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Checkout Line Etiquette 101

Updated on May 5, 2014
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing online for over eight years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.

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One of the basic activities we all experience is grocery shopping. Specifically, we all have to end the trip at some point. I want to explore the world of the checkout line. We've all been there. We've all had our frustrations.

Sometimes you are just running in to pick up a few items. You think that it can't possibly take a long time. Wrong. You are in line for 10 minutes. Let's discuss how it all went wrong.

The express line really means just what it implies.

Let's discuss slow people that get in the express line. Depending on the store, most stores offer an express line. Sometimes this includes 12 items or less; occasionally you get the 20 items or less line. At any rate, this is intended to be the "fast lane" at that store. Don't slow it down.

If you have a cart full of food, you do not belong in the express line. Obviously it is going to take a while if you have all those items. Kindly go to another line.

If you are writing out a check, do not get in the express line. Sometimes stores do not mention this on the sign. They are so intent on stating the amount of appropriate items (which people still ignore) that the "no check" rule is not always mentioned. In this case, you are not breaking the rules if you get in the express checkout line and pay with a check, but you are a jerk. Either way, everyone behind you hates you. Pay with cash, debit, or credit in the express line. You are slowing the whole line now and, furthermore, welcome to the 21st century. Checks are great for mailing payments, but not so much for paying in person.

Self checkout - is it for you?

Most stores offer an awesome self checkout lane now. Often there are 2 - 8 self checkout registers and it is wonderful. Now I can use the register and pack my groceries in the bag the way I want it. What could be better?

I dare say the self checkout lane is not for everyone. If you aren't so great with technology, you may want to get in line with a human. If you haven't tried to use the self checkout lane before, don't give it a shot when 10 people are waiting in line. You should try it on a slow day when there are plenty of registers available. Trust me on this one.

Stop bumping me!

Guess what? When you bump me with your cart, it does not make the line move any faster. As a matter of fact, it does not help your situation at all. If it happens once, I know it is a mistake. I may not even glare at you. If it happens twice, you are getting a glare. If it happens once more, it is going to get ugly. I might yell at you. I will certainly turn around and the stare down will begin. I am also capable of slowing down the line. I can decide while being checked out that I need to change items. I can purposely break out more coupons and try to use coupons for things I am not even purchasing. Actually, I might really make you suffer - I might pay using a check! Now you're never getting out of the store on time!

Cutting in line - I will put you back in your place.

Don't cut in line. This is a really simple one. It is not cool and it is really immature. If you are a little kid, I can look past it. If you are a grown adult, you know the rules. I don't care what your sob story is, stop doing it.  I know it can be confusing at the self checkout lines.  When in doubt, ask a fellow shopper standing in line where the line begins and ends.  Don't worry.  People are certainly happy to help you in this situation.  No one wants someone cutting in front of them in line.

Time for me to checkout on this hub.

My friends, it has been another lovely etiquette installment.  I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.  Please keep in mind, be polite when you are shopping.  I know everyone is busy and we all have financial issues.  I understand.  I too am angry about the rising costs of groceries.  I am also frustrated that the toilet paper rolls are smaller than before and there is less ice cream in the box now.  I know, I know.  Let's remember... we are all in this together and let's be polite at the supermarket.

Fun with polls

What is the most annoying thing another shopper can do in the checkout line?

See results


Submit a Comment
  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    It's been my experience that you stand back and wait for the next available register. It can be different depending on the store. Whenever possible, I see what others are doing before me.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    If there are four check out stations, do you pick one of the four and wait or is the idea to wait for the next available?

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I know what you mean! I hate it when people crowd the card reader. I don't know why some people need to take up that much space. I've heard the self checkout lines are about to be phased out in some stores. What a disappointment! I specifically go to stores that have those lines so I can limit my human contact with cashiers. Hehe. I work in customer service and by the time the weekend rolls around, I have no desire to be "fake nice" anymore. Thanks for the comment!

  • James Halpin profile image

    James Halpin 

    9 years ago from York, Pennsylvania

    The thing that annoys me so much is when people crowd me when I'm using the card reader. "Personal Space!" The check writing thing doesn't bother me and is totally allowed. It isn't a big deal because most stores fill out the check for you and it goes just as fast as using your card. The self checkout lines are starting to be phased out around here because they are not reliable and people can cheat the system. Great Hub. I'm really enjoying all your Hubs.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thank you so much! I usually walk everywhere, so I don't have as many creepy public transportation stories. People do the craziest things in public!

  • nycgrl profile image


    9 years ago from New York

    I cannot read your blogs without laughing! Your writing style is so funny. This blog inspired me to write one about public transportation behavior. I do not own a car so I live on buses and trains. But the things people do on public transportation...ugh its ugly. Voted up!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Yes, supermarkets on the weekend are awful. I usually try to go as early as humanly possible so I can miss the crowds. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Ddraigcoch profile image


    9 years ago from UK

    So so true. And I have avoided stores that do not have an express till if it is a weekend. I will go with out rather than cue for ages for a carton of milk. I also try and make sure that doesn't happen. I hate supermarkets on weekends.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    9 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I can imagine you did see some good fights over the express lane. I don't know why it is so difficult to follow directions. Thanks for reading and voting up!

  • Cogerson profile image


    9 years ago from Virginia

    I spent years in the grocery business.....I also got to see near knockdown fights over people having 50 items in the express lane....great hub.....voted up

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    10 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks for reading my hub!

    I know exactly what you mean. I don't mind the cashier chatting with the customer as long as it is small talk. I get annoyed when there is some kind of mini-drama going on in the store and the cashiers are having a discussion about it while trying to ring up your stuff. They don't pay enough attention. I understand, there is some crazy stuff going on behind the scenes at every store, but my priority is getting my groceries, getting out, and making sure my bread does not get squished.

  • imatellmuva profile image


    10 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

    My issue with checkouts isn't with the customer as much as it is with the cashier. I take issue with the chatty cathy cashier, who's chat'n it up with their fellow cashier. I make no bones about telling them to save the discussion for a break, or between customers. Once a cashier and customer were chat'n it up so much that I told the cashier that her chattiness was slowing her down, and she and the customer needed to exchange phone numbers and talk later.

    I opt for self-checkout, because often times I find that I have to re-bag my groceries anyway. The check-writing isn't bothersome though IF people pre-write the check while waiting, so all they need to do is enter the numerical and written amount. Most stores now process checks electronically so all you need to do is sign the check, (the cash register does the rest). I do agree however about trying out the self-checkout on a slow day. But me, I step-up and help people out, so I can get out of ice cream is melting.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    10 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    You've never used self checkout? That is a shame. It is wonderful. I like running my own things over the scanner and then situating them in my bags. I guess I am kind of picky. Thanks for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed the hub!

  • Haunty profile image


    10 years ago from Hungary

    I've never heard of express lines, which may be because people are so unable to act in accordance with rules that they would use it just like any other one. Same goes for self checkout. Never heard of it. I'm a caveman you know. Anyway, both sound great things, but I hope the latter won't come around too soon. Cashiers need their jobs. It's so funny to imagine that people actually bump you with their carts to hurry you (?). I've heard this happens, but still... Thanks for the great grocery store etiquette hub.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    10 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks for the comment! Don't get me wrong, I love my coupons and use them no matter where I go. But writing out a check? Come on!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    This is so true. I do hope, that I never run in to you in the Express Lane when I am paying by check, and using my coupons, and buying a lot of groceries:)


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