Grocery Store Etiquette?

So I’m in line at the grocery store, holding only a couple items, and I notice a handbasket full of groceries at my feet. A little strange, maybe, but I figure that they belong to the people in front of me. Questioning the matter with my fellow shoppers reveals that no one brought this particular basket of groceries to the checkout line. “Whatever,” I think, and step past it.

And five minutes later, just as I’m about to place my item down on the conveyor, an arm reaches over my shoulder and plunks that basket down in front of me. I was too suprised to react, and by the time I’d recovered and thought of some scathing comebacks ("Excuse you and other such blistering opening lines) it hardly seemed worth making a scene. I waited 'til he finished, then paid with no other incident.

Has anyone else run into this while shopping? Can a basket be used as a place-holder in a line? What about a shopping cart, or your kid? How does this all work, anyway?

I’ve seen people try this a couple of times at my local supermarket. They put the basket down on the floor in the queue and then go back among the shelves, looking for additional items. On both occasions the basket has been pushed out of the queue by one of the other waiting customers and the returning basket-owner has been told, in no uncertain times, to get to the back of the queue.

I’ve seen it done before. Usually if something has been forgotten and you need to run back and get it.

If I’m shopping alone, and I forget something and need to go back then I’ll surrender my place in the line and go to get whatever I forgot. If hubby’s with me, then I’ll let him hold my place because he will be able to start unpacking the basket/trolley and I’ll usually be back in a few moments. However that’s only if I know exactly what I forgot, where to get it and if I’ll be sure that I’ll be back before the checkout staff have gotten through scanning our items. Otherwise, again, I’ll surrender our place in line and we’ll find another checkout when we’re ready.

If a person who is capable of unpacking/paying is left in line while you pop off to grab that bread you forgot, then your place is still ‘held’ and there’s no net loss to anyone in the queue. If you leave your basket on the floor, and you’re still gone by the time the person ahead of your basket has cleared the checkout, then stiff bikkies and get to the back of the queue. Someone who expects the rest of the line to wait for them to get back from whatever mission of mystery they’re on is just a PITA for everyone else.

No, I’ve never had that happen to me, and that guy was a jerk.

If you forgot to get something and need to run back (and you’re shopping solo), then you lose your place in line. It’s incredibly inconsiderate to expect people to wait for your ass as you get whatever you forgot. However, if you have someone else with you, there isn’t an issue with leaving the rest of the groceries with that person while you run back. At least that way the checking out process can still go on…though I don’t recommend leaving a small child.

However, you were right to not get caught up in it, in the end its not worth the fuss. I have a feeling that if it were more busy and more people were in line, he wouldn’t have gotten away with it.

Not the case here- he came back with a load of stuff. If that had been the case, or the people in front of me had known what was going on, I might not have minded, but he was clearly using the basket as a placeholder.

Glad to know I’m not completely nuts for minding.

It’s one thing if you’re standing in line and you suddenly remember one thing, then run off to grab it. I do that now and then, and I’ll always make sure to tell the person behind me that I’ll be right back. Then I run. It’s another thing to just plop your basket down to hold your place, then wander around, finishing your shopping. That ain’t right.

Agreed, if you’re solo, you get to give up your place in line… If you can leave someone capable of unloading your trolley onto the checkout conveyor, you get to keep it.

This guy was rude and selfish. I mean, just last night I waited 15 minutes in a checkout line and had finally reached the stage where I could unload my goodies before I realised I’d left my wallet in the car.

Since I’m the idiot who didn’t think to check if they could pay for their stuff before they queued up - I’m the sucker who loses my place and gets to wait another 15 minutes when they get back. I took all my stuff off the counter immediately I realised (the cashier was just finishing with the lady in front) put it back into the trolley and pushed the trolley into an empty checkout aisle. Got my wallet and got on with another quarter of an hour of appreciation of supermarket floor markings.

I didn’t have what I needed, I wasn’t prepared, I lost my spot and a bunch of my own time. So should this guy.

“Damn…I forgot something. Would it be alright if I ran over to grab it?”

“Sure. No problem.”

That’s how it works for me.

I’ve seen it happen when someone forgot something off a shelf, but usually it works only until it’s the basket’s turn. Since it cannot empty itself, it gets sent behind the back of the line (by “behind” I mean that anybody who gets there before the basket’s owner is before the basket’s owner).

Much more offensive is sitting near the front of the long line, and a new checker opening up, and some woman (they’re always women, sorry) sitting at the back of the line rushes up with her cart to grab the first spot.

Thankfully, this is going away of late as checkers are now trained to usher the first in line in front of the pigs who try to cut.

How does that work? First in line at what register? AFAIC, when they open a new register, whoever gets their first wins.

And if that means I leave a trail of broken old ladies in my wake, well… what can I say? I’ve got things to do today.

Shuffle your feet, lose your seat. The line starts at the rear.

You two aren’t seriously proposing that it is acceptable to rush from the back of the line to the front when a new checker opens up? You find this an acceptable behavior?

At the Safeway where I usually shop, the checker will come out and point to whoever is next or physically touch their cart and say, “I can help you over here.”
I’ve seen instances of someone at the back of the line rushing over to try and be first, but they (the checker) always shooes them away.

That is standard around here. I agree that your way would be more genteel for all concerned, but I don’t find it unacceptable behavior on the part of the back-of-the-line rushers at my local stores because it’s the expected method. Community standards and all that. Sometimes if one line has gotten particularly clogged up, I’ve seen the cashier separate a segment of the line from the herd and move them all over to the new register about to open, but it’s usually open season on any new register.

If/when I become Queen of the World, all grocery stores would move to the single feeder line method – one single line, and when a register opens up, the cashier would take the next person from the one single line. There would be a staff person serving as the line monitor to keep things moving … directing the next person in line to the register just before the previous customer finishes paying. I like how our Trader Joe’s does it, with one main line and then a second express line for people with only a few items.

Are you seriously proposing that if there are eight people in line, and the register next door opens up, that six of those people should back themselves and their carts out of the line into the aisles to allow the second person in line to go to the next register?

Like **delphica ** said, that’s not how it works around here. A register opens up somewhere else in the store, someone yells that register 23 is now open, and there’s a stampede.

And I’m perfectly okay with that, because in my experience, there are two kinds of grocery shoppers… people who want to get in and get out as quickly as possible, and people for whom this is their big outing for the day. The second group usually have coupons and write checks. The stampede usually separates the first and second groups, to everyone’s advantage.

People care about this stuff? Life’s too short to be bothered over whether I wait the extra five minutes while some other human being buys his milk, eggs, and individually-wrapped american processed cheese food slices.

Unless the checker says come on over to 4 and I’ll check you out, it’s first come first sever for a new line.

Those folks at the back of the lines who try to get the opening checker are doofii.

They get much evil eye and I WILL take my rightful place if I’ve been beckoned. I don’t tolerate much inconsideration at stores. SOME people think they’ve got everything coming to them and they need a reminder once and again that they don’t. I have absolutely no problem commenting either to myself or fellow patrons about others’ behavior. I honestly try hard (really hard, as I’m social phobic) to be pleasant, polite and courteous. I expect others to provide the same, and am frequently disappointed by the lack of manners out there.


Ew, that person was an ass-hat. I would have said something to them right then and there.

Here’s a similar question. This always happens to me: You’re waiting in line at a store of some kind, behind the Slowest People Ever and there’s only one cash open. You wait and wait and wait, and then someone walks up and waits behind you. Then, the store opens up another cash, easily accessible, right in front of everybody.

Shouldn’t YOU be the person to go next, instead of the moron behind you who strides over there, shouldering you out of the way?