8 Secrets Deli Counter Employees Wish You Knew

The deli counter is a fast-paced environment! Here's the insider info that will make picking up lunch meat easier than ever.

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A customer is standing next to a ticket number dispenser at a grocery store, meat section.
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You Need to Take a Number

Really—take a number. The number system allows shoppers to look through the cases without standing in a physical line. Because the deli can get busy in a hurry, taking a number allows the workers to help everyone more efficiently.

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Customer in general store, Hague, USA
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It Helps to Know What You Want

For anyone who shops with a list, it’s easy to put an order together. But folks who don’t know their order by the time their number is called will slow down the operation. If you need more time to compare brands of ham for your sandwiches, wait to pull your number until you’re ready.

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Sales clerk looking at female customer while assisting at supermarket
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You Can Ask for Advice

It’s OK to ask for help if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. After all, the deli counter employees know their product selection quite well and they’re happy to make a recommendation, whether it’s for turkey or potato salad. Don’t miss all our grocery store secrets!

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Close up of a butcher wearing a striped blue apron, slicing salami with a slicer.
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You Can Ask to See Sample Slices

If you want your deli meat and cheese sliced thick, thin or paper-thin, make sure you specify that when you order. Then, ask to see a piece before they slice the whole pound. The slicer can be adjusted so every piece is perfect. This is how to use every last slice of deli meat.

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Shot of a mature woman shopping with her grandchildren at a grocery store
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You Can Sample… within Reason

The deli samples are sliced to order. You can ask to sample a new brand of ham or turkey, but be aware of your deli counter employee’s time, as well as the line behind you. Just sample one or two products.

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woman buys cheese in the supermarket
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They Can’t Accept Your Sample Trash

The deli samples are often handed over in a sheet of deli paper. After you’ve enjoyed your sample, please do not hand your sampling paper (or other trash) back to the deli counter employee. You can dispose of it in the trash bin nearby.

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African waiter serving fresh food to young woman. Happy smiling guy preparing take away salad for woman customer. Black man with apron taking pasta salad in spoon and serving to customer.
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It Helps When You Stay Off Your Phone

It may seem like common sense, but sometimes we all need a reminder! You want to be able to hear your number, place an order and then step aside.

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Florida, Sunny Isles Beach, Milam's Supermarket deli counter. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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It Never Hurts to Be Kind

It seems simple, but it’s true. Most folks waiting in the deli line are tired, hungry and in a hurry. And sometimes that leads to forgetting our manners. Be friendly to workers behind the counter. Just a bit of kindness goes a long way. Let’s take a closer look at the best grocery stores in the U.S.

Sher Castellano
Sher Castellano is the plant-based chef, endometriosis advocate and former health coach behind the award winning blog With Food + Love. Sher creates recipes to help you feel better, and explores topics of chronic illness, women's health and infertility with her honest writings. With Food + Love was a finalist in the 2015 Saveur Magazine Food Blog Awards.