Do You Judge People Based on What's In Their Shopping Cart?
Let me describe a situation to you—a common one which we've probably all been in before, multiple times.
You're in line to check out at your local supermarket or large grocery store. With nothing else to do while you wait your turn, you end up watching the person ahead of you unload her cart, idly curious to see what she's buying. And as you're doing so, perhaps certain thoughts start crossing your mind—thoughts of judgement based on what that other person is buying on that particular day:
"Look at all of that processed, packaged food!" you might be thinking to yourself. "And she has two young children with her! She should be cooking them healthy, fresh food instead of all of that junk."
"Look at that fat man buying all of those sweets and pies. No wonder he's so overweight. People like that are just raising the costs of health insurance for everyone, and should be forced to eat healthier."
"Look at that woman—her cart is full of cat food and barely anything else. She must be a cat hoarder."
"Look at that lady, buying all of those expensive ingredients and pre-prepared meals. I guess her husband never looks at the grocery bills!"
The thing is, you don't know who that person is, or why they might be buying those items. You could be right in your blind judgement of them, or you could be completely wrong.
That woman buying all that processed food might be a single mom who has no time to cook because she's working multiple jobs, and is just struggling to feed her family without any help from anybody else. Or she could be buying processed, packaged food to donate to a local food bank or homeless shelter, where ready-made processed foods are desired, better suited to donation and storage (or preparation by those with limited access to kitchen facilities.)
That "fat" person may actually be on a weight loss journey and have lost a significant amount of weight already. Maybe he has found success while still enjoying a treat for himself every now and then. Or he might be buying sweets and treats not for himself but for his office, an upcoming party, or some other function/use.
That woman with the cart full of cat food could be stocking up on items that are on sale to save money in the long term, even if she only has a few cats in her home. Or she might be buying them for a relative who is house-bound/lacking transportation and needs to buy cat food in bulk because that relative can't get to the supermarket more than once every few months. (This is a situation I am often in helping my mom; she does not drive and lives in an isolated area. When I am planning on visiting her I will bulk buy basic cat food and other non-perishables for her because she can't get to the store on her own regularly. And yes, I've gotten plenty of comments about "all of that cat food" and "how many cats do you have" more than once.)
That lady with all the expensive ingredients may not be married, but is simply happy to enjoy good ingredients on her own time and budget, thank you very much. Or she could be planning a very special party, dinner or event that only comes along once in a very long while and truly wants to splurge to celebrate.
Why am I writing about this today? Because I recently was reading a very volatile thread on the food forum Chowhound about rude grocery store checkout comments and it definitely struck a nerve. I've gotten such comments not just from checkers but also from other shoppers in line. And at those moments I feel like, Really? Go ahead and make a judgement about me based on what I'm buying, but you don't have to comment on it. And if you do, be prepared to get an earful about how wrong you are about what you think of me based on my shopping cart.
I'm more than happy to comment if someone asks me about an unusual ingredient I'm buying: how to use it, why I like it, what it actually is (don't ask me how many times I've had radicchio rung up as red cabbage. Hey, it's cheaper, so...) Recently I helped a hapless husband at the fish counter with how to cook the soft-shelled crab his wife instructed him to buy, because he had no idea how he was supposed to prepare them when he got home.
But when I'm checking out my purchases, don't judge me on my purchases. You don't know me. You don't know why I'm buying what I'm buying. And if you're a store employee you should know such comments and questions are inappropriate and could cost your business customers who then feel uncomfortable shopping there if they are going to be judged.
What's your experience?
Have you ever been announced by rude comments in the grocery store, judging you based on what you are buying? How did you respond to them?
© 2015 Nicole Pellegrini