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Grocery Shopping Etiquette: Take the Quiz and See How Well You Score

Updated on July 19, 2018
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A southeast native, Beverly majored in psychology at GSU. She has a strong interest in workplace politics and human behavior.


Grocery Store Etiquette Quiz...The Lower the Score the Higher the Etiquette (50 percent or less is good)

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Are You The Kind of Person Who Loves or Hates to Shop for Groceries?

I normally love to shop for groceries, especially for bargains. To me, it is a thrill to find vegan whole grain waffles for $1.50 a box when they normally sell for three times that much. Still, I prefer to shop early in the morning when crowds are thin and more interested in getting what they need and getting out without making a fuss.

Today is Saturday and it is 9:30 in the morning. I have just done a seven mile run with friends in high heat and humidity and going to the grocery store in a pool of my own sweat, smelling and feeling like a wet dog does not appeal to me in the least, nor do I wish to impose my scent on other shoppers, so I head for home, shower, eat breakfast, take a break and finally get out the door around 11:20.

I have to run an errand for my boss at work and the building I am in is just around the corner from a large chain grocery store, so I decide to save time and gas and shop here instead of my usual home-town grocery store closest to my home.

The parking lot is crowded, but I find a space within two minutes walking distance of the front door. Getting to the parking space was interesting. There is a Brazilian Wax Shop right as you turn in and a white car ahead of me pulled to the left like the driver was going to park in a parking space, but instead stopped in the crosswalk and sat there cross-ways with the tail end of their car facing the wax shop. The irony of this position was not lost on me, but in order to get around them, I have to pull out into oncoming traffic and come close to side-swiping a legally parked car.

After about a minute, I slowly start to pull around the vehicle which then starts to pull further left to the parking lot, so I stop again and they stop too. At this point I am not sure what to do, so gun the engine and pray they stay put as they again move toward me. Luckily I do not hit them and they do not hit me, but I am left dazed by their actions and wonder: What next?

I park and make my way toward the crosswalk at the grocery store. There is no oncoming traffic so I cut toward the crosswalk at a 45-degree angle as a sudden appearing fast moving car, maybe even the one parked at the wax place, attempts to turn into the same lane I am walking out. I stop to let them turn, but instead of pulling forward into the right hand of the lane they take a sharp left aiming directly at me! As I take a shocked step back with my right leg, they very nearly run over my left foot and I contemplate slapping the hood of their car with my hand and falling down screaming to put the scare back on them and not me, but I am not that kind of person so just imagine doing it and keep going, a bit shaken, but unscathed physically at least.

Uh Oh! There Is a Reason for Those Cart Racks in the Parking Lot!


Too Bad you Don't Need a Shopping Cart License to Push a Buggy in the Grocery Store

Mind you, if shopping cart police ticketed illegal shopping cart activity in the grocery store, they could raise enough money to feed every poor person in the country and do away entirely with the welfare system.

While there are no spoken or posted rules of how to push a shopping cart, there is a general etiquette for it. You push the cart on the same side of the aisle that you would drive on, so for Americans, that would be on the right hand side of the aisle. You don't stop suddenly, pull into oncoming traffic, do U turns without looking where you are going or double park so no one can get past you and the display case stuck three feet out from the store shelves. Most people know this. Few people follow it and all of us have absent-mindedly forgotten we were not the only people in the store shopping for what we wanted, but some take the situation to extremes and seem to purposefully make everyone else's shopping experience as miserable as it can be.

So, I enter the store. The cart I pull out is attached to the cart behind it, so I expertly lift the child safety seat to release the clip straps from the wires and enter the doors, or attempt to anyway. There are two carts in front of me. I deftly maneuver around them and a crotchety old woman aims her cart directly at me. I am swift and move past her before she can ram me and politely turn and half smile, half smirk as I say, "hi there!", while suppressing the words, "missed me you old bat" and mentally stick my tongue out at her.

Maneuvering through the produce aisle is a nightmare, so I give up on it and head to the protein bars where a woman has her cart stuck out behind her and is leaning over looking at the bars I would like to get. She is going back and forth like she is hoovering the shelves for dust bunnies and I wait an appropriate time and then move my cart around to the organic cereal aisle and pop back out again a minute later to see her in the same spot, doing the same thing, so give up on the protein bars and head for canned goods where a gentleman is leaning on his cart and tilting his rear out into the aisle while talking on his cell phone, oblivious to my approach. On the other side of him is a stalker... I mean stocker who is blocking access to, you guessed it, the very canned goods I would like to purchase. I roll my eyes, push the cart to a clearing in the corner and attempt to walk out the store.

I have been in the store for eight minutes and have not been able to get within twenty feet of anything I wanted and for my sake and the sake of everyone else in the store, I think it is better that I leave empty handed and live off bread and peanut butter, except that I am out of bread, but such is life.

Selfie In the Liquor Aisle

These two are happy with their grocery shopping experience, what about you?
These two are happy with their grocery shopping experience, what about you? | Source

Party in the Liquor Aisle? I Just Want to Go Home, Please!

I decide to leave post-haste to avoid a mental break-down. I should know better than to grocery shop so close to noon on a Saturday anyway. I take the shortest route out the store, down the liquor aisle. There are five younger adults, who don't look old enough to buy alcohol, standing around the beer coolers and facing into the aisle talking to one another. Three are facing my direction and two are facing them. They are taking up three quarters of the aisle. The other quarter is taken up by a giant liquor display encouraging everyone to get drunk responsibly for the holidays and call a cab to get home if you remember where home is located. Nice to know they care.

I think the kids will probably see me and move, but only one girl facing me cuts her eyes at the girl blocking me as if using mental telepathy to tell her to move. The boy next to her sees me and moves quickly to join his friends, but the boy with his back away from me actually steps back into me nearly knocking me into the display and I shockingly find myself wanting to push him in the back more out of anger than protecting myself from toppling into the display. At this point I clench my teeth and say, "excuse me" as if I am the one at fault and rush as fast as I can to the exit.

You would think this would be the end of the story, but it is never that simple! As I come out the end of the aisle, a woman on my right and a couple to my left, who have just entered the store, aim their carts directly at me at the same moment as the group of five close in again behind me. I literally have no place to go and they keep coming at me, so I stand there bracing for a shopping cart to the groin and hip, when the man and woman pushing the cart into me give me a dirty look and back up a half foot as I hip hug to the right and turn sideways to fit through the tiny gap created by their meager retreat.

Thank Goodness for Local Grocery Stores!

A half hour later I went to our smaller, local grocery store which was crowded, but not as bad. I found what I needed fast and went to the self-check-out to avoid further human contact. All was good until I exited the store. A man was just ahead of me and jumped into his land yacht of a pickup truck loaded with lawn care equipment. I was only standing about twelve feet away when he unlocked the truck door so am pretty sure he saw me, but as soon as he got in he turned the engine on and shot out the parking space as I was barely clearing his back bumper!! He missed hitting me by about three feet and flew out the parking lot as if he was possessed. At that point I went home and stayed there, vowing to never return to the grocery store after eight in the morning again!!! Who knows, maybe he had a party in the liquor aisle too or maybe the old lady who nearly ran me over in the other grocery store hired a hit man for revenge, but it was not my day to buy groceries in a leisurely, peaceful fashion.

The whole experience bothered me though. I have friends who say they hate to grocery shop, but I generally enjoy it, just not when the stores are crowded or people are fighting over sales. Still, it seemed a lot of people had no clue how to act responsibly while shopping and I guess I was guilty of that too. I had opened up the the nicely folded shirts to see if I was a medium or a large and then halfway reassembled them and shoved them back in. I had also had second thoughts on a sale item I got in one aisle and left it sitting on another aisle, but never anything perishable, so I suppose that was a plus.

The worst thing I ever did was knock over a two year old and step on him, but in my defense, I did not see him wander directly behind me as I was reading the label on a soup can and backed up one step to place it in my cart only to feel a bump and a thud as I stepped on his leg and nearly broke my neck trying to get off it fast enough. As I scooped him up and searched desperately for a parent, who was halfway down the aisle and as oblivious as I was as to her own child's whereabouts, I felt awful and even now, I always look down and back before stepping back in any store. The child was fine by the way and didn't even cry. I think I was more traumatized than the child and definitely more than the parent!!!

This Might Be One Reason Why People Hate Grocery Shopping


Regardless of How You Scored on the Quiz, Here Are Five Tips to Make You a Better Shopper

Here are a few quick tips to make you a better, kinder shopper;

1. Be prepared. Carry cash and card and have your shopping list and coupons within easy reach. Organize them before you get to the check-out line

2. Be mindful of whether you are blocking other people from access. Don't park next to things that already jut out in the aisle, push your cart ahead of you rather than beside you so others can get past.

3. Try to shop when it is not as busy. If you go to buy Holiday Dinner an hour before the store closes, then no matter how nice you are, there are bound to be issues that make you and others unhappy.

4. Be nice to cashiers and stock people. If they are rude to you, be even more nice and tell them you are sorry they are having a bad day, but do they mind if you get that item they are standing in front of or if they will check to make sure they actually ran that coupon through as it is not matching your estimated price calculations.

5. Treat the parking lot the same as a busy street and don't speed, block or run through stop signs. Getting that trout home two minutes sooner is probably not worth killing someone or spending two hours as the police write up a report on your fender bender.

Take the Grocery Store Etiquette Quiz at the Top and Let Us Know How You Scored

If you marked mostly As on the quiz, you probably need to practice greater etiquette when shopping. You may get what you want and terrorize store staff to do your bidding but you may also make shopping miserable for hundreds of others who did not come to compete with you or dodge around you as you blocked access to the shelves and aisles.

If you scored mostly Ds, you may be a push-over and don't speak up for yourself when you are overcharged or get bad produce that has no taste or is mealy feeling. You may need to learn to politely stand your ground and get reimbursed for your troubles.


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