Grocery Grudges

Celebrities; they think they own the place! (Photo: eonline via

Celebrities; they think they own the place! (Zac Ephron photo: eonline via

I am not quick to anger. But this weekend’s grocery shopping pressed all my grouchy buttons. First of all, when I was paying for a grocery order, the person behind me kept encroaching until their shopping cart hit the back of my knees. Not hard, no injury. So I moved forward, and seeing more room, she rammed me in the back of the knees again! Tell me, how does a person push a cart until it meets resistance and not realize it is due to the person standing in front of them? When I turned around, she was completely oblivious. Both times.

Next, the produce market is a very small space. The fruit and veg are arranged along both sides of just one U-shaped aisle which goes from the front door to the checkout, so everyone travels in the same direction, single-file. All the regulars know what they want and how to pick up their items in order, from the entrance to the exit, without doubling back. If someone stops and takes 4 minutes to decide which cantaloupe to buy, you have to wait behind them! It is a grueling process. En route, staff are always restocking and you have to squeeze past them. Everyone’s patience is tested. Especially when, like this weekend, a shopper stopped to argue on her phone, next to an inventory stocker, so no one could get by, and she glared at everyone who tried to wedge their way around, as if to say, ” I’m busy here! What’s your problem?”

My #1 pet peeve when grocery shopping is that as I go up and down the aisles with my cart, I slow down at the end of each one and look before I turn into the next one. As you may realize, 90% of the population wheels around each corner without looking, and they get annoyed with you for “being there,” where they haven’t looked. Silly me, thinking the rules of the road should apply! And it doesn’t matter how big the store is. I’ve been to Costco on a slow day, with its acres of aisle space, and the other customers still bash your cart at every corner as if you were bumper cars.

In true Canadian style, I have never seen a skirmish in a grocery store, or even much snappiness. We all just step aside and roll our eyes and mutter under our breath to the next person, “Get a load of that guy! He must be in a rush!” and maybe we eat a chocolate bar while we wait and put the wrapper on the conveyor belt so the cashier can charge us for it.

Yes, but did she pay for that? (Jessica Alba photo via

Yes, but did she pay for that? (Jessica Alba photo via

Now there are a lot of other behaviours which don’t bother me at all:

  • shoppers who divide their stuff into two orders and pay for them separately
  • someone who asks for a price check when they get to the till
  • the person in front of me who pulls out a wad of coupons
  • the customer who counts out exact change in coins from her purse
  • the family who send one member back into the aisles to pick up a few more things while the others stand in line

To me, those things are time-consuming, not deliberately rude. And besides, I can’t begrudge anyone who is trying to save a few pennies!

If you have difficulties maneuvering in public, you are going to dread shopping. I am always aware of certain elderly people who don’t hear me approach or don’t see me reaching around them, and they are startled over and over again – or they are convinced that I “snuck up on them” or “came out of nowhere” – due to their hearing or their slowing reflexes. There are lots of people who don’t fare well with crowds or with confrontations of any kind. There are so many possible social interactions when shopping – positive or negative – that I bet it can be overwhelming. What if you have a cart full of food and you have to use the washroom? What if the cashier says, “Next, please!” and someone cuts in front of you? What if your debit card doesn’t work? What if you are overcharged? I can see how some of us would think it through and decide to stay home instead! (try some of the advice here)

I am one of those rare people who likes grocery shopping. I love the thousands of choices. I love how you can always get some things dirt cheap, like a bag of potatoes or a can of beans. I love how I can eat so well and it still costs a tiny fraction of my household budget. I love that I can buy things that don’t grow here, like wheat and bananas. I love how I don’t have to grow my own food unless I want to! So every time I go grocery shopping, I have a grin on my face. Maybe that’s why people keep trying to bump me off?

Are you a happy or a grumpy shopper? What bugs you most?



  1. I one time has en elderly customer ask if I could handle another customer who were letting kids run all over the aisle and they were screaming and hollering. I did; not fair to the other customers you can’t handle your own kids. The mom gave me the third degree; didn’t care. I have a kid of my own and when he gets too rough or misbehaves I take him outside till his tantrum runs its course. Why should the world bend to you due to your circumstances? You chose to have the kids; not everyone else. That is how society works; we ALL abide by a common set of rules and social etiquette.

    • I think so, too – we’d all be better off with respect for rules and just plain courtesy. I wonder how it feels to live in a country like Japan where that really is the norm? But I suppose a lot of countries with the “best behaviour” are ones with oppressive rules, like Singapore. I like the idea of parents taking responsibility for their own kids in public – when they don’t, it really shows!

  2. EcoCatLady

    Oh my… I can totally relate to the frustration at “center of the universe” shoppers – especially when it comes to cell phones and aisle clogging. The worst are the families and couples who must make shopping into an opportunity to air their grievances with each other – never mind how many people are trying to get around them in the aisle.

    But I also fear that I might drive other shoppers a bit crazy on occasion. I am not a “make a list” sort of shopper. Well… I generally arrive with a list of essentials that I came to get, but I prefer to shop based on what’s on sale or what’s in season and looks particularly good. Yes… I am the crazy lady who stands there carefully inspecting every apple for signs of a bruise before I’ll select it. I also often take a seemingly nonsensical zig-zag route through the store, doubling back as I think of things that I might want, or I’ll decide that I need xyz ingredient to complete a meal with xyz thing that I just found a bounty of in the discount bin at the back of the store. And I NEVER go through every single aisle – I just go to the ones that have something I need, so I’m sure I wind up going “against traffic” periodically.

    But usually I try to do my shopping during non-peak hours when the store isn’t very crowded anyhow. The absolute WORST time to shop is around Thanksgiving, when the store is jammed with people who never make anything from scratch trying to figure out what they need for their annual home cooking experiment. That sorta makes me crazy.

    And don’t EVEN get me started about the people they hire to do the sacking! I almost always go through the self checkout lane so I can bag my own groceries, because it just makes me crazy otherwise. It’s like the people doing the bagging have no clue – they’ll take my bag of apples and just drop it into the bag creating a bunch of bruises on the fruit I so carefully selected! Plus, they’ll put about 3 things in each sack and then quickly decide that the reusable bags I brought weren’t enough and send me home with a few dozen plastic ones. GRRRRRR!

    Ha! So apparently I do have my share of shopping pet peeves!

  3. I am a very picky food shopper – a couple of places I like to buy bread, one for pickles/olives/cheese, a greenmarket, a vegetable/fruit store, an Italian market for pasta and oil, a middle eastern market for spices and dried fruit. I shop with a list because otherwise I get distracted. Donna makes fun of me because I am incapable of shopping in only one store to make dinner.
    In the annoyance department, I am on the look out for people trying to jump ahead of me in line, or who don’t know the “shopping protocol” of taking a number or keeping track of who was there ahead of you (they are always sure they are next). I also get annoyed with people who, after waiting to be helped, don’t know what they want or how much.

    • I try to shop only once a week, but I make the rounds of 5 different stores, mainly to get the best prices. If I go to just the main supermarket, I cringe at paying their prices for things I can do better on elsewhere. Or the quality/brands elsewhere are what I prefer.

  4. Like you, I enjoy grocery shopping as well but there are quite a few people who like the new shopping services that deliver groceries right to their door. I prefer to shop in the “off hours” before the stores get too crowded (and definitely not on weekend, payday, or after work when stores are the most crowded.

  5. Hrm… I loathe long lines, esp now we have so many automated check outs, it make me jaded to not have a faster experience somehow? Otherwise, I TRY to shop when I’m in a good headspace (this evening, not so much, but whipped in, three pieces of produce, short line, and out. Alas, got home to no steam to cut/cook and now grouchy cause I bet BF doesn’t use the fresh vege tonight after his gym sesh, and tomorrow being Fri, we’re both even less likely to use them…)

    Generally speaking though, on the balance of the regular congestion locally (which wasn’t the case at the loft’s supermarket) and the cost and convenience of delivery, and not being the ‘sole’ responsibility for shopping, I prefer online to in store. The past few weeks, however, we’ve subsisted on top up shops, seeing, well, as I’m the sole online grocery orderer… I sense a readjustment needed!

    • I haven’t tried online grocery ordering – no great need to save time right now. Maybe someday when I am looking after my parents! I go to 4 out of 5 of our usual grocery stores by myself, to save costs (it is better not having two of us indulging all our whims!) So if your solo efforts save time and money…

  6. krisalex333

    My pet peeve is people socializing in the middle of the aisle and then glaring at you trying to pass as if you are the one being rude. Ugh.

  7. I’m a happy grocery shopper. Smile, say after you, joke with people, help older people. But I avoid huge supermarkets. I shop in a smaller centre that has a separate butcher and green grocery. The supermarket has 6 quite short aisles.

    But if I never had to go grocery shopping again, I’d be fine with that. My view is I have to do it so I may as well maintain a happy mood and not let others affect me. Though if there was a person blocking everyone while talking on the phone, if probably ask her to move with a loud, “Excuse me.”

  8. I’m generally a happy shopper. Actually, my biggest pet peeve is usually a store when the line is long but there’s only 2 or 3 tills open. There’s also other minor annoyances but not because of “shopping” but because of over-crowding in the store. I dislike crowds greatly.

    • Yeah, we know that grocery stores do a huge amount of analysis on their traffic patterns, so they should be able to get that right! Which infers they’re doing it on purpose because they know we won’t get annoyed enough to leave or switch to a competitor…I do like crowds, but not when too many of the folks are convinced they’re in competition with each other!

  9. Gam Kau

    I dislike shopping of any kind, but will tolerate it so long as the shop is not crowded. Not so good with crowds. Just recently I signed up for yearly grocery delivery service and I’m so pleased – wish it had been invented when I had little ones at home.

  10. Hi Dar – your post amused me as I have just got back from my grocery shop!
    I usually go after work when it is quieter at our supermarket because most sensible people have gone home for thier tea). I always make an outing of it and treat myself to a hot chocolate in the cafe before I begin – I sometimes plan my menus for the week at the same time. I then saunter up and down the homewares and clothing aisle first and now I have to include the baby clothes aisle! – I then check out the magazines (trying hard to browse only not buy) and then the serious business starts when I reach the first of the grocery aisles and I have to speed up a bit so I don’t overun the 2 hour car parking limit!!
    With being poorly this week I had to go shopping this morning and it was a disaster – so much busier and yes everything you listed in your post must have happened and it all irritated me. I look forward to going on my usual Tuesday evening next week when I can glide easily up and down the aisles without fear of being stalked by another shoppers trolley – I can go straight to an empty checkout and even take my time making sure I have used all my coupons. So yes I think I am a happy shopper – as long as I pick a quieter time to go.

  11. Fiona

    I have so many pet peeves with shopping that we’ve gone back to online shopping most of the time. I think what deters me most is the general environment: garish lighting, advertising overload, blaring announcements, lack of daylight. I agree though that I feel incredibly grateful that food is so (relatively) inexpensive and with such a huge array of choice and convenience. It blows me away that with a few online clicks, someone will bring food to my house, roll it in to the kitchen on a trolley and unpack it on the benches. It amazes me each and every week!

    • That sounds very appealing! I agree about the advertising. Last week I saw that in the so-called “Candy Free Checkout,” they had granola bars, gum and comic books. Grr!

  12. Oh i’m with you… I hate the “bumpers” and the ones that smash in your cart without a freaking clue. Drives me *INSANE*. lol! The rest I can handle… i’m sure I annoy others with my ipod list that I have to stop & check a million times so I don’t forget anything. hahah!!!

    • I tried an iPad list for a while and I may go back to it because I was better organized then! But you couldn’t possibly be more annoying than the people who call home every 5 minutes and ask, “What kind of pop did you want?” and “What cereal was I supposed to get? What does it look like?’ etc. 🙂

  13. Ginger R

    Fortunately – in our division of labor – DH (dear hubby) does the grocery shopping. So – when I go – I’m usually a happy shopper. I’m always amazed at the new products. Not that I want to try them. Just amazed there are so many ways to package and sell convenience. We always shop with a list. And since I started a low-carb diet I’m going more often than I used to go. There are two things that bug me: People unnecessarily blocking the aisles – oblivious to other shoppers around them. People who don’t return their shopping carts to the cart bins in the parking lot. Well – maybe one more thing: People who throw trash in the parking lot. Or – maybe it’s really – stores who don’t police the parking lot gathering carts and cleaning up trash…But that’s it…

    • Oh yeah, parking lot issues! I shopped at a new store one time that had electronic range limits on the carts. I had parked far away, and the wheels of the cart locked up before I could get as far as my car! So I took as many grocery bags as I could carry to my car, and watched my cart from a distance. Sure enough, other people walked up to it and looked in and debated whether to take (or turn in) the rest of my stuff! And I had to wave and shout and tell them it was mine and I would be back for it ASAP!

  14. Holly

    I have moved many staples to Amazon subscribe-and-save, and I have experimented with CSA shares and online services. But I still need the grocery for some items, and several groceries to get what I want. I mostly like to shop for food, and I too go to about 5 stores. I have them on a sort of rotation, and usually hit up 2-3 on the weekend, and 1-2 during the week on the way home from work, etc. My pet peeves include the Oblivious Socializers and the Lollygaggers at Checkout. The first category has been discussed here already. The second are the people who in front of me who put their food up onto the conveyer belt ever so slowly, and spaced so far apart, and then they don’t put down a divider so I can begin mine easily, and worse yet, they don’t pull their cart forward as the cashier begins to check them out. And so there I stand, waiting for them to give me permission to being putting my items on the belt, which is signaled by them (finally) pulling their cart foward enough to allow me to do so. Annoying for sure. Also the Space Invaders annoy me to no end. That’s when I am using my card to pay and they have already put all their stuff on the belt (because I gave them access, because I am not a Lollaggaer at Checkout) and they get so close to me I can feel their breath on my neck as I try to pay. I find a pointed glare sometimes gets the person to step back, sometimes not. Otherwise I am a friendly, happy, helpful shopper.

  15. Thanks for the link! Has your NYC trip happened yet? Because most of our grocery stores are tiny! It can be quite an experience.

  16. I enjoy grocery shopping too. I’ve never heard of a produce aisle set up as yours is (it does sound frustrating). Usually they’re arranged in islands or long rows of similar items here. Which is why on weekends, I only shop in the first hour the grocery store is open or on weekdays, I shop mid-afternoon (2:30 or so) to avoid crowds. My favorite times are when I pull up and I only see 10-15 cars in the parking lot 🙂

    Oh, and I had to chuckle at “maybe that’s why people keep trying to bump me off” because bumping someone off means killing them around here. Odd to imagine assassins in a grocery store!

  17. Gemma Ptolemy

    I also hate people who come around a corner without looking. I usually push my cart of the aisle a little before I commit to turning so people see me. In a related note, I hate people who walk on the wrong side of the hallway and bump into me coming around corners. I don’t know what I would have done if someone hit me twice with their cart. Probably would have said something like excuse you with an evil face. I do like driving the carts around. It is just like driving. I couldn’t go to a place where there was just 1 lane and I had to wait to get food after they are done.

    • Hi Gemma, It is funny about the “wrong” side of a hallway. I was always taught to walk on the right, just like we drive on the right. Rom is from the UK and used to drive on the left. so sometimes he really confuses people when he doesn’t walk on the right! It is really expected. Yeah, I bet a lot of people don’t go to the market with one “lane,” because it would irritate them too much, but the prices are unbeatable!

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