Till death do us part. (Supermarket etiquette. Part Three)

Now that I have guided you through the etiquette for the supermarket car park and for taking yourself up the aisle it is time to approach the supermarket till and all of the etiquette risks that it holds.

With the advent of self service tills, decision making has become a little more difficult when choosing which till to use. I’m a traditionalist and like to keep people in a job so prefer a manned till but the simple rule of thumb is, if you have a basket, self service, if you have a trolley, use the manned tills.

If you have a basket and a manned till is free, feel free to use it but never approach a self service till with a trolley. You will rightly be mocked by staff and general public alike. Worse still are the people who think it is acceptable to approach the newsagent stand or the customer service till with their basket of goods. What makes you so special that you can go around breaking all the rules?

Once you have decided on type of till, you need to decide on which one. From hereon in, I’m going to assume that you have a trolley because, lets be honest, the people who use self service tills are usually shoplifters hoping to put a bottle of champagne through as a tin of peas. (Contact me separately if you would like to know how to do this.)

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The main variables when choosing your queue is number of people in it, amount of goods in their trolley and the ‘type’ of person in the queue.

There are various types who will hold up the queue, many who I will mention later but the main culprit is the pensioner. It may be ageist but it’s a fact. If you get stuck behind three elderlies each with a full trolley, your hummus will have passed its sell by date before you get through the checkout.

You may also want to consider who is on the till. If you are a regular in a particular supermarket you will get to know who is best.

My local Sainsbury’s used to have extremes. There was one lass who was unremittingly cheerful, always had a smile and a chat. She wanted to know what you were up to and would give you forensic detail on what you were buying. Another was an elderly cynic who moaned about the advent of the self service tills, would sigh at the Nectar vouchers spewing out of the machine and delivered the Sainsbury’s script with a level of sarcasm any teenager would be proud of.

I chose the misery every time. I don’t pay my money to listen to someone so cheerful that she must be off her tits on drugs. The cheery bugger no longer works there and rightly so.

At busy times you also run the risk of choosing the till manned by the lad who usually spends his days smashing trollies into your car. Be warned, he will offer the same level of care and attention to your eggs and your lemon meringue.

If you have a trolley full and someone is behind you with just a couple of items, it is nice for you to offer for them to go ahead of you. It is by no means a rule but it will give you a nice fuzzy feeling inside.

On the other hand, if you are the person with the couple of items, at no point is it acceptable for you to ask to go ahead. It is a queue, it is there for a reason.

Once you are in the queue, that is it. There is no running off to get some items you have forgotten even if you leave your husband looking clueless with the trolley. The till operator is not there to answer questions. If you want to know something about an item, ask one of the hundreds of members of staff milling around. If the assistance light starts flashing above the till you are at, that is the light of embarrassment and you should be ashamed.

Being in the same queue as someone does not give you the right to speak to them unless you know them. If you lurk about in supermarket queues hoping to make friends, you are a wrong un.

With the advent of cameras on phones, it is tempting to take photos of your fellow shopper’s goods. Unfortunately this is unacceptable as much as I have wanted to do it myself. I once saw a bloke buy three giant tins of Mega Peas and two packs of anti diarrhoea tablets. There was a man who was planning ahead.

I also once bumped into a very close friend of mine who was buying a litre of vodka and a pair of Marigolds. I think she was in for a good night.

My final bit of supermarket advice is to learn how to pack your bags efficiently. If some children are offering to pack your bags, just go with it. I don’t want to pay for their holiday to Kilimanjaro anymore than you do but it’s only a quid. Yes, they will break your eggs and squash your bread but that’s the price you pay for not being shamed publicly as a tightwad.

Different supermarkets have different rules on packing. I once got caught out by the Aldi ‘pelt everything into the trolley’ rule and didn’t realise I had to pack the bags elsewhere. It’s not a mistake I will make twice.

Have your bags ready, heavy items should be put on the conveyor-belt first so they go to the bottom of the bags and then light stuff on top.

If you haven’t brought your own bags, they cost 5p. They have done for ages, it is the law. If you are going to twist and moan about or try and get round it, I’m going to buy a ‘bag for life’ myself and suffocate you with it.

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I trust my gudes to the supermaket have been helpful.

Happy shopping!


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