Rude things you should stop doing at the grocery store

Rude behavior seems to be growing in all aspects of life, from Twitter to the workplace, to the roadways. Trevor Foulk, a University of Maryland organizational behavior researcher, says, "When it comes to incivility, there's often a snowballing effect." Meaning, when someone is on the receiving end of rude behavior, he or she may pass it along — sometimes after boosting it a level or two.

Maybe that's why grocery stores seem to be a hive of incivility. Person A is rude to Person B in aisle one. Person B becomes upset and lashes out even more severely at Person C in aisle two, and the cycle snowballs.

If you'd like to break the cycle of rudeness winding through your local grocery aisles, we've collected a list of the most common rude behaviors that need to come to an end — you may be guilty of some of them without even knowing it. 

Blocking the entire aisle with your cart

Grocery aisles are narrow places. (This seems counterintuitive, as we would think wider lanes would be smart in the Cheetos and Oreos aisles at the very least.) So when you park your grocery cart right in the middle of the already small space, it seems rather rude.

Rosalinda Randall, a social skills expert, lists this action as her top-ranked rude behavior at the grocery store. The best solution? Treat the grocery aisle like the roadway and keep your cart to the far right as you're going down the aisle. When you need to cross over to try to find some products on the left-side shelves, stand near your cart on the right and look at the left-side shelf until you see what you want. Then look both ways before crossing over to grab the item.

If you were successful in parking your car in the grocery store parking lot, we're confident you can park your grocery cart properly inside the store too. (But if you took up parts of four spots in the parking lot, we're not sure there's much help for you.)

Letting your 5-year-old drive the cart

Children in the grocery store can cause a lot of havoc, whether they're screaming because they want the sugary cereal, or because they've just had enough shopping and want to go home. (You're preaching to the choir, kid.)

We can put up with the screaming. It actually drowns out the rattle from the loose grocery cart wheel. But when mom or dad lets the kid push the cart up and down the aisles, we can't take it anymore. Or, more appropriately, the bruises on our legs can't take it anymore.

There are plenty of reasons why 5-year-olds aren't allowed to drive a car, and they can't drive a grocery cart properly either. We understand that parents sometimes just need a moment of peace in the store, and letting the kids push the cart might seem like a good way to achieve it. Trust us (and our bruised legs): It isn't.

Overdoing the coupons craze

In 2016, Statista says US consumers redeem roughly 2.2 billion coupons. And despite what it may have seemed like, the person in front of you in the checkout lane yesterday did not account for half of those coupons all by himself.

We're not going to criticize someone for using coupons— saving money is never a bad thing. However, we admit that watching someone hand the cashier a thick stack of coupons causes us to groan audibly. Not only does the cashier have to scan every coupon, but with more coupons, there's almost certain to be a time-wasting dispute coming between the customer and cashier.

If you want to use coupons, read the guidelines printed on the coupon carefully, so you are certain you've purchased the right thing. Its' also a good idea to take a look at the store's coupon policy ahead of time. Finally, try to shop at a time when the store isn't as busy, so people don't have to wait behind you while the cashier scans your coupons — whether you have 20 or 2 billion of them.

Playing Candy Crush in the candy aisle … or any other aisle

Using smartphones to run apps, watch videos, and check social media continues to occupy a greater portion of the average person's day. From 2013 to 2018, eMarketer reports that the amount of time a person spent daily with a smartphone climbed from 2 hours, 15 minutes to well over three hours.

So it's not surprising to see more and more people using their smartphone in the grocery store for everything from texts and emails to gaming. Unfortunately, when people are engrossed with what's on the smartphone screen as they move through the store, they're rudely ignoring everyone else and probably blocking the aisle, causing a backed up traffic jam.

Etiquette expert William Hanson says smartphone usage in the checkout lane is just as rude, because forcing the cashier to ask for payment three or four times wastes everyone's time. If you just can't help yourself, he suggests putting your smartphone obsession to use by shopping online instead.

Running back into the store for one last item after your items are already rung up

We've all spent an ungodly amount of time shopping in the grocery store, finally making it to the checkout lane, only to realize as the cashier scans the last item that we forgot our spouse's favorite snack that we promised to buy.

Here's where the dilemma hits: Do we rudely hold up the line of people behind us to run back into the snack aisle? Please don't. Remember, that two minutes you spend searching for the right snack seems like it takes 10 times as long for the people impatiently waiting for you to return.

Instead of acting like our time is far more valuable than everyone else's time (which is the essence of rude), we'd suggest just playing it cool. Finish paying, pretending like you purchased everything you wanted. And when you slink back into the store for that forgotten item a few minutes after loading the car, just pretend you can't hear the store's security people laughing at you from the video room.

Crashing the express lane with way too many items

Remember when we mentioned the rudeness of letting your kids push the grocery cart earlier? Instead of letting then drive the cart, we'd suggest putting them to work to help you avoid another common grocery store rude behavior: Have them count the number of items in your cart before you jump in that 10-items-or-less express lane. Most kids can count to 10 pretty easily … even though it seems like certain grocery store customers using the express lane cannot.

One grocery store manager says cashiers don't mind if someone uses the express lane with a few items over the limit, but 20 items in the 10-items-or-less lane is overdoing it.

Remember that even if the cashier doesn't care if you have 11 or 12 items, the people waiting impatiently behind you may still make a rude comment about your counting skills. You'll just have to decide if the few minutes you'll save by using the 10-item lane is worth a snarky comment or two.

Opening the freezer section doors long enough that they fog over

Have you ever yelled at your kids or spouse for leaving the refrigerator door open for what seems like an eternity while they try to decide what they want? You really should cut them some slack — unless you have a fancy new smart refrigerator that tells you what's inside without opening the door, they have to open the solid door to see what's in there.

Now, the doors in the freezer aisle are a different story. Because they're transparent, you can see what's inside without having to open the door. So, of course, people naturally prop the door open for what seems like an eternity while they choose which variation of vanilla ice cream to grab. After they've finished, the door fogs over, and now you must open it to see what's inside, creating a perpetual cycle of people propping freezer doors open. Not to mention, there may very well be someone standing right behind you who knows exactly what they want, waiting for you to clear out of the way. 

Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman has a simple fix for this rude behavior: Figure out what you want before opening the clear freezer door. (Sounds a lot like the advice we give the kids for the refrigerator at home.)

Squeezing the produce a little too hard

The produce aisle is the best area of the grocery store, as it has healthy food that also can taste great. But if you think about it too much, it also can be the worst. After all, you can never be quite sure how many other people have pawed the apple or head of lettuce you're about to select (maybe the best reason to wash your produce, ever).

Even worse, some people like to test the the freshness of melons and other produce by squeezing them. Not only is this kind of gross, but it's rude behavior, because it could damage the produce for the person who ends up purchasing it — because, of course, the person who squeezed it too hard isn't going to buy it.

Instead of squeezing, ask the produce manager at your store for some tips to tell if produce is ripe by sight. For example, Avocados Australia says you often can determine if an avocado is ripe by the shade of the exterior color.

Taste testing — even when there are no free samples

Some grocery stores offer occasional free samples, which are great for trying new foods (but not a way to feed the entire family, please).

Some especially rude people fail to understand that those free samples are limited to certain times and days. So you shouldn't be making your way through the store, grazing from the produce aisle, the bulk food aisle, and the self-serve donut cabinet (please don't be that person). Most other customers do not want to watch you grab a bunch of grapes, pluck a few off, and pop them into your mouth. Or even worse, watch you grab a self-serve donut, eat it while walking through the store, lick the icing off your fingers, and then paw through the apples in the produce aisle.

Not only is it rude to make other customers watch you eat, but snacking inside the store is the same as stealing, according to Rosalinda Randall.

Attempting to buy alcohol without an ID or at a lane with a clearly teenage cashier

There's nothing wrong with buying alcohol at the grocery store. There is something wrong with holding up the entire line while you argue about why you need to show the cashier an ID.

Depending on the store's policy, cashiers may not have a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding who needs to produce ID for alcohol sales, as the South Bend Tribune explains. Some stores require that cashiers card everyone — no matter how old they may look. So even if you find it annoying to be asked for an ID at the store, understand that yelling at the cashier only makes you look like a rude jerk. It's not going to have you sitting at home and enjoying your alcohol purchase any faster.

Save yourself and those behind you in the line a lot of time by making sure you didn't leave your ID in the car. Even better, don't pick a checkout lane with a cashier who's clearly too young to ring up your alcohol purchase, or you're just going to end up wasting time waiting for a manager.

Leaving items you no longer want on any random shelf

Rude behavior isn't limited to how customers treat each other in the grocery store. You can be rude to the store's employees and owners too, in a few different ways. One of the worst, according to one grocery store manager, is leaving unwanted items anywhere in the store that's convenient for you. "We wish customers would return items directly to us, as a cashier, at the register, instead of just placing them 'wherever' on the shelf," they explained.

Not only is it disgusting for other customers to reach for a can of soup only to stick their hand in a random box of melting Popsicles, but it's disrespectful to whichever poor store employee must clean up the mess later. That minute you might save by not returning to the aisle where you picked up the original item may cause 10 minutes or more of clean-up work for the store employee.

Holding a gathering of long lost friends

It's truly amazing how many long lost friends and families are reunited in the exact aisle we're trying to walk through in the grocery store. Or maybe it just seems like our local grocery store is the setting for multiple episodes of Long Lost Family every week because of the large number of gatherings of people blocking the flow of traffic through the store.

It's certainly fun to see an old friend or your in-laws at the grocery store (unless your brother-in-law is walking toward you while snacking on a donut he grabbed from the bakery aisle). But if you can tell early on that the reunion is going to be a more involved conversation than a simple "Hello," etiquette expert William Hanson says you should move to the coffee shop in the store and talk as long as you want without interrupting the shopping flow for other customers.

Leaving your cart in the middle of the parking lot

One thing that always amazes us when pulling into the grocery store parking lot is the number of stray grocery carts just left anywhere. It's almost like a shopper feels like they can't take an extra 30 seconds to return a cart to the designated area, instead choosing to rudely inconvenience other shoppers and the store's employees. (Surely, that can't be true.)

That random cart in the parking lot may be a minor annoyance as you drive around it when you park, but it could become a major source of anger after you leave the store with your groceries and notice it has rolled into your car, leaving a scratch and a dent. (The four wheels on the grocery cart make it good at moving, but not so good at stopping.)

Have some respect for other shoppers and for the store's employees by returning the cart to the designated area, etiquette expert Maralee McKee says. It's just simple courtesy. Otherwise, we may see more stores begin making you use a quarter to gain access to a shopping cart, like Aldi does, and then refunding the quarter to you when you return the cart to the correct location.

Making comments on items in other people's carts

We're not ashamed to admit that sometimes we need a more effective edit button between our brains and our mouths. In other words, instead of blurting out everything we're thinking, we take a second to decide whether we're better off keeping that particular comment to ourselves. (Nearly always, the answer is a resounding yes.)

Such as when we're in the pharmacy section of the grocery store, and we want to give the random stranger stealthily grabbing the diarrhea medicine directions to the store's bathroom, just in case they need them. It's probably best for all involved to keep this thought inside your brain, according to etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. No matter how caring this thought sounds in your head, it's almost certainly going to come out of your mouth rudely … and loudly, drawing the stares of everyone in the area.

To keep your tongue in check, treat the other shopping carts in the store like someone's private kitchen cupboard, where the items are hidden from view. Just pretend you can't see the parent buying his or her clearly excitable kid multiple boxes of Super Sugar Monster Sweetened Puffs with Marshmallows, and you won't be tempted to provide some unwanted advice.