15 items or less

Vince is a little touchy about check out line etiquette.

I was in a local grocery store the other day and watched as a man had a meltdown while waiting in an express lane line.

An old woman had forgotten or couldn’t find raisins. She asked the cashier about the raisins and he called for a store employee standing nearby to go fetch the raisins.

As soon as the employee went off in search of raisins, the man, who was next in line, began to have a meltdown.  

“Should I go to another lane?” he shouted at the cashier. “I don’t have all day!”

The cashier, who is so efficient I always get in his line, assured the man having the meltdown that the raisins would be found quickly and that it would not hold him up.

But this did not satisfy Mr. Meltdown. The man looked at his wristwatch, paced around, and let out a few loud sighs.

The only thing that would have been worse is if he would have turned to me and asked, “Can you believe what they are doing to us?”

I get it, no one likes to wait, but more time was spent answering the meltdown man’s question than was devoted to the search for raisins.

This meltdown probably would have been forgotten by me, but it happened only days before another incident and the two together got me to  wondering if we as a society have forgotten the effect our bad behavior has on others.

After meltdown man, I encountered a blatant breach of etiquette at my favorite local discount store.

I was in Belmont’s at the time, but checkout line etiquette shouldn’t be limited to upscale local stores such as .   

Anyway, I was standing in a line with over a dozen other people. There was only one line open and everyone was well behaved and waiting as the cashier (who I’ll admit has a ways to go before being declared efficient) handled customers as fast as she could.

Seeing a growing line, the store’s employees opened another line. And this is when I learned that some people either don’t know the rules or don’t care about them.

Because the moment this second lane was opened, a woman, who had to be 3-4 customers behind me, sprinted toward the newly opened lane.

“They’re opening a new lane,” she said as she stomped toward the lane with the same speed and excitement you usually see on The Price is Right when a contestant has been called to come on down.    

No one moved as we all stared at this woman running to be the first person in line. I think everyone was probably thinking what I was thinking – “I hope that woman falls flat on her face.”

Then again, they could have been thinking that the woman had violated checkout line protocol.   

In an ideal world the cashier opening a new lane would have come over and asked someone to be her first customer. But in the absence of this, I was under the impression that we all believed that the people at the head of a line are entitled to get checked out first because they have waited the longest.

I always thought that people realize that in a civilized society we always think about the effect our actions have on  others.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Charlie October 13, 2011 at 01:53 PM
I would suggest that both the old lady was at fault for holding up the line and the store was at fault for enabling her behaviour -- basically, the two made the decision that her time used in re-entering the store, getting the raisins and completing that purchase was more important than the time of all of the other people in the line. That seems very self-important of the old lady to the other shoppers, very condescending of the cashier to the people in the line and very rude to other shoppers in general. The lady should be deeply ashamed and the cashier disciplined. As to the second, there really isn't any "rule" that states that when a new line is opened it is somehow reserved for waiting customers -- that would be silly. So, in a line of six people with carts that would mean all six would back up their carts in unison so that the first could go over there? Really?? Would this rule apply if the line being opened was an express, or on the other side of the store? What about people who have already loaded groceries on to the belt (and are technically "first"), would they reload their groceries into the cart (which then waits on the other people to back up in unison), go over and unload again?
rushro October 13, 2011 at 02:34 PM
The old lady should be "deeply ashamed?" Please. What Vincent described happens all the time at Safeway and it doesn't slow things down all that much because usually the clerk is still checking out her other items while the raisins are being retrieved. On your second point, yes, there is a rule of civility that you would try to keep the same order in the new line. It's not difficult. People whose items were already on the belt would probably opt to stay in that line.
Charlie October 13, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Yep, "deeply ashamed". She valued her time more than that of all of the others in the line, which sounds pretty conceited on her part. Change the situation: instead of an old lady looking for raisins, how about if instead she took the same amount of time to call her grandson on her cellphone -- same amount of time taken, still feel she gets a pass, or that she's rude? Change the actors: instead of an old lady, make it a high school student who suddenly forgets the item -- same situation, same amount of time, does she get a pass or is she rude also? How about if the lady then forgets about some milk, then some bread, then some apples -- same situation, just repeated, does she get to spend all day in line having her groceries hand-picked, or does she now appear to be just a bit conceited about her time? The proper way to handle this for the cashier is to explain where the raisins are located and continue to complete the transaction -- if someone can get the raisins before the last item is checked then OK, if not then they just aren't there and the lady can get them later at her leisure. The cashier should gently but firmly complete the transaction, just as they gently but firmly remind someone pushing 40+ items into the express line about the 15 item limit, and that's what the cashier should be reminded of.
jann October 13, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Charlie, where do you shop? I want to avoid you at all costs.
Char Vanderweel October 13, 2011 at 06:36 PM
*sigh* moral of the story: shop online and have your groceries delivered so that i don't have to read silly opinion pieces like this one.
Brad October 13, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Charlie, you must be Mr. Meltdown. Get a clue...it's all about slowing down a bit and being courteous to each other. We as a society seem to be losing that skill. I personally feel better about myself when I am patient and courteous to others and not a jerk.
Kerry - ND October 13, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Yes, it's kind of a silly daytime tv piece, but hey, this I guess these are the things people have to focus on when you live in Belmont. Should make you happy ;) Actually, I friggin hate people who screw up everyone in line. We're pretty civilized for queue discipline here in the US. The lady running the the cash register would've probably been a herd in a euro store. I'm sure I wouldn't have fallen apart over some raisins, but you don't know what meltdown man's hurry was. Once I waited in the checkout line at Whole Foods for at least a good 10-15 minutes while some woman who was (trying) to buy several hundred dollars worth of produce went through several permutations with a debit card she swore she checked the balance on, and a remaining eighteen some dollars she had in cash. The place was packed and no one in our line wanted to risk moving to another one just to finally have the bank approve her damn transaction after the commitment to move was made. Now I knew my baby was screaming in the car and could see my in-laws glaring at me through the glass doors wondering why it was taking so long. I got pretty annoyed and told the cashier I'd just pay the remaining 5 friggin dollars of her balance to move on with. They finally got the transaction to work without my largesse, but I got a lecture from that woman and came so close to slapping her (get something you *can* afford!) Her time may be worth nothing, but mine isn't.
1Diane October 22, 2011 at 05:04 AM
Charley + Char + Kerry = narcissist + malevolent + snarky Brad = polite + kind + likable
Alice Stoddard October 23, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Raisins: Mr. Meltdown acted like a 4 year old. Kinda sad. Charlie you too might want to rethink this one as well. She is old and pooping is important to her. The nice old woman needed some fiber and the store did the right thing and sent someone to fetch them for her. Your logic is flawed in many ways. You are probably an Obama supporter. Dollar Store: When the cashier opened the 2nd line she/he should approached the next customer in line and invited her/him to the new line. This takes the rat race out of the rats. Diane: please post my adjective...and don't be mad if you too think Obama is awesoem...just makes you more like Charley.
1Diane October 24, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Alice = perspicacious + misguided (aka oxymoronic)
Kerry - ND October 24, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Very precious. Diane = judgmental.
Alice Stoddard October 25, 2011 at 01:57 AM
:) I knew it...probably have the 2012 bumpersticker on your Subaru already.


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