and my life easier is all. Thank you.

10. Paper or Plastic, the eternal question: I hereby decree that you have the right to choose whichever bag you like. You can bring your own if you want too and we'll give you some money. Isn't that neat? DO NOT feel the need to justify your bag choice to your checker. They DON'T CARE. When you say you choose plastic to pick up Fluffy's little presents off the sidewalk, or paper with handles because they're easy to carry AND better for the environment, I guarantee your cashier is either cursing you or yawning on the inside. Do you tell the Peet's coffee clerk you ordered a decaf because you have a heart condition? No, you do not. Because you know they don't give a fuck. Same thing applies in grocery stores.

11. Payment methods: I realize how difficult it can be to operate those little debit terminals. It's like an IQ test, really, and most people tend to fail. Don't get frustrated or mad with your cashier because YOU are incompetent. They didn't design the machine, and yes, they agree, it's dumb that the machines are different everywhere you go. Just be patient, ask for assistance if you need it. It's a credit card machine, not a laptop. You can do it.
Cash is good always. Change diggers are generally accepted, although frowned upon if they do it slowly, which they generally do. Count your change at the counter, as mistakes can happen when one does hundreds of transactions everyday five or six days a week. Checks, people--if you're from Wisconsin, don't be surprised if the cashier pays a little bit more attention to your I.D. or simply won't accept it. Don't be mad either. You can't blame a person for wanting to cover his or her own ass and not get fired.
And last but not least, it isn't anyone's fault but your own or your silly-ass bank's if your card does not go through. Last time I went to Whole Foods I didn't see a Wells Fargo sign on the outside, so getting angry with a grocery store employee when your card fails and "you KNOW you have that money in your account" does nothing but create contempt in the hearts of those who are doing you a service. I know it's embarassing and that making that scene will somehow convince the other customers in line you aren't bad with money, but you don't have us fooled. In fact, if you think about it, you should be appologizing to us and the people in line behind you for not having that money. But you usually don't, do you?

12. Returns: "I'd like to return these bananas. They went bad." "When did you buy them and do you have your receipt?" "Yes, here, I bought them three weeks ago."--This really happened, I shit you not. This one is for the truly mentally deficient out there. Edible stuff, unless it's Twinkies, tends to become unedible over time. Do not attempt to return bananas you bought three weeks ago. You will only be laughed at by employees after work, and you will become the inspiration for Craigslist postings that only further delineate your own stupidity.

My missed connection: K-dog. Dude, what did you do with the key to the laundry room again?

Please bring your brain to the supermarket next time. We appreciate it. Thanks, and have a nice day!

post id: 8427537