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modern ms manners : some advice on supermarket etiquette

When you think about it, supermarkets are strange places. Always so bright with upbeat music, and aisle upon aisle full of everything you could think of. You make your way into the store merrily humming their jingle, your mind full of images of the happy staff in the television commercials, who are so overjoyed that you want to buy the apples that they bought from Gary the farmer just that very day. How convenient that you should be wanting apples today of all days!

Once inside though, it is a very different story. At my local supermarket anyway, the staff are not dancing around with bread or merrily whistling about how delicious and fresh their produce is. Nor are the customers twirling about with giant red hands pointing out the low low prices. Instead, the supermarket is a frantic shambles of a place, full of rude and unnecessarily angry people. All promises of dancing are put aside as you grab a trolley (after managing to find a dollar coin at the very bottom of your bag) and attempt to drag it through the aisle in spite of its dodgy wheel.

In completing some research for this article, I came across this video which demonstrates some of the psychology behind the layout of the supermarket. Brightly coloured packaging, all the way down to where the avocados are placed, these are all carefully planned by supermarket chains in order to enhance your shopping experience and optimise sales.

However, despite the revelation that purple packaging is appealing due to implications of luxury (salt and vinegar chips will now be known as the “fancy chips”), I cannot help but feel that all the psychology in the world will not make a supermarket the joyous utopia it so desperately wants to be. The reason for this is because of the way we, the customers interact with each other when they are in the supermarket.

I have had a variety of unpleasant experiences with my fellow shoppers at the supermarket, ranging from an unnecessary sigh when I asked the guy crouching in front of the shelves if he would mind letting me pass with my trolley, all the way through to a confrontation with a mother who was determined that she should be served first at the deli (even though my ticket was before hers) as it was her son who fixed the ticketing machine. All of these experiences could have been avoided if we all followed some simple form of supermarket etiquette.

In coming up with an etiquette framework, I have identified what I believe to be the three main areas in need of reform:-

1. The Delicatessen:

Nearly everyone I talk to has either experienced or witnessed some sort of rude encounter at the deli section of the supermarket. Maybe it is because in caveman days, our carnivorous ancestors would have to fight for their share of the wildebeest and the angst we feel in this section is just a residual part of our biology? Or maybe it is because there is an employee there who is determined to ignore the growing line and just continue to shave ham?

Whatever the reason, let us not lose control. It is 2012 people, we should be able to form some sort of reasonable queue without going into a melt down. Besides, it is just devon you are lining up for, not Lady Gaga tickets (although she may also be wearing devon).

2. Aisle Space:

Yes it is annoying when your trolley does not have four completely functioning wheels. Or when you are suddenly faced with three different kinds of cashew nuts which are inevitably not the right kind. These are not reasons to act like an irrational human being. At the end of the day, we are all there for the same reason so be considerate of your fellow shoppers when in the cramped aisles. Words like “excuse me” are good to employee in this situation.

3. The Checkout:

I know checkouts can be stressful places. You have finished your shopping and just want to make your purchase and get out of there. It is annoying when you have forgotten your green bags. It is more annoying when the person in front of you has forgotten their green bags. Remind yourself you are a capable human being and really, this is not the end of the world.

Huffing and puffing like a chimney is not going to make the process any faster and may cause hyperventilation. Try offering to help that mother of four in front of you load up her bags? Or even use this moment to indulge in that shameful part of yourself who actually does care about what the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the races.

By following the above advice, who knows? Maybe we might just be able to be as happy as the shoppers on the TV? (Even without the giant red hand props).

Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

11 thoughts on “modern ms manners : some advice on supermarket etiquette

  1. Shopping online and having it delivered can avoid the angst. But I prefer to shop after 9pm, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, when it’s deserted except for the shelf stackers. No rush as the kids are already home asleep under daddy’s supervision, and the shelf stackers know where to find all the things I can’t find. There’s no queue at the checkout, the only downside of which is I don’t get to find out what the Duchess of Cambridge wore last week. And when I’m feeling more calm and relaxed and not rushed, I’m less likely to buy the wrong kind of eggs or chocolate biscuits on special or other silly things I don’t need.

  2. 4. Don’t abuse the staff if they are unable to help you find the product that even you don’t know the name of. There are tens of thousands of items in a supermarket, they can’t know every single one.

  3. Haha i used to be a deli chick, I was the one who kept shaving ham “unaware” of customers. Seriously though, the ticket machine was usually broken so I always asked “who’s next?” forcing the customers to work it amongst themselves. I actually think thats better than the tickets because often an old man will be waiting for ages and forget to get one.

    I generally have a get in, get out policy when it comes to supermarkets.

  4. Brilliant! I recommend shopping on a weekday morning (if you have such a luxury of time). Sure, the average shopper age is 112, so it can be slow-going, but they’re all the tried-and-true shoppers, who have strict routines and aren’t rushing around like crazed 9-to-5ers at happy hour.

    Having said that, my local supermarket – shout-out to Renaissance IGA, St. Kilda! – is organised like the insight of a mental patient’s head. There is actually no logic to the aisles whatsoever. The toothpaste is opposite the deli section, and that’s far from the worst example. Basic logic is a requirement of anyone hoping to run an angst-free store…

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  6. Hi TimT,

    Thanks for your comment. I must admit whilst I think my article may be more suited for etiquette purposes, it pales in the sheer hilarity and awesomeness that is your article. If the rumors that the world is ending this year are true, I am determined to challenge someone to a dragonfruit/salami fight in my local supermarket.



    PS – frankfurter nunchucks?

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