Friday, March 4, 2011

The Politics Of The Supermarket Cart

From that title, you probably think I’m going to write about rising food prices caused by political instability, exploding fuel prices and catastrophic weather events. Nope, maybe another time, but not today.

Today I’m concentrating on the wrangling for power that goes on within the walls of our local supermarkets and how people use the unlikely vehicle of a supermarket cart to establish their dominance over other shoppers.

Now before you think I’m completely bonkers, I have to tell you that I’ve thought about writing this post MANY fact almost every time I come back from the supermarket, which is quite often. But I didn’t want you to think I was…how to put this?…a crackpot. A surly know-it-all. Or a crazy (shopping) bag lady.

I'll admit I have very strong views about supermarket behavior (and mostly everything). I don’t want to call this an issue of etiquette, because some people think etiquette is only for fancy people and can be dispensed with if you’re just regular folk. THIS is more than etiquette. It’s common sense. It’s obvious. It’s about treating people as we would ourselves like to be treated.

What in the world am I talking about? There is one particular thing that happens in a supermarket which is so wrong, so unnecessary and so insensitive that I can’t hold my tongue anymore.

And, NO, I’m not even thinking about the insanity in the parking lot. My rule for THAT is to park as far away from everyone as possible and to always pull straight through, so you don’t have all the ancillary problems that come with backing out.

So what is so egregious? WELL! I’m talking about that passive-aggressive thing that people do with their supermarket carts in check-out lines.

They put the cart between themselves and you. They stand at the END of the cart, instead of at the handled end, thereby blocking access to the conveyor belt and making it impossible for you to unload your cart fully without having to lob the items onto the front of the belt. It also makes the line twice as long, because their cart is hogging so much space!

Why do they do this? Because they’re thinking, “I’M FIRST! It’s MY turn in line and YOU CAN GO FLIP OFF if you think I’m going to give you an inch.”

They also use their carts as battering rams if they think you’re getting too close. It’s really annoying. 

PLUS these are the same people who NEVER bag themselves and just stand idly by while the kid checks them out AND puts all their crappy frozen waffles, Lean Cuisines, squeezable cheese and diet soda in millions of plastic bags.

AND...(it gets better) these are often the folks who hold up the line by writing a check…letter by letter, number by number, until everyone in line is stark raving mad.

The funny thing is, contrary to how I know I must be coming off, I LIKE long lines. I like to read junky magazines and I like to have lots of time to unpack my cart in an orderly fashion. Milk and bulky things in the front…vegetables and bread type stuff at the end. (I know there are shows on fringe cable networks about people like me.) But, really, all of this is not me being impatient on supermarket lines. It’s me being impatient with selfish nitwits!

While I’m on the subject, I have one more supermarket mantra. It goes without saying that I bring my own bags, but I NEVER go on the lines with the clueless 15 year old baggers. I actually tell them to go take a break if they threaten to pack my groceries. One kid was offended and begged me to give him a chance. I let him and he was right, he was awesome! He packed the bag like a geometric puzzle, just like I do! Oh there’s one more thing too. I like REALLY heavy bags. It’s good for the biceps and the fewer I have to carry into the house the better.

So according to my insane world view, what’s the right way to proceed when paying for your groceries? You should push your cart ALL THE WAY THROUGH until your cart is perpendicular to the end of the conveyor belt. If there’s a pesky bagger in the way, tell him or her to go, because they’re in the way and mostly they don’t know how to bag anyway. 

Then you quickly bag everything yourself, pay and immediately move your cart out of the way, so you’re not holding up the person behind you. Also put your money away, AWAY from the end of the line. Is that really so hard?

Oh, I do have one more…suggestion. The ONLY excuse for leaving your cart in the middle of a parking lot is when you have children or babies with you. Obviously, you can’t put the kids in the car and leave them, so I give you dispensation to leave your cart wherever is convenient. BUT would it really kill EVERYONE ELSE to walk his or her cart over to the cart station? Is there ANYONE who couldn’t use an extra 40 steps of exercise?!!

Please help me to feel a little less unhinged and leave me a comment about what drives YOU crazy in supermarkets…or anywhere, actually, just so I don’t feel quite so deranged. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I have often complained of "supermarket rage". It's not just the checkout line. It's everywhere in the store. No one else believes that anyone else is shopping and might want access to whatever you are blocking for 10 minutes.

I like have other folks bag my groceries because most of them have had at least *some* training. If I had to sit and think about bagging my groceries and what would fit well where, I would REALLY hold up the line. I bring my own bags which are bigger than the plastic bags and fit more stuff, so I don't have to wait for people to put things in 10 plastic bags. If you tell them you want everything in the bags you brought, they can usually work it out nicely for you.

I did have this one cashier who said she wouldn't bag groceries (and there was no bagger) for people who brought their own bags. She did not tell me this until AFTER everything had been rung up and the stuff from the person behind me already had stuff coming down the belt. What was worse was as I was desperately trying to load my stuff into my bags before the other stuff came down, the cashier virtually ignored me and was carelessly letting the other shopper's items crash into mine and crush them. She was bagging that person's groceries (no reuseable bags) and putting them right on top of my unbagged groceries. I wrote a letter of complaint to the store, but never heard back. But I have never had a cashier do that to me again. I think reusable bags are just too common now.

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
You're right, there are transgressions in every aisle of the supermarket, but I didn't want to seem even more crackpotty.

I'm glad you have competent baggers. Even if I did, I admit I probably still wouldn't let them bag for me. That one cashier of yours should be disciplined. That's a real no-no to start ringing up the person behind you when YOU'RE still there.

This is one job, though, like many, where we probably don't give enough credit to the person that does it well and we only complain when they stink at it. Actually, here's another wrinkle in my choosing a line. I LIKE one that goes slightly slowly, so I can keep up with the bagging. Sometimes I throw them for a loop like "How much was that orange (that had the HUGE sign 5 for $1.99)?" just to slow them down.

Clearly, the fact that I have a strategy for every possible supermarket situation (I've just cracked the surface with this post) means that I spend WAY too much time there.

Anonymous said...

Sue, I couldn't agree with you more! I like time to put my cold items on the belt, followed by heavy items, and ending with produce & baked goods. I push my cart through, swipe my card before packing in some markets which enable it, and pack myself in my reusable bags until they're full! The funny thing is, I am disappointed when the cashiers take for granted what I do, and don't thank me for bagging. I'm a stickler for proper market etiquette. Thanks for writing this! Now I know I'm not alone.

Sue said...

A woman after my own heart! We should give supermarket seminars to the customers AND the employees. A well-placed thank you is often balm to the heart and is never out of place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, since I walk to the grocery store, use a hand basket, and rarely have more than two bags' worth to carry out, it has been a long time since I thought about cart etiquette. I suspect part of the issue is that in the narrow checkout aisle it is difficult to reach into the cart from the handle end and put things on the conveyor belt. Particularly if you're short, like my mom. One supermarket she shopped at when I was a kid had carts with ends that folded down onto the conveyor, so you could scoop things out -- but you still had to be ahead of the cart rather than behind it.

Chubby Chinese Girl said...

Susan, you finally took off your glasses! and I can you! =) great new look to the site too.....

In Shanghai they don't even give bags! (environmentally friendly)... so my dad has to bring bags or pay for them! i wonder if it'll ever catch up here

Sue said...

That’s true, Tom, that a hand basket does away with a lot of angst. Except every single time I go to buy just a few things, the canned tomatoes and seltzer are on sale!

I won't comment on how long it must have been since you last visited, but WELCOME BACK!

That's interesting about Shanghai supermarkets. I bet that's not the only thing that's different. I'd love a report on that, but supermarkets (everywhere) are really touchy about taking pictures.

Sheila said...

LOL! My pet peeve is at the bulk bins or the coffee bean bins. People park their carts so they take up several bins and just stare at the bins while I have to wait to grab my usuals. GET OUT OF THE WAY! And "excuse me" doesn't help. They feel an entitlement to stand there in the way. HOW DARE I ask them to move!

I organize my cart so that I can unload it just as you described... If you find a support group for that... let me know! :-)

Lys said...

Ahhh - supermarket rage, how I've dealt with thee. My main main issue is the gals who bag - at Superfresh, it is never an issue because they will NOT bag your groceries (at least the one I go to). At Genuardis, I have specific ways to do it and they get all offended when I tell them "I'll do it" and then they try to put in meat with veggies. Ummm. NO! I've had two cases of food poisoning from Genuardis, thankyouverymuch.

The row hogs annoy me so much I want to start singing Ludacris "Move Out The Way" and don't even get me started about those in the deli line. Oh and...

Let me shush - clearly I have issues *LOL*

*and yes I'm one of those in the supermarket that looks for the freshest produce, dairy, etc. but I refuse to get in the way of anyone else*