How To Be a Courteous Shopper
Being a good shopper is like anything in life, it is learned. And I believe being a good shopper starts when you head out the door. If you have a negative outlook or attitude, it affects every decision or occurrence from the outset of your shopping experience.
Another thing that is important to keep in mind is that shopping, like anything else in life takes patience, understanding, and civility. So in honor of September being National Courtesy Month I am going to share tips based on my experiences and observations as a seasoned shopper.
From the parking lot to the check out counter- this hub is your guide to being an aware and responsible shopper.
Parking Lot Principles
We all know people who treat the department store parking lot like a video game or raceway. But regardless, the parking lot is a shared and public space that everyone needs to treat as such.
- Do Not Leave Carts Unattended: As a driver, this is among my top pet peeves in the parking lot. While I understand that the cart drop-off is far away, at least move it into an area where people cannot hit it with their car. Or better yet, drop the cart off inside the store before you leave if possible.
- Do Not Park in a No-Parking Zone: The fire lane is not a parking space for you. Regardless if your beloved is in the express line, you could hold up an actual emergency. And for those of you who block real spaces by parking in non-spaces in the lot itself, the same goes for you. It does not take long to find a real spot and if you walk a bit- at last it's good exercise.
- Do Not Honk at a Fellow Driver Pulling Out of a Space: The horn has its place during your driving experience. But do not honk at another driver simply because they are taking too long to exit your desired space. If you feel like you cannot afford to wait, park somewhere else.
- Do Not Reserve a Space by Standing in the Parking Space: This actually happened to some family friends of ours. They were about to park at their hotel in Disney World when another family had someone stand in the only available space to reserve it. Not surprisingly, an argument ensued. While it is understandable when there's a singular space available to want to reserve it, it's a first come first serve policy just like at the old lunch table.
- Park Inside the Lines: Not to sound like a driving instructor, but this is common sense. Make sure you are inside the line and if not, realign or park away from other cars.
- Don't Abuse Handicap/Expectant Mother Parking Privileges: I am not sure how often this happens but I am sure it still does. Women who might be assumed as pregnant and people who "borrow" handicap placards are just a little more clever these days.
- Observe Drivers if You are a Pedestrian: There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cross the lot when nonchalant pedestrians cross the street and you have to stop on a dime. Be observant, it might one day save your life.
- Observe Pedestrians if You are a Driver: In my experience as a pedestrian, there are some drivers who are too gas happy in a 25 mph and under parking lot. You should not speed in a parking lot unless you are an emergency technician, firefighter, police officer, or in-store security.
Start on a Positive Note
I know not all shopping trips are terribly exciting. But you should treat buying your grandmother's prunes the same way you would if you had a tax free weekend. The key is in being aware and prepared- that way you can have a positive experience.
- Stop Entrance/Exit Blocking: Some people stop right as they enter or exit a store to do something they could have done in the car. The store is only so big and you do not need to conduct personal business in the middle of a thoroughfare such as this.
- Do Not Basket Snatch: This is another one of my shopping pet peeves. Someone will come in not knowing what they need but decide they see an empty basket in the produce section unattended and take it. If someone has it close to them and it looks like it is being used or about to be used- do not take it.
- Keep a Steady Pace: I notice people who come into a store sluggish continue shopping sluggishly. Don't do that. Unless you have a health problem- walk as not to prevent people from their own shopping. Cell phones, kids, and bad days are not valid excuses.
- Greet the Staff: Everyday will not be your best. And everyday is not Christmas for them either, but be cordial and acknowledge them, you may need their help down the road. A wave or head nod is just as good as saying hello.
- Buy Your Essentials First: This is everyone's problem. You come in the store prepared to buy apples and then get distracted and somehow end up looking at the fried chicken, preventing someone else who is focused and prepared from making a purchase. Do not do that- follow order of operations, that way you get what you need and you do not prevent others from doing the same.
- Stay Informed via Circular: Many occasions have occurred when someone has asked randomly, "How much is that?" While the sign says one thing, it's important to know the person next to you does not work at the store. That's what the circular is for. Ideally you would have looked at it before going out and making your purchases.
Be Aware of Others and Yourself
This next section is devoted to what essentially are the bulk of many pet peeves we all have as shoppers. These are attitudes and behaviors that affect the entire store's atmosphere. Therefore, you should be on your best behavior.
- Keep Kids Occupied: I am not a parent nor a childcare guru but I was a babysitter and a kid myself. If you have to take your child to the store, keep them interested and busy- nothing is worse than the rest of us having to hear your child complain, whine, cry, and throw a tantrum for twenty minutes while you try to act like you do not know how this happened. It's easy: give them something to do. Younger children probably need a coloring book or something visual. Older children can help price things out with a calculator and paper. In other words, there is no excuse for your kids going Kanye in the store.
- Don't Bring Everyone with You: I understand you like to have your roommate there to pick their specific brand of apple juice but they can write it down just the same.The same goes with your four year old and their favorite gummy snacks. Large groups or families and shopping do not mix. If someone of age can stay home with the minors, let that be it. Just exercise good judgment when deciding who to bring with you.
- Stop Unnecessary Phone Conversations: This makes me so irritated sometimes when I am shopping. I will be glancing at the meat and some woman will call her lazy husband to ask him what cut of brisket he wants. Well, if he wanted the brisket badly enough he would have been smart enough to put it on the list or better yet come with you. And any other conversation in the store is just as rude- save your conversation (unless it's an emergency of course) for when you at least get to your car and you can yammer all you want. The same applies to texting.
- Stop Cart-Blocking the Aisle: This is hard to do- I know but it is possible. If you can park on the outside of the aisle closest to where your designated items are located. If not do the drive by (no not that kind!) where you pass by, spot your item, grab it, and move along. Otherwise, you will risk the sound of someone clearing their throat and saying excuse me so you get the message.
- Don't Read Labels: I understand we need to know what we're putting in our body but you can find that out before you get inside the store. And by that I mean going to the product's website or to another site and finding that out for yourself before going to the store. Spending ten minutes squinting at small print to look at ingredients and blocking the way is just rude.
- Don't Grab 15 of Everything: I know there are some of you who believe in the joys of bulk shopping but for those of us who still want one can of Manwhich, leave at least one or two behind. Do you really need a mass supply at that moment? If so, you probably need to purchase a warehouse membership.
- Reunite Elsewhere: If you are like me, you more than likely see someone familiar in Wal-Mart and want to start talking. That's fine and dandy but do not block access to my cereal folks. You can catch up at another location where you will not have to mess up aisle traffic flow.
- Do Not Treat Your Cart like a Racecar: This goes for kids and co-eds. One of my roommates in college tried to stand on the cart like a shopping cart and got called out. We laughed, but I know she was embarrassed. A cart is a cart- if you want otherwise go to toys and do that if you please.
Does checking out have to be an ordeal? Not necessarily. But for some people, you would think it was like an entire act of Hamlet.
- Make Sure You Have Everything: This is probably the most common problem of anyone who shops- you forget something. Turn around before you check out so you do not hold up progress.
- Get in the Proper Check-Out Lane: If you have ten items or less- express is for you. If you have thirty and it looks like ten- get to a regular aisle. It's rude and surly to assume you can get in checkout just because no one enforces the rules.
- Have Your ID and Wallet Ready: For those of you purchasing happy sauce, have your ID ready if you know you are going to be carded. And for everyone, have your debit, credit, cash, gift card, or checkbook ready- there's nothing worse than someone who fumbles around and does not have it and has to get out of line.
- Know Your Total: This goes for everyone trying to stick to a budget. It is not only embarrassing to go over what you need to pay but time consuming having to rearrange and separate items that need to go back on the shelf.
- Know Your Prices: This usually happens with produce and marked down items. And you can bet the cashier will forget or not know the price at all. Be prepared by having the price memorized or the circular handy.
- Divide Your Items: The divider is your friend. Nobody wants to pay for your stash of cheez-its.
I knew I wasn't alone!
Golden Shopping Rules
This is the part of the hub where I breakdown three rules that are essential to having good shopping etiquette.
Golden Rule #1: Use the Bathroom, Do Not Abuse It- This should come quite simple to most of us but for one reason or another it does not. If I had a dollar for everytime I went to a public restroom in a shopping establishment that was littered with toilet paper, toilets that were not flushed, or unsightly surroundings- I would probably be a millionaire by now. How hard is it to go to the bathroom and finish without making it look like a chimp on a rampage went in there?
Golden Rule #2: Be Patient- We all have busy lives with things to do, people to see, and places to go (or at least we make it look that way). However, there is no excuse for huffing and puffing your way through a store. Not everyone lives life at the same speed as you- so put that into consideration.
Golden Rule #3: Be Smart- Above and beyond everything that's what a good shopper is smart about the decisions they make and their consequences.