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Good Manners In Grocery Shopping

Updated on May 9, 2012


Typical, well-managed grocery market of the mid-1950s.
Typical, well-managed grocery market of the mid-1950s.

There was a time in our country

when shopping for groceries in stores like the one above, was pure "heaven on earth." Store managers were nicer. Customers respected each other. And there were no fights over a cheaper rump roast found by one woman out of ten. Those, my shopping friends, were the days. In my hometown, Hamilton, Alabama, when I was six, there was a Yellow Front, Jitney Jungle and a Green's Market. All of these grocery stores looked and smelled like grocery stores should and were managed the way grocery stores should be managed. All had successful business histories. And as I grew older, I made it my personal goal to find out the "real" reason or reasons as to why these, and most early grocery stories went over so well with the American shopper.

Early grocery store from 1887.
Early grocery store from 1887.

This grocery store from 1887

was one of the first stores in our country to sell groceries. Needed-items such as flour, salt, coffee and canned goods for the American homemaker. There wasn't any pushy-clerks, managers with "power trip" attitudes or rude customers. It was a friendly place to shop. No wonder the owner of this vintage establishment made so much money.

Grand Grocery Company from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Grand Grocery Company from Lincoln, Nebraska.

There was just something special about

early grocery stores in their infancy. Notice the windows how they act as ads telling the would-be customers passing by what was on sale and what prices of the items were. Stores such as this one only sold groceries. Meats, produce and canned goods. No confusing contests to jam the aisles. No loud cursing from customers. And soft music over the store sound system that made grocery shopping a pleasure more than a task. I miss those early grocery stores. Today in 2012, I can easily get lost in those combo department-grocery stores rolled into one. Why don't someone start a "vintage, small-town grocery store comeback"?

See if you can figure out the mystery in this photo.
See if you can figure out the mystery in this photo.

There is a mystery in this photo

of this young man standing beside a grocery display in the store where he works probably after school and on Saturday's. Go on. Look closely and soon you will see what I am talking about. These young men were grocery clerks. And displays like this were all over the stores where they worked. I loved it. (IF YOU CANNOT SEE THE MYSTERY, I WILL REVEAL THE ANSWER AT THE END OF THIS HUB.).

Careful shopping by knowledgeable shoppers equals great bargains and huge savings.
Careful shopping by knowledgeable shoppers equals great bargains and huge savings.

Remember careful shoppers

those women (and men) who actually took their time to find the very-best bargains? What happened? Today it's like a "rat race" to go grocery shopping. More like "survival of the fittest" as shoppers pay no attention to you and run you down with their carts while reading coupons to themselves. Please. Won't someone give "careful shopper" lessons? Again?

Main Complaints of Grocery Shoppers in 2012

  • Crowded stores
  • Shelves not stocked correctly
  • Floors not cleaned properly
  • Outdated food items still on shelves
  • Rude store employees
  • Disinterested store managers
  • Limited selections
  • Not enough employees to handle long lines of shoppers

This is Ralph's Grocery in Los Angeles, 1943.
This is Ralph's Grocery in Los Angeles, 1943.

Now for Some Sensible Grocery Store Manners

  1. Always show courtesy. Let the older shoppers go first. And let shoppers whose shopping carts have more than yours, go first in line.
  2. Never yell at a store employee. It is not his or her fault for the store not stocking your favorite brand. It's yours for not telling the upper management.
  3. Always take your time. No telling at the bargains yoy have walked by to just save some time when you shop for groceries.
  4. And if a person beats you to a bargain, be the bigger person and let them have it. Their family may be without anything to eat.
  5. Always think before pushing your cart around a corner for there might be an unsuspecting shopper coming in your direction.
  6. Never get involved in a ruckus between a disgruntled shopper and a store employee. Minding your own business will serve you much better.
  7. Be polite. If someone asks you where they will find the potted meat, just smile and tell them. Even show them if you really want to be a mannerable grocery shopper.
  8. Be kind to our senior shoppers. They deserve it for the contributions they have made to our society.
  9. Avoid the temptation of frowning at a child who is "acting up," for his or her parent may be having a bad day. And your complaint may make it worse.
  10. Keep your small talk to a minimum when you get to the cashier. She has enough to keep up with. Smile and ask politely, "how are you?" and gently unload your grocery cart.
  11. Watch out for and be kind to guide dogs who are helping a handicapped shopper do the same thing you are doing. Shopping.

A pleasant sight.  A check-out aisle free of long lines of angry customers.
A pleasant sight. A check-out aisle free of long lines of angry customers.

You can do your part

in keeping the check-out aisle in your grocery store looking like this one, free of customers jamming-up against each other like loading cattle. Just by following my few simple "Manners For Grocery Shopping" that I have conventiently listed above. Make your grocery shopping a pleasant event. Just be mannerable.

* NOTE: as promised, I said that if you couldn't figure out the mystery in the photo in this hub of the grocery clerk standing beside his display . . .well, the mystery is HIS SMILE. That's right. HIS SMILE. You seldom see grocery store employees wearing a smile in 2012.

Happy shopping!


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    • profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago

      Hi, Au fait,

      I am like you. The self-cashiering is a great idea, but I am not mechanically-inclined, so will just stick to the human cashiers.

      There are those rude, bad-mannered people who think that they are the only people on earth and common people like myself should move when they show up. These are the obstacles I have, but I will live.

      Keep up the great hubbing, Au fait.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      I was actually being facetious. Self-checkouts are easy as pie. I always use them when a store has them available.

      I started bagging my own groceries when I lived in Boston. I didn't have to, but it speeded things up considerably and things got bagged the way I wanted them bagged. Cold foods together instead of willy nilly. Once I got used to it I had to argue with the bag boys/girls at some stores because I wanted to bag my own and they wanted to seem useful.

      When self checks first appeared I was like everyone else confronting a new thing. After I used it a couple of times it was a snap. Now I prefer them. Been using them for years.

      I said what I did, that they're complicated, because I was being my naturally facetious self. If people find out how easy and convenient and fast they are, the lines will be long and the fast and convenient will be gone.

      Have a good day!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Au fait,

      You are correct. Politeness and manners as well as respect for others are rare commodities these days. I was just expounding on how jungle-like the grocery stores "I" have been to to get a few groceries.

      I admit, that I do like the self-checks, but like you, I do not catch-onto these mechanical things that quickly, so give me a human cashier any day.

      I have seen people yell, run for sale items, and block the aisle as you pointed out, and tempers that were so hot, the room temperature shot up about 5 points.

      Shoving matches are a common-occurence in grocery stores in the deeper south, not as much in the small town where I live and Au fait, I am grateful for that.

      And thankful that you stopped by.

      Have a blessed evening.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      Most of the stores I frequent have 'Express Lanes, ' for people with 20 or fewer items. They also have self-checks which are becoming more popular, but there's still usually a shorter time waiting for a register as most people don't want to learn that complicated process of checking oneself out (being facetious here as I don't want to encourage people to use the self checks as it will cause the waiting line for a register to get longer).

      I've never seen any fights in the grocery store. Sometimes noisy children, but most of the adults have themselves under control. The one thing I have noticed that seems to be getting more common is for a shopper, and sometimes a collection of shoppers, to block an entire isle while they gossip, or study their list/coupons intensely. It's like they think they're in the Twilight Zone and therefore the only shopper in the store, so no one else needs to get through and they can stay in their chosen parking space (in the middle of the isle so no one gets through) in perpetuity.

      Another problem is parking. It's gotten to where a person needs a compass and a pair of binoculars at some of the huge grocery stores in order to be sure they're heading in the right direction -- either to the store or back to their vehicle. That's because only handicapped parking is allowed near the entrance doors, close enough to still see the store without binoculars.

      I think there should be parking reserved close by for people who have a difficult time getting around, but when I go to my grocery store at 4 in the morning, as is my preference, I never see a single vehicle in any of the handicapped parking spaces, and there are a lot of them. Yet every handicapped parking space must remain vacant in case a horde of handicapped people show up at that early hour. Couldn't a few of them revert to ordinary parking spaces after say 2 AM or so? Until 6 AM or so?

      What is this thing you keep mentioning called politeness and courtesy? Something to do with manners I think you said. I seem to recall such things, but it was a long time ago. Maybe you could expand on exactly what that is when you have a little extra time and jog my memory. Seems to me people are getting more and more rude and unpleasant as time goes on. Not everyone of course, but a fair share of them. Seems like everything is all about them, and not so much at the grocery store as everywhere else.

      Interesting year you picked, 1912. That was last century wasn't it? ;)

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Valene,

      You are right. I wasn't thinking, thank you for catching that.

      Hey, I invite you to be a follower of mine if you're not already. That would make my day.

      We could exchange hub ideas and I could learn from you.


    • Valene profile image


      5 years ago from Missouri

      This is a great hub, however, I disagree with the rule about letting people with the fullest carts go first. It makes more sense to let someone with just a few items go ahead of someone with a full cart so they can get out of there without having to wait for someone who will take a long time. In fact, I see lots of people in grocery stores with full carts letting someone with just a handful of items go ahead of them. I think it's a nice courtesy to not make people wait who don't need to and nice of someone to do who knows their order will take a longer time. This is also probably the idea behind the "10 items or fewer" express lanes. It helps people who just need to get in and out quickly not waste their time.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, My Dear lovedoctor,

      Thank YOU so much for the sweet words. I think this is your first comment. And I thank you too, for following me. A personal note of thanks will be emailed to you next week.

      Followers like YOU and those on this hub are reasons why I stay on HubPages. YOU are a great talent, lovedoctor and I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

      Your friend,


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, quildon, and thank you kindly for your time in leaving me your comment. I appreciate YOUR input so much. And I agree. PUBLIX employees make this store so good by doing just that - - -going the extra mile.

      Nicely said.


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dearest catgypsy :)

      I love PUBLIX. A lot. And thank you for sharing that about a truly-great grocery chain. In Hamilton in 1985, we had a local company, Food Warehouse. The manager was a lifelong friend, Danny Harris, who WAS the store. Not the only employee, mind you, but as manager he talked and was interested in everyone who spent money with him. My dad included.

      The company screwed him good in years to come and he now sells cars in Hamilton at a place called Fikes Chevrolet and you guessed it. . .his style makes him the most-sought-after salesman there!

      Wish you could meet my band of characters in Hamilton!


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      My Dear Giselle,

      I couldn't agree more with your comment. In fact, my friend, your comment is far better than my hub. You detailed so good the contrasts in society then and now and how the lack of social respect has spilled over and affected businesses.

      Thank you, Giselle. I miss you.


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Sueswan,

      Your lovely comment made me so very happy. When you talked about Frank, who I wish I had met, really touched my heart.

      I wager to say that there are not enough "Frank's" in our world today, right?

      And thanks for caring about my health. Which FYI, is NOT improving. Nuff said.

      YOU take it EZ and hail a Yellow Cab today!!!

      :) Kenneth

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      North Wind, you hit the nail on the head. Clerks and grocery store employees DID think more of themselves, their stores and customers. I couldn't have said it better. Wish you had co-written this with me.


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      holconrad, you are correct. Good manners along with respect for others is a dying art. Or a dead art. I appreciate YOU stopping by.

      GO in peace.


    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, writer20,

      Firstly, thanks for your great comments. JC Penney is a good store. Sears is a close second by way of friendly clerks, but I find that the older grocery stores, like Jitney Jungle and those of that era, MY ERA, FYI, were way friendlier. They thought of US more than themselves. The root of the problem is: SELFISHNESS OR SELFLESSNESS. No middle ground. Clerks, managers fall into one of these. Just my opinion. And thanks for YOURS, writer20.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this article. I like the way you described grocery shopping today. Like a "rat race,"more like "survival of the fittest" as shoppers pay no attention to you and run you down with their carts while reading coupons to themselves." I think you've mentioned all the reasons as to why grocery shopping can be a not so pleasant experience for customers today as opposed to earlier days. vote up awesome!

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I think the attendants at the Publix where I shop do smile now and then and I remember the manager even taking my cart out to my car on one occasion. I was impressed and told him so. But, I agree, good manners are very rare these days.

    • catgypsy profile image


      6 years ago from the South

      There are so many things that were much better way back when. I am lucky to go to a grocery store that actually is huge on customer service (a Publix) and it is so much more pleasant to do my shopping, but most stores now are not that way. I miss the good old days!

    • profile image

      Giselle Maine 

      6 years ago

      Some great ideas in here. An interesting topic, not one which is often tackled, so it's nice to read a very original topic. Admittedly in your Grocery Store Manners #1, in contrast to your recommendation I have been letting people who have LESS in their carts go in front of me. Because I feel like there is no point me holding up a 5-item load when I have 20 items, for example. But anyhow I think the point is to be nice to other shoppers, and when the 5-item person arriving at the same time as me to the checkout line is waved forward by me, then they are still happy. So I think it still works as a positive thing whichever way around we do it, whether we let in someone with less or someone with more.

      You will be pleased to know that with your #8 tip (about senior citizens) that I recently helped a senior citizen with a question about the self-checkout. I think it is very important to be aware that not all senior citizens are confident about using the self-checkout, so if you are checking out next to one and they look stuck, it can help to ask if they are OK. Or just point out the call button to them if need be. As they may be wary of accepting help from a fellow shopper instead of an employee. This type of situation comes up more often on senior citizen discount day, because the lines at the full-service checkouts are longer, tempting more people toward the self-checkout that might not normally use it on a regular basis.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Kenneth,

      Great hub.

      I am remember when I was in grade school, my mom worked at Johnnies. It was a small grocery store. Frank, the owner of the store was good to his customers. He trusted them and if someone was short on cash, he would give them credit. Across the street a Cow Palace was built so they started shopping there. Frank never did get his money from these customers. My mom said that didn't bother him but he did feel like he had been used.

      Voted up and awesome.

      I hope all is well with you.

      Take care my friend. :)

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      6 years ago from The World (for now)

      Grocery stores really were nicer back then. I think it was because people were less self-involved and a bit more thoughtful about others. Maybe it had to do with the way those generations were raised. When manners and consideration are taught at a young age, they become a habit that is a treasure to others.

    • holconrad profile image


      6 years ago from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

      Very thought provoking. It is true, manners are a lost art in 2012, very sad.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I think good manners has gone out the window especially in clothing stores, rarely do you see anyone to help.

      JCP Penney's is the best right now.

      Food stores, we get there about 10am (Not working) so we can do this. Our food store is friendly but sometimes the checkers are not as much.


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