13 Things You May Be Doing At The Grocery Store That You Didn't Know Are Rude

There are some things that you may be doing on your visits to the grocery store that you may not realize are rude. Yes, you. It might be because you've never stopped to think about whether you're doing something that might offend or inconvenience others.

It's easy to be in our own world when we're shopping and not think about the people around us, especially when we're shopping with a group of other people. In fact, most instances of rudeness stem from people not considering how their actions affect others.

While most instances of grocery store rudeness don't have consequences, some do. People may speak up to tell you what they think about your actions or even act in spite, returning rudeness for rudeness. We hope considering some of the ways in which you didn't know were rude at the grocery store will make you think more about other shoppers the next time you visit a store.

1. Having too many items for the express lane

There are two types of people in the world: Ones who count their items to make sure they qualify for the express checkout lane and those who don't care how many products they have. Of course, the checkout lane police aren't likely to stop you if you have one or two over the limit (usually). 

But some people are thoughtful enough that they won't even exceed the limit by even one item. Strict rule followers who set hard limits for themselves are likely to count your items when you checkout and silently curse you for the rudeness of going over the limit.

However, when you have 30 or 40 items in a 10-item checkout lane, you're likely to make the people behind you, and the cashier get hot under the collar. If you've got more items than the express lane allows, don't be surprised if the people behind you complain loudly enough to shame you into going to a regular checkout line or if the cashier refuses to serve you (via ARS Technica).

2. Talking on speaker phone

When you talk on speaker phone in the grocery store, it makes everyone around you feel uncomfortable. While some people can tune the conversation out, most have no choice but to listen to what you have to say. Strangers feel awkward listening to you talk about your day and the facets of your private life (via Reddit). It's even more awkward for people to hear you talking to your doctor on speaker phone.

According to etiquette expert Lisa Grotts, having a speakerphone conversation in public is rude and inappropriate (via Chicago Tribune). She says that personal conversations aren't something you should have on the phone in public as it invades the private space of people nearby.

If you're talking on speaker phone in the grocery store, don't be surprised if someone asks you to take your phone off speaker phone. And don't get upset if someone decides to join in your public cell phone conversation. After all, they're only trading rudeness for rudeness.

3. Playing music or watching videos on your phone

We hate to break it to you, but not everyone is interested in the same music that you are. It's true. You're the only one who wants to hear your special music mix when you're grocery shopping, even if you've envisioned people dancing down the aisles with you.

Listening to your music or watching videos loud enough in the grocery store for your fellow shoppers to hear is highly inconsiderate (via Quora). You're taking away other people's right to relax while shopping when you interject your choice of music into their shopping experience.

If you want to listen to better music than what's playing over the speakers while you shop, consider lowering the volume so that only you can hear it or wear headphones instead. And then sing along silently. 

Being a one-person-karaoke act at your local supermarket on a regular basis is likely to get you banned from the store. Grocery stores play their own specially-chosen music over the loudspeaker to increase sales (via Tasting Table). They use softer music to get their customers to stay longer, so imposing your heavy metal on your fellow shoppers will annoy shoppers as much as it annoys store owners.

4. Taking up the whole grocery aisle

One thing you're doing at the grocery store that you didn't know was rude is taking up the whole aisle. This problem is especially prevalent when you're with your entire family or if you meet a friend in the store and decide to gab and shop together. 

A study by PLoS One shows that we tend to walk side by side or create a V shape when we walk with others, which prevents others around us from being able to pass.

Taking up the whole grocery aisle so people can't pass shows disrespect for others. Some people may be kind enough to go around you using the next aisle, but others are likely to get angry and make a fuss.

When you're shopping, be aware of how much space you have around you so that others can pass through (via Reddit). Don't stand in the center of the aisle trying to make a decision when others are around. We know you sometimes must take your kids shopping with you. Just try to make sure that they don't block the aisle.

If you're a serial cereal-aisle hogger, beware. There are shoppers who will take their revenge on your aisle-hogging tendencies and block you in so that you can't leave your precious aisle (via Reddit).

5. Driving your cart on the wrong side of the grocery aisle

In the Middle Ages in Great Britain, right-handed knights started driving their horses on the left side of the road so they could more easily joust with their oncoming enemies (via Historic UK). Since most of us are civilized enough not to bring our swords when we shop, in the U.S., keeping to the right is the best practice in grocery stores. As long as you keep to the right, your fellow grocery-cart drivers won't get so annoyed with you for driving your shopping cart on the wrong side.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, all U.S. car manufacturers started making cars for right-side driving, starting in 1915. Since then, there has been an unwritten social rule dictating that we should walk on the same side as we drive. This rule stands whether you're walking down the sidewalk or in the grocery store (via Bloomberg). It helps everything to run smoothly and keeps people from running into each other.

Even though you should stay on the right side in the grocery store, there's no need to go down each aisle twice. You can make a quick dash across the aisle to get something you need. Just be careful not to cut off other shoppers in the process.

6. Tailgating in the checkout line

Tailgating in the supermarket can be just as annoying as tailgating on the road. Not only can you put a fellow shopper in intense pain by possibly running into their Achilles tendon with your cart, but it can make them feel uncomfortable or angry. 

The common social distance between people who aren't friends is 4-12 feet, so if you or your shopping cart are any nearer to strangers while you're shopping, you're too close (via Psychology Today). Keeping your distance is especially important in the checkout lane, where people want to keep their credit cards and pin numbers private.

A 2021 study shows most people tailgate in their cars because traffic is congested, the car in front of them is moving too slowly, or they're in a hurry. The same concept tends to apply in the supermarket. You tailgate your fellow shoppers because the store is crowded, shoppers are too slow, and you're in a hurry to leave. The study shows that 95% of people who are tailgated for two minutes or longer in their car change lanes. So, it's an effective strategy to get people to move out of the way in some cases, but it's still rude.

Tailgating at the grocery store is also counterproductive. For example, tailgating someone in the checkout line won't make the line go any faster. As on the road, some people will slow down as they go down the aisle when you're tailgating them, just for spite.

7. Not putting away your grocery cart outside

A Twitter user named Jared created the "shopping cart theory" to explain why some people don't put away their shopping carts. He proposed that, since it's not against the law to abandon your shopping cart, returning the cart without anyone compelling you to do so determines whether you're capable of governing yourself. If you return your cart, it indicates your ability to do the right thing without being forced (via Upworthy). 

According to Scientific American, we have lots of excuses for not putting our shopping carts into the cart corral outside. Sometimes, it's because it's too far away from your car, you have to wrangle children, you don't want to spend more time in bad weather, or you have physical ailments that make it painful to walk any farther. Other times, it's just because you're being lazy. Or, as Jared proposed on Twitter, you just may not have good moral character.

Aldi tapped into human psychology to find a way to compel (most) shoppers to return their shopping carts: You have to pay a quarter to rent the cart, and you only get it back when you return it. Even though you won't get anything from returning your cart at most stores, returning it can help you assure yourself that you're a good person. At least, we hope you are.

8. Not having your money and coupons ready at checkout

Another thing you're doing at the grocery store that you didn't know was rude is not having your money and coupons ready when you're in line at the checkout counter. Most people are in a hurry, and having to wait for you while you find your wallet, search for the right bill in a wad of cash, or write a check can be annoying at the very least. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to make the checkout process go quicker.

Have your money and coupons ready to go when you get to the register. If you carry a purse, place your wallet in a specific pocket so that it's easy to find. When using coupons, pull out the ones you plan to use on this shopping trip and hold them with your money.

One thing that's extremely annoying to shoppers waiting in line behind you is waiting for you to write a check (via ARS Technica). Go ahead and fill out the store name and the date before you get to the cashier. Then, all you have to do is complete the amount and sign your name, so it takes less time.

A good way to pay faster with cash at the register is to keep your money organized. If you organize your money by value from least to greatest or greatest to least, it makes the process easier and faster (via YouTube).

9. Leaving your cart in the aisle while you go look at something else

Many grocery stores crowd food aisles as close as possible to make room for as many aisles as possible. This strategy leaves shoppers with less room to maneuver carts and shop. We're being rude at the grocery store when we leave our cart to walk off to get something elsewhere in the store, it blocks the pathway for other shoppers or access to entire shelves of food.

Never underestimate your other shoppers' capacity for revenge. If you abandon your cart to go flitting about the store free from your shopping cart fetters, there's no guarantee you'll find your cart as you left it. Some people may move your cart to another aisle for spite (via Reddit). Others may treat your cart as a place to do some shortcut shopping and grab things they want from it. Still others are likely to leave behind extra items that weren't there before.

10. Walking away from your cart at the checkout line

We know it can be tempting to leave your cart in line while you go get that one grocery item you forgot, but it's rude. There's nothing wrong with walking ten steps away to pick up something you see on an end cap while waiting in the checkout line. However, the problem arises when you leave to go off to gather more groceries from deep within the store. If you return five minutes later with an armload of items, making others wait for you, it's not cool at all.

It's not such a big deal if it's just you and the cashier in an empty store and you aren't holding up the line, but it can be exasperating if the store is busy (via Reddit). One shopper on Quora clearly agrees, commenting that the line is for people who are ready to purchase their items, and it's not appropriate to abandon your filled grocery cart while others wait. 

Not everyone is kind about finding themselves stuck in line behind your abandoned cart. Some people may move your cart behind them in line. And, in even worse scenarios, they grab items they want from your abandoned cart or place the items the cashier already rang up into their cart. When you let your cart out of your sight, you're at the mercy of everyone in line around it.

11. Letting your kids run wild in the grocery store

Letting your kids run wild in the grocery store is another rude thing you may be doing. Of course, you love your little darlings, but even the best-behaved children can cause chaos at the supermarket. Kids tend to run rather than walk, and they may not know all the ins and outs of public etiquette. They can get in the way of customers and cause messes like knocking down store food displays.

People also make judgment calls about your parenting ability when they see your kids running wild. This sentiment is often about child safety (via Quora). Ever since 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears store in 1981, parents have kept a tighter rein on their kids in stores. 

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there were only 142 non-family abductions in 2021, and only 21 of those remain active. So, while the chances of a child being abducted from the grocery store are low, there is still a slim possibility, so it's best to keep your kids close at the grocery store. 

You also run the risk of incurring the wrath of your fellow shoppers. Sometimes, they may even take it upon themselves to correct your children in their own way or tell you what they think about your parenting skills.

12. Making comments about what's in someone else's cart

Making comments about what's in someone else's cart is also quite rude. Many of us are guilty of being curious and looking into people's carts to see what types of things they like to eat. That bag of apples and box of razorblades someone's buying might look mighty suspicious at Halloween (via Reddit). And when you see a variety of interesting ingredients in someone's cart, you may be curious about what they're planning to cook.

While some people may appreciate starting a conversation with strangers about food, others just want to be left alone. And there's always the chance you could unwittingly offend someone by commenting on their food. After all, people can get offended by the smallest things.

Customers aren't the only people who commit the faux pas of commenting on customer food choices. Cashiers tend to comment on customer food as well. If someone is buying seven boxes of their favorite food and you make a comment, they can feel judged for their purchases (via Reddit).

13. Racing from the back of the line to a newly-opened register

Sometimes, we can commit rude actions at the grocery store without realizing how rude they are. For example, rushing from the back of the line to be the first person in line at a newly-opened register. Usually, the cashier will say, "I can take the next person over here," but you weren't the next person, were you?

So, how do you navigate this situation? If the people ahead of you didn't notice that a new register opened or don't seem to care, the new line is fair game. However, if you do move from the back of the line to a newly-opened register, it's courteous to offer a space ahead of you for anyone who was already in front of you in the previous line (via Quora). Sometimes, the person will take you up on your offer. Other times they will graciously allow you to go ahead of them because you were polite.