Grocery shopping is a rather mundane errand for most of us, but that’s no excuse for behaving rudely and ignoring others as you browse the aisles.
“Shopping in the grocery store can be a full-contact sport if you happen to be running errands at a busy time,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “It is important that shoppers remember there is basic etiquette, even when grocery shopping.”
Of course, we don’t have to don our pearls and curtsy upon arrival at the grocery store, but etiquette advice can offer a good reminder and guidelines for how to respect others as we move about the world.
To help make grocery store visits more pleasant, HuffPost asked Smith and other etiquette experts to share some common rude behaviors they’ve observed at supermarkets ― and advice for avoiding them.
Using The Express Line With Too Many Items
“Respect the limit of items in the express line and don’t go through if you have more than allowed,” advised Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
Few people enjoy waiting in a long line to pay at the grocery store, but no matter how busy you are, that’s no excuse for taking shortcuts.
“Don’t be that person who thinks ‘10 items or fewer’ doesn’t apply to you,” added Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast. “It does!”
Ignoring Aisle Traffic Rules
“If you wouldn’t do it on the sidewalk or on the highway, you probably shouldn’t do it with your shopping cart in a supermarket,” Leighton explained. “Don’t block other people, stop or change directions suddenly, or cross multiple lanes of traffic without checking for oncoming traffic.”
Keep the “rules of the road” in mind as you navigate each aisle and make your selections. Do your best to avoid cart collisions.
“Most aisles are open to two-way traffic,” Smith said. “Keep to the right to allow traffic to keep moving. If you see someone and want to catch up, be sure to move off to the side to allow others to pass.”
Touching And Opening Things Without Buying Them
“Avoid opening packages to smell or taste and then putting them back if you don’t like them,” Gottsman urged.
In the era of COVID-19, it’s extra important to be mindful of hygiene and germs in public spaces, especially when food is involved, so try to keep your hands to yourself unless you’re using a plastic barrier or placing something in your cart.
“Do not fondle the food, breads or fruits,” Smith added.
Disrespecting Personal Space
Keep the reality of COVID in mind as you navigate through the store, as well. Being a respectful member of the community means showing consideration for your fellow shoppers.
“Everyone still has different comfort levels when in public spaces,” Gottsman said. “You will notice there are still a large number of people wearing masks at the grocery store. Be respectful of personal space, public boundaries such as lines and passing in the aisles and different comfort levels in general.”
To help make grocery store visits more pleasant, avoid these common rude behaviors. (Photo: HBSS via Getty Images)
Taking Items From Other People’s Carts
“Don’t shop out of other people’s carts,” Leighton advised.
Just because someone isn’t next to a cart doesn’t mean its contents are up for grabs ― even if it has the last bottle of Sriracha in the store.
Someone took the hot sauce out of my shopping cart when I walked away from it, this decade indubitably ending in sheer chaotic anarchy
— will (@dysdandy) December 31, 2019
I ran to the grocery store to get dinner for my children and someone stole items out of my shopping cart. Come on people!! I got kids to feed too!! #Greed
— AgainstAllOdds (@AllOddsAgainstU) April 25, 2020
Holding Up The Checkout Line
“Stay off your cellphone when checking out and have your credit card ready to pay,” Gottsman said.
The grocery store often takes up more of our time than we’d prefer, especially when there are lengthy checkout lines. Be respectful of everyone’s time and do what you can to make the process as swift and smooth as possible.
“Don’t make everyone in line wait while you run back to get eggs you forgot to put in your basket,” Gottsman added.
‘Returning’ Items To Random Places
Sometimes you put an item in your shopping cart, only to realize later in the outing you don’t actually need it. But when you’re so far from that original aisle, it’s tempting to just put the thing down in a random spot.
“When you change your mind, especially for anything refrigerated or frozen, please give it to an employee or the cashier,” Smith implored. “Do not pop it on the nearest display you happen to be walking by in the hopes someone sees and rescues it before it goes bad.”
Not Being Mindful Of Your Surroundings
Try to pay attention to the people and things around you, especially if you’re shopping with little ones who might want to interact with the grocery store space. Don’t let them run wild through the store.
“Keep close watch of your children in the cart and in the aisles,” Gottsman said.
It’s also good manners to show courtesy and care for your fellow shoppers. Just as you shouldn’t ignore your children’s impact on others, don’t look the other way when someone needs a little assistance.
“Offer to help fetch an item for those unable to reach something on a higher (or occasionally lower) shelf,” Smith said.
Failing To Return Your Cart
The importance of grocery store etiquette extends past checkout.
“Put your shopping cart back in the shopping rack in the parking lot,” Gottsman said. “Don’t leave it in an empty space.”
Whether you return your grocery cart or not is the greatest proof of character there is.
— David🐐-ier (@thechosendavid) September 23, 2022
Doing your part to return the cart after unloading your groceries in the car helps ensure another person or car won’t bump into it.
Being Pushy Or Aggressive In The Parking Lot
“The parking lot causes a great deal of grief because everyone is in a hurry,” Gottsman explained. “Honor the rule of allowing pedestrians to have the right of way to cross over on the walkway to the store.”
Grocery stores tend to have large parking lots, so even if you have to circle a few times, be patient as you search for a spot and don’t lose your cool. Respecting the rules isn’t just about good manners ― there are legal implications, as well.
“Avoid parking in a no-park or handicap parking space, as well as parking in another parking lot if you aren’t going to the store,” Gottsman said. “You will more than likely be towed!”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.