The Dos and Donts of Being a Good Grocery Shopper

I’ve recently come to the sad realization that I may not be a good shopper. I love to shop, but my expectations are so high for other shoppers around me that it makes the experience incredibly unenjoyable for everyone. I’m so sorry, fellow shoppers, that I’ve imposed my imaginary rules of shopping etiquette onto you unfairly. I’m like the shopping equivalent of that girl in your group project who nobody wants to work with because she notoriously nominates herself president of world and finds reasons to send eighteen emails a day. Like, calm down we know how to use Power Point, right?

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I hereby un-elect myself president of shopping etiquette, though admittedly you’ll have to pry the Ten Commandment-esque rules from my cold, dead hands in order to truly bury them forever. I carved the commandments into stone tablets and tried distributing them to all my local Target stores, but they were not feeling it, you guys. Something about limestone being generally inconvenient for shoppers and not conducive to pamphlet form.

These rules of shopping etiquette were not entirely ridiculous. Rather, they just assumed that most other shoppers aspired to some basic interpretation of courtesy. Something, as it turns out, only about 48% of shoppers aspire to. Look, I’m not one to fight cultural trends. If the majority wants mayhem to rule our grocery aisles, then by all means let’s fully commit to the fast and loose vibe. If we all decide throwing elbows is necessary in Walgreens, then I’m okay with it. (Know that I’m secretly terrified).

Some of the rules of etiquette making their way into retirement include:

1) Thou Shalt Not Participate in Parking Lot Shenanigans

The shopping experience begins in the parking lot, so naturally this is the scene of many shopping etiquette crimes. For example, standing in an empty parking space to reserve it while waiting for your fellow conspirator to show up with their vehicle. I have so many logistical questions about this, actually. How did you get separated in the first place? Did you jump out of the car to save the spot while they lapped the lot one more time to make sure there wasn’t a better space? Did you walk there and, upon noticing the exceptional parking space, call a friend so that it would go to someone you know and love? These are genuine questions, so feel free to contact me personally with any insights regarding this practice.

2) Thou Shalt Not Use One’s Shopping Cart as Makeshift Traffic Cones

Some people like to use their shopping carts to block the aisle so as to firmly establish a “no entry zone” while they secure their items of purchase. In this situation, gently moving the offending cart is not an option as touching someone else’s cart is a fairly intimate gesture. Most of the time their purse is conveniently nestled near the cart’s handle. In addition, there are anywhere from one to four children packed securely in the cart. This is to ensure that any innocent attempt to move the cart immediately resembles a robbery and/or kidnapping. The polite “excuse me” approach is a great one if you’re confident enough to risk being rejected; that is, rejection in the form of them pretending to not hear the request of someone standing two feet away. The one positive takeaway from this scenario is that it is 100% the most awkward you’ll ever feel, so first dates and job interviews are consequently of little concern.

3) Thou Shalt Not Hover

In contrast to the traffic cone scenario is the hover-shopper. Occasionally those of us who are conscientious enough to avoid blockading an entire section are met with an unfortunate fate – the breath of a stranger gently ruffling the hair at our neck as they reach around to grab the exact same bottle of salad dressing that was just almost within our grasp. When we first see your arm reaching around us, we assume that this is a very close acquaintance who, in a brief lapse of judgment, is moving in for a cuddle session in the middle of Trader Joe’s. We turn around and to our surprise, we do not know this person. My first question: do you think that we’re purchasing all nineteen bottles of zesty Italian dressing and your only shot at scoring one is to swoop in for the steal? If so, I applaud your boldness. I also thank you for the compliment of assuming I eat this much salad. My second question: were you raised by wolves? (I like to ask this in the voice of my grandmother).

I realize now that my obsession with shopping etiquette is not fair at all! I cannot and should not inform others on how to live their lives. Who do I think I am, mid to late 2000s Oprah? Thus, as previously stated, I resign from my duties as shopping etiquette enforcer, a position to which I previous elected myself with little to no regard for the democratic process. Because this election was incredibly dictator-y of me, all material produced under my self-appointment shall be destroyed – including shopping etiquette commandments. I know there are many courteous shoppers out there who I will encounter regularly. On the other hand, I know that monsters are real! So basically, my point is that we (the courteous few) should be ready to lower our standards of behavior in a hot minute in the spirit of self-preservation. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, world out there.

Shawn Kelly is a tutor, writer, and artist from North Carolina. She enjoys ’90s R&B, telling people what colors they should wear for their skin tone, playing with her dog Theodore Roosevelt Kelly II, and Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-coms. Her semi-autobiographical how-to book “What Do I Do with My Hands at Concerts?” will be dropping never. You can follow her tweets @dearshawnie.

Featured Image via Shutterstock.