I work in a very large (106,000 sq. ft.), very busy, very low-price grocery store. This means that this time of the month is always nonstop, balls-to-the-wall excitement - between the military getting paid on the 1st and food stamps being paid out, we get slammed all day long and most of the night with hordes of people doing their entire month’s shopping at once, and this being the week before Easter we have shopping for holiday dinners on top of that. I’ve been there since we opened almost exactly a year ago, and i’ve gotten to learn quite a few jobs so far - cashiering, grocery stocking, cleanup, ordering, cart collection, i’ve even learned how to drive a forklift. I enjoy my job - it pays well, it has the potential to pay a lot more in the future, and the store is part of an employee-owned company that invests its profits back into making sure working stiffs like me get taken care of. This is not a rant about that.
This is a rant about the people in the world who don’t seem to have learned the same things I did growing up. As a child I came to understand that there is a certain etiquette to the grocery store; procedures to be followed, forms to be obeyed, Dos and Do-Not-Dos. Before I worked for a grocery store, I believed that most people understood these things. I have come to the realization that a large number of people apparently do not.
I would, therefore, like to give the grocery store patrons of the world the following bits of advice on how to complete your shopping expedition expediently and with a minimum of fuss and frustration to store staff and your fellow shoppers;
Before coming to the store, make sure you have money. I cannot stress this enough; in order to purchase groceries, you need money. My boss doesn’t like when I give away the food for free. Make sure you have your wallet or purse with you. (Doubly so if you drove here.) Make sure there is cash, a card, or a checkbook in it. Make sure that we accept the card you’re carrying. Make sure there is money on your card. I don’t know how many times we’ve had to cancel anorder because a customer forgot to check whether their food stamps had been loaded yet and were trying to pay for $300 of groceries with $1.18.
Don’t abuse the electric scooters. The scooters are for the convienience of the elderly and infirm. They are not for joyriding. If you can walk on your own, you don’t need them. Please do not attempt to drive one of our scooter off the property and to your bus stop half a mile away. (Note: Kudos to the bus driver who called us and gave us a heads-up when someone actually did that.)
Pick out what you can afford. If you know you have $100 to spend, don’t put $200 worth of stuff in your cart and wait until you see the total to decide what you want to buy. The cashier and the increasingly-long line behind you will be fighting the urge to stuff you into the freezer case while you decide whether you can make do with six boxes of Laffy-Doodles instead of eight. It’s not as though calculators are esoteric pieces of forbidden technology that only rocket surgeons can wield safely. The phone you’re toting around with you probably has three of them pre-loaded on it.
Control your dang kids. Here’s a little secret; little kids HATE being dragged along to the grocery store. It’s full of strangers and bright shiny objects they’re not allowed to touch and they’re not allowed to do anything but follow you around for an hour. Is it a SURPRISE that they act out? I guarantee you that at any given moment of any given day you can hear the echo of a crying child somewhere in the store. It’s a wonder our species ever survived long enough to develop agriculture when our screaming younglings can be heard from farther away than a jackhammer. Believe it or not, it is not indeed necessary to bring your entire clan tromping through the store with you. Maybe you don’t have a babysitter, but that rings a bit hollow when both of you are at the store anyway. Moral of the story: If your kids are too young to be able to help, they don’t need to be there. If you must bring them, keep an eye on them and don’t let them run off - I don’t know how many times i’ve almost flattened some urchin who wasn’t paying attention and ran in front of my forklift.
Put your toys back where you found them. Perhaps you’ve decided that you do not, in fact, require 75 lbs. of fresh krill this week. Please either return it to the shelf where you got it from, hand it off to an employee, or give it to the cashier when you get to the checkstand. Don’t just toss it on a shelf somewhere and forget about it. Someone has to put that back eventually. The more man-hours the store has to spend cleaning up after you, the more your groceries are going to end up costing to cover that labor. This goes double if it’s perishable - nobody wants to find your salmon filet sitting next to the peanut butter the day after you changed your mind about it. That being said, that does not mean anything you change your mind about can just be tossed in a freezer. Your cheese, lettuce, potato chips, hot fried chicken, Pepsi, and training pants do not need to be stored below freezing. If you get a food sample from one of our samplers, please dispose of it in the provided waste receptable. Nobody wants to walk down the aisles collecting your empty cups of yogurt gunk.
Tell us if you break something. Spills and broken glass happen. That’s why we have dozens of cleanup stations with brooms and dustpans and spill absorbant and a maintenance staff. If you drop something, find us and let us know so we can clean it up. We’re not going to bite or make you pay for it or shackle you to the radiator and force you to slice roast beef for the deli. The cost of paying medical bills for someone who slips and falls in a spill we didn’t know about is a lot more than the cost of a jar of apple butter. The corellary to this is to look in front of you while walking. If there’s something spilled on the ground in front of you, for the love of God please GO AROUND.
Know the name of what you’re looking for. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about where a product is located. It is, however, imperative that you know what the thing you are looking for is CALLED. I cannot direct you to “that stuff from the commercial” or “the kind that comes in a green bag”. Some stores, like mine, have a large bulk foods section where you can buy products by the pound. If you are buying from this section you are expected to write the bin number from the product you are buying on the bag’s twist-tie. Please DO THIS. Our cashiers are not capable of memorizing the appearance and product numbers of the several hundred ingredients we carry in bulk. If you fail this step, please be prepared to tell the cashier what the item is that you’re buying. If I ask you “What is this?” and your response is “I don’t know”, it raises the question of why you would even buy something you can’t identify.
Coupons and you. While our chain doesn’t put out its own coupons, we accept manufacturer’s coupons. Coupons are good for the amount listed off of the product listed. You cannot use coupon X for a discount on coupon Y. It is not “false advertising” if we don’t carry a product that you have a coupon for - it would not be possible for us to stock every item in the world that a coupon exists for. If your coupon is for $1 off and the product is 75 cents, you do not get a quarter back for buying it. If the coupon is expired, we will not accept it. If it is a photocopy, we will not accept it. If our barcode reader doesn’t recognize the barcode, we will not accept it. If you clearly made it on your computer, our security staff will have a polite discussion with you and you will not be invited back.
How to check out. Make sure the checkstand you are approaching meets all three of the following criteria:
-There is a cashier standing at it.
-Its open light is turned on.
-It does not have a “Closed” sign on it or a barrier across the entrance.
Do not approach an empty checkstand and start belting your groceries. Cashiers are not genies who will appear if you wish it. Do not enter a line that is obviously in the process of closing down - cashiers are humans who have to take breaks and go home eventually.
Once in line, wait for the customer ahead of you to finish putting their items on the belt before putting yours up. If you see that they still have half a cart full, trying to put your things up is only going to create a mess when the belt keeps moving forward, your stuff is right in front of the cashier, and they still have items in their cart.
Please be prepared to pay at the end of your transaction. Do not wait until the cashier gives you your total, then spend several minutes looking around confusedly and passing $20 bills back and forth between your associates.
Once you have paid and received your change, your transaction is completed. Move forward, collect your groceries, and leave. Do not malinger blocking the stand while you put your change away, balance your checkbook, consult your horoscope, or work on your macrame.
Don’t shoplift. Our security staff is very good at what they do. We have cameras everywhere and the only place in the store you can go without being on camera is the bathroom - and if you go in there with merchandise, they’ll know. They will watch you and they will take you to the ground on your way out - which, while it’s pretty entertaining to watch, tends to make your fellow shoppers uncomfortable - and if they’re generous enough not to have you arrested and prosecuted, you will still be trespassed from all of our locations for 99 years. Thanks for coming, we’ll see you in 2111, tell the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx we said hey.
That is all.