13 Rude Things to Avoid Doing at the Grocery Store

Updated: Jan. 05, 2024

Grocery shopping is something we all have to do, seemingly all at the same time. Here’s how to make the experience better for everyone involved.

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Cart left in parking lot

Leaving your cart in the parking lot

Leaving your cart in the parking lot rather than walking it back to the cart return station is not just lazy. It’s downright annoying for anyone who thinks they’re about to pull into a parking spot only to discover there’s an empty shopping cart in the way. Not to mention, it’s infuriating for anyone who returns to discover their car is scratched thanks to a stray shopping cart. So it’s not surprising that 72 percent of responders in Treadmill Review’s survey of grocery store etiquette said leaving your cart in the lot is a big no-no.

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Person on their phone at cart

Leaving your cart in the checkout line while you grab another item

Even more universally detested than leaving your shopping cart in the parking lot is leaving your shopping cart in the checkout line while you grab another item. That’s a move that 80 percent of shoppers polled consider rude. So please do your best to finish all your shopping before lining up to check out. And whatever you do, don’t line-up-and-leave strategically to save time—everyone’s onto you.

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Check-out conveyor belt full of food
Vera Petrunina/Shutterstock

Leaving the checkout line while you’re groceries are being scanned (to grab another item)

This one seems to be a bit more well-tolerated than leaving your cart while you’re still in line, but it still annoys 68 percent of grocery shoppers. Perhaps it’s less universally annoying because the other shoppers are more willing to believe it was an accident, rather than a time-saving strategy. But 68 percent is still a significant percentage of shoppers to annoy, so better practice is to simply accept you’ve made a mistake and shop for the forgotten item at some other time.

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Checking out lettuce at the grocery store

Blocking the aisle with your cart

A whopping 90 percent of shoppers surveyed find it rude when your cart gets in the way of their own trip down an aisle. Obviously, in a store with narrow aisles or on a particularly busy shopping day, it’s harder to keep your cart out of the way of other shoppers. But it helps to bear in mind that nine out of ten people seriously dislike dealing with aisle traffic jams.

Find out more grocery store shopping secrets you should know.

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Waiting in line
Andrey Burstein/Shutterstock

Cutting the line

The easiest way to offend literally anyone at the grocery store is to cut the line—any line, whether checkout or deli. A full 99 percent of shoppers polled agreed that line-cutting is bad grocery store behavior. If you’re the one out of 100 who doesn’t mind getting cut by someone else in line, congratulations because you’re a grocery-shopping unicorn!

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Customer Giving Packet To Cashier At Checkout Counter
Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Encroaching on anyone else’s personal space in line

It’s not a coincidence that many shoppers hate when other shoppers invade their personal space on the checkout line—nearly 94 percent! Picture this scenario: You’ve just trudged around the entire grocery store, and now you’re waiting in the checkout line with your full cart, dreading the process of unloading, loading and unloading that awaits you when, suddenly, someone holding a single carton of milk in their arms starts getting just a little too close. Get to know the real reason why milk is stored at the back of the store.

You know what they’re thinking (“Can I just squeeze in before you?”), and they know what you’re thinking (“Hey! Scat!”). Better to just skip this charade by standing in line with an appropriate distance between you and the person ahead of you.

This is really the best day of the week to go grocery shopping if you’re trying to save money.

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Checking out at the grocery store
Bodnar Taras/Shutterstock

Gaming the express lane

If the express lane says “10 items or less,” then it’s bad form to get on line with 11 items or more, say 89 percent of grocery shoppers polled. And if you’re going to try to game the express lane, please don’t pretend you don’t know what you’re doing. Everyone knows what you’re doing.

Here’s the real reason Costco doesn’t even have an express lane.

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Kid pulling item off of a shelf
Andrey Burstein/Shutterstock

Letting your kids misbehave

Every parent has to endure their own kids misbehaving at some point. But a good 92 percent of shoppers don’t want to have to witness your kids misbehaving at the grocery store. What constitutes misbehaving? Treadmill Reviews didn’t specify, but we have a feeling that everyone knows it when they see it.

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Produce aisle

Not putting perishables you no longer want back where they belong

Let’s say you came to the store for a carton of milk only to discover all the checkout lanes are packed, even the express lanes. What do you do? Do you return the carton of milk to the refrigerated case where you got it? Let’s hope so. Because if you leave it anywhere else, 97 percent of your fellow shoppers will think you’re being rude.

Don’t miss these things that frustrate every grocery store employee, too.

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Cans on a grocery store shelf

Not putting nonperishables you no longer want back where they belong

Think the put-it-back rule applies only to perishables? Think again. A full 79 percent of grocery shoppers think it’s rude even if the item is non-perishable.

Here are some tricks for saving big at the supermarket.

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Giving out cheese samples
Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Sampling food (unless it’s actually offered as a sample)

You probably realize it’s bad grocery store etiquette to open a bag of snack-size Snickers, eat one, and put it back on the shelf. But you might be surprised to learn that 80 percent of grocery shoppers frown upon your sampling anything that isn’t set out, specifically, as a sample. That includes grapes and strawberries, the folks at Treadmill Review are careful to point out.

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Open bag of potato chips

Helping yourself to your haul before paying

It’s not just sampling that annoys your fellow shoppers. Almost as many (78 percent) object to your consuming items that you plan to purchase, if you haven’t yet purchased them. It makes sense when you consider that no one but you knows your intention to purchase whatever it is you happen to be noshing on.

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Reading label at the grocery store
Aleksandar Karanov/Shutterstock

Being rude or discourteous in any other way

Since rude or discourteous shoppers vex 91 percent of the grocery shoppers polled by Treadmill Reviews, you’ll want to stop doing all of the rude and discourteous things mentioned above when grocery shopping. But clearly, there are other ways to be rude and discourteous, so use your common sense to make the grocery shopping experience more pleasant for everyone.

Now, find out the 29 things your grocer won’t tell you, which you still need to know.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest