How to Be an AWESOME Human Being at the Grocery Store

How to be an AWESOME Human Being at the

I considered writing a post about how not to be a jerk-face at the grocery store. You know: don’t use the Express Line when you clearly have more than the maximum number of items; don’t stand in the middle of a narrow aisle reading your shopping list; don’t reach your grimy hands into every bulk bin to sample (I am referring to grown-ups who do this) and don’t keep talking on your cell phone while your cashier is ringing up your purchases. No, I decided it would be much more fun and effective to write a list of super simple ways we can all be superheroes at the grocery store.

Because you know what? Kindness is the common cold of human behaviour: ridiculously contagious. We all have to buy groceries, and very few of us would list it as one of our favourite ways to spend time. (Stay-at-home parents able to shop alone with a Starbucks not included.) The people who work at our local grocery store are our neighbours, and ringing through our cereal boxes is likely not the highlight of their day, either. So let’s all just agree to start small … change the world one shopping trip at a time!

How to be an Awesome Human Being at the Grocery Store

Let someone cut ahead of you in line.

Do you have a month’s worth of provisions in your cart and the person behind you just has a take-out salad for their lunch break? Is there a ridiculously pregnant lady with a toddler on the verge of a meltdown looking frazzled getting in line? You shall let them pass. (Bonus points for doing this at Costco.)

When I was super pregnant, I had people offer to let me cut in line a few times. Sometimes I gratefully declined. Other times I was so happy to be a few steps closer to getting to the bathroom. We’ve all been at the grocery store or Costco, needing to pay for that one item we forgot and facing a long wait for a huge order to be rung through. Being let into the lineup or letting someone in is only a matter of a couple of minutes in a day, but it can have an impact!

Help a parent wrangle their child into the shopping cart.

Hold a cart

Lifting my preschooler into the shopping cart, especially when I’ve got his sister strapped to my chest, is tricky at best. If the shopping cart is rolling away from me, or he is taking my command to “bend your knees” to mean “buckle your knees,” an extra set of hands is like hitting the jackpot.

Changed your mind? Put it back where you got it!


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It happens all the time. You grab one item on your list only to find a cheaper option further down the aisle, or maybe your toddler has made a few executive decisions and you’re hoping they won’t notice that they don’t make it home in the grocery bags. The candy rack at the checkout isn’t a catch-all for unwanted products. Especially perishable products! During a recent grocery trip I noticed a package of chicken abandoned in the cereal aisle … and I just thought about how this was a recipe for disaster. Who knows how long it was sitting there … would a stock boy put it back in the cooler? Or would it have to be thrown out? The thoughts of it being sold to an unsuspecting customer or tossed in the trash are both distasteful to me.

Worst case if you change your mind? Give it to the cashier who can get another employee to return it to the shelf for you!

Grab a shopping cart from someone who’s just loaded up their vehicle.

Put the cart back

Sometimes you’re parked quite far from the shopping cart corral, and I know some people just leave their cart on the curb. Then, other shoppers arrive and there are no carts left. Or it gets windy and a cart rolls full force into a parked car. Or the last parking spot is blocked by abandoned shopping carts.

Depending on your grocery store, you might have to put a quarter or a loonie into your shopping cart as motivation to return it. If you’re about to go grab a cart and see someone who’s just loaded up their car, save them the trip and offer to take their cart! (Give them a quarter if that’s how your grocery store rolls).

Not having to wheel the kids back to the cart corral when it’s rainy totally makes my day!

Reach an item from a high shelf.

I you are blessed with long limbs and you see someone struggling on tippy toes to reach a can at the back of a tall shelf, offer to grab it down for them! Doing this actually makes me feel like a total superstar. The gift of height that, due to my stunning lack of coordination, never paid off in terms of a WNBA or modelling contract, totally pays off at the grocery store.

Smile at the child in line ahead of you. Heck, smile at whatever human is in line ahead of you.

Anyone that helps take my child’s mind off of the array of candy bars at his eye level is a hero in my books. I am usually wearing Little Miss Cub when waiting in line, and I love it when people comment on my carrier, or ask how old the baby is, or chat with Cub about the superheroes on his t-shirt. Am I naïve to think that it’s just really nice to be nice?

Put down the divider on the conveyor belt.

Place the divider

For me, this is the pinnacle of grocery store courtesy. To me, it says, “Take a load off, fellow shopper. I’ve created this space for your items on the conveyor belt, and this plastic stick will ensure your order doesn’t get mixed up with mine.”

Seriously. It’s that meaningful to me.  Even if there’s no one in line behind me, I put down that divider. Sometimes I have to pick it up again and let Cub put it down, since HE wants to do it himself, but either way, it’s the single gesture of grocery store heroism I am committed to completing regardless of how crappy a day I may be having.

What little things do you think we can all do for our fellow human beings at the grocery store?


11 responses to “How to Be an AWESOME Human Being at the Grocery Store”

  1. Leonie

    Yes definitely smile at babies and kids. If you see my wee one at the supermarket and he is being grumpy it is probably because someone walked past us and didn’t smile at him. He us a little charmer and just wants to smile at everyone. Just seeing that charming smile will make your shopping trip a much better experience!

  2. sabina Edwards

    BEFORE you judge, make sure that a sales associate did not tell the customer to go to the checkout for min items…in our walmart they do this all the time ..its standard practice and the associates are told to do this (My DIL worked there for over a year before they moved)
    Didn’t put the cart back? don’t judge unless you know why … are they children with the mom? should she put the cart away and leave her baby unattended ? should she drag the baby back and forth? perhaps she’s had a c-section and is not supposed to be lifting the carrier and the baby because of stitches…. A CART is a small thing to worry about when every single store has employees who get paid to do that as their job.

    the best thing I advise, is to treat the sales people.associates like they’re your best friend …treating someone like crap because they work at a min wage job is something that should never have to b e tolerated

    1. Lindsay

      This is why my post is about things you CAN do, and not a list of things NOT to do, and why I suggest helping someone out by grabbing their cart from them in the parking lot. I like to go through life assuming the best of people!

  3. Amy S.

    If there’s no bagger around bag your own groceries while you’re being rung up (if you can manage it, of course). Nothing sucks more than having to wait while the cashier rings up a cart full of stuff, and then wait some more because they have to turn around and bag it all up.

    P. S. Nice LOTR reference. 😉

  4. Elishia

    This list could start with parking between the lines. it’s so hard to get kids in or out of carseats when someone parks too close,or the only reasonable spot left is tiny.

  5. Carol Sipler

    As a customer service/cashier in our local supermarket, I loudly applaud your “be nice” suggestions. We have the busiest store in our entire chain, and it can make for some short tempers and disagreeable customers and clerks. Being nice is contagious, and little things do matter. Thank you for your wonderful suggestions

    1. Lindsay

      I have a feeling, Carol, that you could write an amazing piece on the annoying things supermarket shoppers do!! On behalf of humanity, I apologize for every customer who keeps talking on their cell phone while you’re serving them!

  6. Knittinchick

    I did a stint at the local Costco while going back to school to upgrade and work around my Kindergartener’s school schedule. I agree with everything and would add “how you treat people who serve you really shows your true character.” … Just because someone is working in customer service doesn’t mean that they don’t have a master’s degree or are a new Canadian… But the bigger thing is that we are all human!

  7. Amy H

    Plan ahead, and more than just your shopping list. Plan to avoid times or days when it is super busy paticularly if you have bring the kids.
    Plan where you will park so you can easily get or put back the cart kids and all. I gave up finding a parking lot near the front of the store, I prefer one near a cart corral.
    plan how you will keep the kids entertained.

  8. Molly

    Be courteous and friendly. And put the cart away. Also, if I am looking at stuff or pulling out a coupon and I see someone looking at stuff behind me, I move my cart out if the way.

  9. I totally agree with you, Lindsay. I’ve shared your post to my teenage-girl and she does agree that we surely can do all your advise when we are in grocey store. Keep going, my daughter and me still looking forwards to your new post. 😉

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Welcome to my Wolf Pack!

My name is Lindsay and I am a 40-year-old mama of four trying to live an eco-friendly, budget-friendly life! I am a substitute teacher and Child Passenger Safety technician in Calgary, Alberta. Join me on my adventures!

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