When at your local market…

I know I have harped in the past about grocery store etiquette. And lest you think that will stop me from doing it again…

I was at the store recently and I was standing in line with a few items at the self check-out line recently. And before you say, “But self check-out lines take jobs away from people!” let me remind you that stores aren’t in the business of providing jobs. I know that sounds counter-intuitive. But they aren’t. They are in the business of making a profit. And they are only going to hire the minimum number of people they need to maximize that profit. It doesn’t matter whether you or I like it. But it’s the rules of the game we play. They’ve realized they can outsource that job to the shoppers, and we will happily do it out of convenience.

That said, I do think anyone using the self check-out should have to first be certified as a qualified self-checker. And I know what you are thinking. What, Mike, are you the only one qualified to determine who can and can’t use the self check-out? And to that I say, sure. I’ll do it. Hire me. I’ll design the test and set the guidelines. I appreciate your faith in me.

The line at this particular store was moving along at its usual pace. As I was the next up, I noticed that the line had started to grow, as the four shoppers at the available check-outs were moving awfully slow. Three had very full carts, which pre-pandemic would have bothered me a lot more, but these days I get why you might want to be the only one touching your groceries. No biggee. I can evolve.

But the fourth? She would have had her permit canceled immediately under my rules.She was letting her child, who was maybe five, scan all the items. Now, you may think, Mike, why would you be such a grinch about a child helping checking out? And to that I say, wow, aren’t you judgy? I had no problem with that. When my kids were little they loved helping me scan out items. So I am all for that, and I await your apology. No, my problem was that she was on a phone call and was bagging one-handed. And bagging very slowly. 

And because she was exceptionally loud, I could hear her side of the conversation, and I could hear that she was not exactly giving instructions to someone who was conducting an emergency surgery. 

At one point, she stopped bagging entirely to engage on what was apparently a very important part of the phone call, one which could not possibly have had the knee-slapping laughs done post check-out.

The kid kept scanning items, but eventually ran out of places to put things. After a solid minute of her being on her phone call – as the line behind me both grew and grew restless – her child tugged at her shirt. “Mommy, I don’t have a place to put things…”

Begrudgingly, she resumed her one-handed bagging. After a couple more minutes, the gentleman next to her finished up with his large cart order as expeditiously as he could, paid for his order, grabbed his receipt and moved on. I took that slot, scanned my milk and potato chips, paid and moved on.

I walked past the woman who had been on the phone and saw her digging through her purse looking for her bank card, all the while still on the phone, as if she was surprised at the fact that pulling out a bank car would be part of this transaction.

Now I know you think I sound like an old crank here, but I assure you I offer this column as simply a general suggestion to everyone to maybe take a moment and think about how your actions might affect those around you. And maybe a little consideration for your fellow shopper can be a good thing that can send ripple effects of kindness through the world. Heck, it may even be enough to inspire someone to return their shopping cart to the corral.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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