Misfortune in the grocery store

This has happened to me twice in the last week. When it first occurred, I wrote about it on Facebook, with mixed comments, and then it happened again this morning. I had to pick up some produce, which included just a small amount: a wee bag of radishes (try them the French way: sliced on a baguette with sweet butter), two limes, and six pears. When I shop at the produce store early (it opens at 8 a.m.), I usually have the place largely to myself. As I approached the checkout line, a portly man with a cart full of groceries—and by that I mean at least 30 items—got there right before me. I looked at him wistfully, holding up my small amount of food and hoping he’d say “Oh, go ahead.”

No dice. He slowly and painfully put his items on the belt (he was older), and I shuffled my feet while this whole tedious process took place (he had trouble paying, too). The dude knew that I could have breezed through the line in a few seconds (I had cash, too), but ignored me.

Six days ago, I posted this on Facebook:

Supermarket crowded, “10 items or less” line closed, and I have a single bottle of vinegar in my hand. Everyone in front of me has a full basket. What do you think happened? Did people wave me to the front, saying, “Oh, go ahead” given my 10-second transaction (I also had exact change)? Nope; I waited 25 minutes.

People are no longer gracious and polite.


For some reason this inspired a lot of comments, including some from Canadians saying that they’d have let me cut ahead of them (of course!), one from a Texan who told me to move away from the big, cruel city, another from someone telling me to go to Costco to buy the five-gallon jug of vinegar so this wouldn’t happen too often, and even someone saying I shouldn’t go to the grocery store to make such a small purchase. BUT THAT’S WHAT THE “10 ITEMS OR LESS” line is for (it should say “10 items or FEWER”).

I would always let someone with a tiny purchase go ahead of me. And in fact others have done so, but far less frequently than politesse would dictate. Further, the people who insist on being ahead of me with their truckload of groceries always have trouble paying.  Either their debit card doesn’t work, or they painfully and slowly write a check, or they fumble interminably in their change purse.

If I was superstitious, I would think I’ve been cursed to always get in the slowest grocery line. Even when I pick one with fewer people waiting, there’s inevitably some holdup, like a cashier who doesn’t know the price of shallots or a person who decides to ditch some of their groceries at the register because they’re too expensive.

As far as I can see, there is no way around this. I am not a Buddhist and am unable to live in the moment and practice awareness while waiting in a grocery line. But if I were King of the World:

  1. The “fast aisles” would have signs that said “fewer” rather than “less”
  2. Everybody would be given a tutorial in school about how to let people go ahead of them if those people are buying just one or two items
  3. EVERYBODY paying with checks should be required to fill them out in advance in line, leaving only the amount blank. Convenient places would be provided to write said checks
  4. People would also be taught to have their cash or credit cards in hand after the groceries are totted up. No fumbling in purses!

The way things should be (h/t: Justin Zimmer):


  1. yazikus
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy letting people ahead of me in the queue when I see that they have fewer items than I. Sometimes, it will lead to an interesting chat, and usually makes the mood of the whole queue lighter. I also enjoy opening doors for people. Perhaps PCC(E) should move to the PNW- I know I’m not the only one!

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Nope. You’re not. You are to be commended, but more people in the PNW tend to be gracious in allowing customers with fewer items ahead of them. Also, in opening doors for others. It makes me feel good when I do it. Reason enough. But, as you say, it seems to lighten the moods of others also. High return for a small favor.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know what PNW is, but most people in NZ let people ahead of them if the checkouts for small quantities of goods are closed.

        Almost no one uses cheques here anymore. But, all supermarkets I’ve ever been to have cheque-writing machines so you just have to check and sign them anyway. No mucking around with writing them.

        People shouldn’t have to be told to be polite.

        • Pliny the in Between
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          PNW is shorthand for heaven…

          • Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            Pacific Northwest. Sorry, the secret is out.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

            Now that I’m on a different computer, I’ve looked it up. I should’ve been able to work it out on my own, now I know the answer!

            • rickflick
              Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

              Don’t worry. They want you to TNK if you don’t GNW, you must be a a LOSR. Now I, for EXMPL think a BMW to be a CAR. Just to make the point CLR, those who understand SHT like this make everyone else feel like DIRT. So don’t feel BAD just BCUZ the WEB has a name for something you DNT know. 😎

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink


    • Darrin Carter
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      I find this strange, has politeness totally disappeared from our country? I live in Idaho, PNW also lol,and have to agree that around here such rudeness would be pointed out to the offender, if not also talked about endlessly in the local FaceBook page.

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:27 am | Permalink

      Must be the proximity to Canada. 😀

      • Merilee
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        As a long-time American resident of Canada, I don’t find Canadians any more – or less-
        polite than Americans. Americans are often more assertive, in both positive and negative ways. I find people in Canada more likely to block a doorway cluelessly, par exemple…

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          It’s Ontario. People in Ontario often think all of Canada is like Ontario. That’s because they are behaving like someone in Ontario. I noticed this when I, someone born and raised in Ontario, travelled across Canada. As soon as you cross the Ontario border, you see a difference. I think a lot of it is to do with living in bigger cities.

          • Merilee
            Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

            Yeah, but people in NYC and SF don’t block doorways the way they often do in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong: I love living in the Greater Toronto Area. Just don’t find Canucks any more polite than even, gawd forbid, people in NYC. Not sure why New Yorkers get such a bad rap. Except for the Giant Cheetoh (Trump) I’ve only had good experiences in NYC, including the taxi drivers (although most of them seem to be recent immigrants from Africa).

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

              Why did you “yeah but” me? My argument was Ontario does not equal Canada. Like a good Ontario dweller, you gave examples from Toronto. You know all of Canada hates Toronto, right?

              • Merilee
                Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

                I was just responding to your point about big cities, and comparing Toronto to NYC and SF. I think that Toronto has gotten more friendly in the 40 years I’ve lived in the area, probably due to the huge influx of non-English immigrants. I always found the English to be very friendly when I lived in London, but there is/was a very snobby subset of English Canucks in Toronto and environs.

  2. alexandra Moffat
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    agree. Self-servingly, I admit that I often let small buyers go first.
    Do you remember “superette” markets? How can something be both big and small similtaneously? As for semi boneless…..

  3. Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I always let folks with few items go first. And when I am the one, I out and out ask to go first. It usually works.

  4. Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    It is even more annoying when you are at a “10 items or less” (should be fewer) check out and someone in front of you ignores the sign and tries to go through with way more than 10 items (I have actually been known in these circumstances to point out the sign that said customer has obviously wilfully ignored).

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      In Cambridge MA, the old joke is that the offender is either a Harvard student who can’t count or a MIT student who can’t read.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I’ve done that once or twice, and they (both the customer and cashier) pay NO attention.

    • Carey Haug
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I was in a hurry one day and pointed out that the woman in front of me had far more than ten items. She told me to mind my own business and threatened to beat me up in the parking lot.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        I so can see that happening to me (being threatened).

    • nicky
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      Now that is a highly irritating phenomenon, and really rude too. And indeed one often -but not always- gets an angry reaction if you politely point to the sign.
      In South Africa nobody uses cheques anymore, I wonder if these stores would even accedpt them.

  5. Martin X
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I rarely use the attended checkout lines, but last time I did, someone waved me ahead of them because I only had two items. I’m skeptical that there has been a change in this politeness.

    When I see someone paying with a check, I always infer that these people are incompetent in all areas of their lives.

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      The few people I know of using checks in check-outs have practical book-keeping reasons for doing so (e.g.: Disabled adult child budget at home). They also are quite competent in most areas of their lives.

  6. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Last week in the supermarket a woman asked me if she could go ahead as she had only one item. I said sure. As it happened, she also had a coupon and, wouldn’t you know it, the machine rejected it. What followed was a ten minute wait while managers were called and bar codes scanned over and over. I stood there fuming wondering “Why am I always such a ‘nice guy’.”

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Right. The flip side of being a nice guy. No good deed goes unpunished.

    • Walt Jones
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I have learned that when someone asks to go ahead of me, there’s going to be a problem. I think both acting on their belief that they should go ahead and not paying attention to details (In your case, the details of the coupon or as happened to me last fall, which Marriott they have reservations at) stems from egocentrism. Our host is justified in thinking the gentleman should have let him go first, but polite enough not to presume to ask

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      I had a similar thing happen in a drugstore. A woman made a big deal about her peanut butter being on sale. She was even trying to tell the cashier where to look in their system. I almost offered to pay for her stupid peanut butter just to get the line moving.

  7. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    The distinction between “less” and “fewer” is less clear-cut than many believe.

    “Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage” traces the objection to “less” where many might prefer “fewer” to Robert Baker, who commented in his “Reflections on the English Language”(1770):

    “This word is most commonly used in speaking of a Number; where I should think Fewer would be better. No Fewer than a Hundred appears to me not only more elegant than No less than a Hundred, but more strictly proper.”

    MWDEU points out that the guarded nature of Baker’s words suggests he is expressing a personal view. By the 20th century, however, that view had for many become a “rule” of usage. But, as MWDEU reminds us, the OED shows that “less” has been used for countables for more than 1000 years.

    In assessing examples showing “less” used with countable nouns, MWDEU concludes: “[N]ative speakers and writers of English use “less” of count nouns in various constructions. ‘Fewer’ could have been used in many of [the examples]. At times it might have been thought more elegant, as Robert Baker thought, but in others no native speaker would use anything but ‘less.’”

    It’s worth pondering why we are content with a single word, “more,” to describe both greater quantities and greater amounts. Pam Peters, in “The Cambridge Guide to English Usage” makes a good point: “[I]t was and is essentially a stylistic choice, between the more formal ‘fewer’ and the more spontaneous ‘less.’ ‘Fewer’ draws attention to itself, whereas ‘less’ shifts the focus on to its more significant neighbours.”

    That notion would justify the much decried supermarket sign: ‘15 Items Or Less,’ not that it should need justification, particularly when the shopper’s basket may be considered as containing an amount.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I could care less.

      No, that’s wrong.

      I could care fewer.

      Glen Davidson

      • Dave
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        They’re both wrong.”I could care less/fewer” means the exact opposite of the sentiment you’re trying to express.

        “I couldn’t care less” is the correct construction.

        • glen1davidson
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Irregardless, you’re point is mute.

          Glen Davidson

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink


          • Ken Kukec
            Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Careful, don’t want anybody going flammable.

          • Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            You have the same effect on grammar as a bowl in a china shop.

        • Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          The trouble is, in America at least, “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less” have come to mean the same thing. Ostensibly sarcastic, “I could care less” is taken to mean the opposite of what it says–like “Tell me about it,” which means “Don’t tell me about it [because I already know].”

          As Michael Quinion says in World Wide Words, “There’s a close link between the stress pattern of ‘I could care less’ and the kind that appears in certain sarcastic or self-deprecatory phrases that are associated with the Yiddish heritage and (especially) New York Jewish speech. Perhaps the best known is ‘I should be so lucky!’ in which the real sense is often “’I have no hope of being so lucky,’ a closely similar stress pattern with the same sarcastic inversion of meaning.”

          People who say the expression is illogical are missing the point. It’s an idiom, and idioms (like “near miss,” for example) are inherently illogical. As John McIntyre writes in the Baltimore Sun, “Idioms, in any language, convey meanings that cannot be determined from the literal sense of the words. So you can object to an idiom and shun it because you find it trite or common or inappropriate for the tone or subject or audience. But you don’t get to kvetch about it for being illogical.”

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Hear hear! The best recent popular UK book on style and grammar, Oliver Kamm’s “Accidence will happen”, makes the same argument. There is no grammatical reason for preferring ‘fewer’ to ‘less’: as he points out, nobody thinks that “Brighton is less than 100 miles from London” needs correcting. ‘Fewer’ is a stylistic preference, and nothing more.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        True. And some of us *have* a preference for style.

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        I suppose we can excuse “less than 100 [length unit]” because lengths are able to take on the value of any real number, not just a positive integer.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:23 am | Permalink

          That’s exactly the point I was going to make. The distance in that quote is ONE distance (London-Brighton) being compared with ONE distance of length 100 miles, not 100 separate lengths of a mile each.

          Kamm’s example is fallacious.


          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:26 am | Permalink

            Compare also: “Brighton’s population is less than London” (population is one entity) or “Brighton has fewer people than London” (people, of which there are many but each one is an indivisible unit)


  8. glen1davidson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    OED on “less”: 1.1 Fewer in number.

    One of my fewer concerns, though…

    Glen Davidson

  9. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Also, from the estimable Gabe Doyle’s commentary in Motivated Grammar:

    “The idea that less can’t be used with count nouns isn’t well supported; it’s a rule that hasn’t ever been strictly followed, especially for count nouns that can be perceived as masses. Groceries lend themselves to perception as a mass, so it’s no surprise that “10 items or less” is favored now, just as it has been historically. Please stop complaining about this.”

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Ok, but the point of the signs is to count the individual grocery items. When the point is to conceive of them as “not a mass”…

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:27 am | Permalink



      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        The mass comprises less than 15 items.

  10. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    When I collapsed at my computer after my weekly two grocery store visits (both small stores here), I read this. I felt bad for the gentleman who got in line after me, after I had unloaded half my groceries and was being checked out. I would’ve let him go ahead. Everybody here does (the stores are too small for the 10 items or less aisles). As for checks being used by “incompetent” people? Isn’t that a harsh? We never know the circumstances that people have to deal with in their lives.

    • yazikus
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      I don’t get the check hate either- checks are perfectly serviceable for a number of practical applications.

      • Laurance
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        For years I worked in a dairy farm store, and a number of customers paid by check.

        We had this one customer who would buy a bottle of skim milk and use a coupon for $.50 off. That would bring his purchase down to 65 cents. And he’d pay with a check. A check for 65 cents. He did this a number of times. I kept my mouth shut of course, but I wondered why, when two quarters, a dime and a nickel would work fine.

        • yazikus
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

          I sort of love this. I have a very soft spot for old school dairy farmers (not sure if your customer was one of these). Having worked with a few, they are some of the hardest working, down to earth, funny & pragmatic people I’ve ever met. One of my favorite ones never forgets to give me a hard time for buying ‘the fancy milk’. I imagine that person writing you the .65$ check kept an immaculate 5 column ledger at home, mayhap 7!

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:34 am | Permalink

      I’ve never seen anyone pay by check here, but that could be chalked up to cultural differences, I think.

  11. Kelly
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I feel like I have the opposite problem. My local grocery store has a fast lane for those who have fewer than 8 items. It is always open and I always use it if I have less than 8 items. For some reason, people who have fewer than 8 items frequently use the other lines. To me this delays all of us. I feel like telling them to please just go use the fast lane (which is indeed faster) and not hold other people up who are doing a full grocery shop. Ah, first world problems.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes! This is a major problem in Vancouver (well, major to me when I’m waiting in line). Sometimes there will be 3 express lanes open and only 1 regular lane, and people with 2 or 3 items will still stand in the regular line. Why? Do they not realize what the express lanes are for?

    • nicky
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:48 am | Permalink

      If there is a long queue at the 8 or 10 items line, I see no harm in going to a short ‘normal’ line. It is not as if they are ‘8-10 items or more’ lines. However, I never expect to be allowed to jump the queue.

  12. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    A certain grocery store – not going to name it – has a sign that says “12-ish items or fewer”.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      THAT is a recipe for disaster!

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Ha ha. My grocery store has an aisle that says “about fifteen items or less.” Game over. No one thinks they have more than “about fifteen items.”

      • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, and what burns my onions are those morons who think that three identical items count as ONE! Don’t they realize they all have to be rung up separately, so no time is saved?

        • BobTerrace
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          So a pack of lifesavers is 20 items???? 🙂

        • Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

          What about ‘buy one get one free’ offers?

        • nicky
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:54 am | Permalink

          If they have to be scanned separately they are separate items.
          ‘Get one free’ does not count, because it is (generally) automatic and needs no extra scanning.
          Another question is if you purchase a plastic bag at the counter, whether or not that should be counted. I tend to say ‘yes’ there.

          • Posted March 25, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

            —‘Get one free’ does not count, because it is (generally) automatic and needs no extra scanning.—

            In “my” supermarket (in Argentina) it DOES count, because all the articles must be scanned – the free item is discounted afterwards. But most express-lane cashiers seem to apply a flexible limit.-

  13. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m in Canada. If I have one or two things, I’m almost always waved ahead. Sometimes when I have ten things, too. In those cases, I always say, “No, you go ahead. I brought my own chair. I can wait.” (I use a wheelchair.) Sometimes they still insist, leading to a polite argument.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      I’m in Canada and I get rudely left to wait but I live in Southern Ontario which is known as the bastion of rudeness in Canada.

      • Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        I haven’t seen that out your way. But I don’t want to argue the point. That would be rude.

      • Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:36 am | Permalink

        It’s probably still more polite than most places.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

          Depends on what other places but living in Ontario, I’ve never seen people being overly polite, other than in small towns or up north.

  14. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I got a check for a refund recently. I hadn’t seen a cheque in maybe 20 years. I wasn’t sure they still made them. I had to ask the bank teller what to do with it as they don’t even have deposit slips on the counter anymore.

    I’m not sure what the answer to the queuing problem is – and I’m British. If there was an optimal strategy for it we would have found it, if only by trial and error.

    • Dave
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      That struck me too. Paying with cheques? How quaint! It’s like being transported back to the 20th century!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      You can take a picture of Chequers these days and deposit into your bank account.

  15. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    This always happened to me in New York. Now I live in rural Connecticut where I taught College (micro and Chem). It hasn’t happened here. But in NY if you are disabled and fall down people will walk over you rather than give you a hand. I think country folk are more relaxed.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      In the small town I grew up in, my first tinge of cynicism happened during Canada Day. I was riding my bike where they were having a parade and I was about 10 or 12 years old. I wiped out badly. I was bleeding. People sighed and stepped around me annoyed. Maybe one person in a large crowd asked if I was ok.

      • Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        Ha. That’s nothing. Where I grew up (rural Alberta), I would have been told “Watch where you’re going, you stupid kid.”

        • Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

          And that would have been from Mom and Dad.

  16. Roo
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Ten fun things to do while standing in line:

    1. Practice breathing meditation or sending metta to everyone around you (ok, ok, sorry, had to throw that in there.)One of these days you’ll get on the meditation train!

    2. Play the alphabet game. You’re never too old for the alphabet game, especially if you’re a biologist and know more interesting words than most people. It’s probably way better than my version, where I go “c… cat! Good one!!”

    3. Make up plausible stories about what the person in front of you is probably going to do with their groceries (bonus: You can also subtly punish them for being in front of you by staring somewhat over-interestedly at their groceries. Don’t combine this one with metta practice, it’s hypocritical!) I assume you, for example, were having pear margarita night.

    4. See how many category members you can name in 60 seconds.

    5. Do mini-surveys of the room to see what the most common color for shirts, hair, shoes, etc., is.

    6. Try to remember what you ate for lunch every day of the past week, or some other random thing you wouldn’t usually remember.

    7. Mentally plan your next trip or event.

    8. Make up a life story for the person in front of you and the cashier.

    9. Arrange your reusable bags, slips for pre-weighed vegetables, and groceries on the belt, then make sure to have your credit card in hand so that you can subtly show the person in front of you that you are a Way Better Shopper than they are. Bonus points if they’re using plastic, you can practice raising a wry eyebrow at their unconscientious choices. (Also do not combine with metta practice!)

    10. Scroll through your phone, then have three seconds of pretending your going to be mindful and not tech-addicted and put your phone away, then decide it totally doesn’t count if you’re reading about mindfulness *on your phone, and read the Twitter feeds of Mindful People.

    Sorry about your morning. At least now I assume you have a giant pitcher of pear margaritas to enjoy!

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Gin and tonics. . .

      • Roo
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink


    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I’ve stopped doing this because all my made up stories somehow ended up involving an industrial woodchipper.

      • Art
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Meditation is good. Also, read the tabloids on display. Since I retired I seem to have developed a tolerance for the anomalies of the check-out line.

  17. Historian
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Since you live in the Chicago area, I recommend the Jewel supermarkets if you only have a few items and want to get out quickly. They usually have three or four cashiers at the checkouts for small orders of 20 or less. I have never had to wait more than five minutes even when several people were ahead of me. I know how frustrating it is to wait for people with large orders who take forever to pay.

    Of course, if this supermarket is not near you, it probably isn’t worth the trip.

  18. Alan Jardine
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Where I live – in the U.K. – stores simply don’t accept cheques (our spelling). It’s either cash or card.

    A slightly-related story:

    When I was re-building my kitchen several years ago, I selected the big items (cabinets, oven, etc.)for delivery from the local DIY store (B&Q). The salesman itemised everything and said I had to go to the checkout to pay. On the way, I picked up a can of paint. Seeing me with just a can of paint (the large bill being hidden), I was followed by two or three customers who obviously thought, “Well, he’s just buying a can of paint”. I think their day was ruined when it took the checkout staff ages to process my kithen invoice! (But I paid by card!)


  19. Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I never have those problems because I get my groceries from The Grocery Nazi. When shoppers don’t do what they’re supposed to it’s “No groceries for you, next!

  20. Cate Plys
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, though both our experiences are just anecdotal, I’m also in Hyde Park and have just recently twice had people let me go in front of them–and once was at Hyde Park Produce. That said, it’s the luck of the draw, and I guess it must happen less than it used to, because both times recently, I was amazed by the offer and felt extremely guilty taking those people up on their generosity.

  21. BobTerrace
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Of course, the solution to it all is online grocery delivery. Peapod or at least Amazon Go – drive up and open trunk.

  22. Pliny the in Between
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I try to count my blessings at the grocery -at least they aren’t run by the TSA.

    • Roger
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      That could change with the proliferation of self-checkouts haha.

  23. Roger
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the express lane is for mathematicians. 5 items < 10 items.

  24. Taskin
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I am in Canada and I’d say most of the time the person in front of me will let me go ahead if I only have one or two items. Grocery stores here no longer accept cheques.
    What irritates me more is when the express line is not open and I get stuck in a long line at one of the other checkouts. Then the store decides to open the express lane and all the people who are in line behind me rush to be first at the new checkout.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      I hate it if some schmuck decides to buy lottery tickets. Mostly I think this is at Shopper’s. And that awful music it plays. “Winner! Gagnant!” That is the sound that triggers me. If I had the skill to train a sleeper agent, that is what I would have trigger them into a violent rampage.

      • Taskin
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Me too. Shoppers is bad for that. The sound reminds me of a bad imitation of the Joker from Batman, it creeps me out. Your sleeper agent plan is perfect.

  25. Merilee
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Today I had good luck. I did a big shopping, with all kinds of exotic ingredients, and as I was just about through checking outI realized that I had forgotten one grapefruit, which I needed for a salad. I paid, asked the checker to watch my cart, and dashed to grab a grapefruit. When I got back two woman had just gotten into my line but they very kindly let me go ahead to pay cash for my grapefrui5.

  26. Steve Pollard
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    In most UK supermarkets these days, only people with full trolleys tend to join the queues for checkouts. Most people with just a few items – but some with lots as well – go to the self-service scanners, which in many supermarkets are at least as numerous as the fully staffed checkouts. Once you’ve got used to the pre-recorded mantra “Unexplained item in the bagging area” they’re a piece of cake.

    • Graham Head
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes. This item really surprised me. Do US stores not have self service tills? I can’t remember the last time I queued at a staffed till. Just about every supermarket in the UK has self service tills. Most take cash, all take cards and some intrepid soles pay with their phones. And US shops still take cheques!? With cards and on-line banking I cannot remember the last time I wrote a cheque.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        Some States in the US make you sign your credit card instead of using a PIN. The level of tech seems to vary from place to place in the US. I felt like I was in the 90s when I had to sign my credit card print out in Vegas last year.

    • David Coxill
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Self service scanners are a pain in the botty.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        But they’re cheaper than paying staff for breathing, so they’re spreading. I haven’t seen one in a store with one staff member – yet – but a local store with a 23:00 closing time and about 4 staff at busy times has a self-service till.

  27. Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I very much prefer the self check out area, but I am sure not all stores have this. One supposes it is hit or miss to know when the 10 Items or Fewer aisle is supposed to be open. Most likely during peak times which brings its own set of special moments.

    • Laurance
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      I prefer the self checkout.

      But my son-in-law who is a working man pointed out that those self checkouts take jobs away from working people. One clerk is supervising four to six checkouts instead of there being one worker for each checkout.

      He’s right, of course, and I feel guilty now when I use the self checkout.

      • Historian
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Your son-in-law is correct. Self-checkout is a means for the store to have few employees. I find self-checkout takes longer to process than going to a cashier, assuming I don’t have to wait in line.

        I think there must be a significant theft rate by customers using self-checkout. I guess the stores think that these losses are outweighed by the money saved from having fewer employees.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          The worst thieves in stores are staff

          Self-scan checkout does have a theft problem, but it’s for cheap stuff such as bread or fruit – it’s much harder to get away with high-priced items since they have backup RFID protection e.g. a quality steak or a pack of batteries [popular shoplifting items because resale with your local drug dealer or fence]. The reduced staff costs [some of them thieves] easily covers the extra self-scan theft.

          There are alarmist loss figures in the UK newspapers £3.2 billion worth of goods per year in self-scan theft [or £5 per shopper per year], but I don’t believe the absurd claimed losses. Something wonky going on – I suspect other causes of “stock shrinkage” are being assigned to self-scan. If I saw self-scanners coming to the store where I worked would I start revenge-thieving? Would I increase my thefts anyway knowing I could blame it on the self-scanning?

  28. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    UK observations:

    ** Tesco, Sainsbury’s & all the other chain food stores I’ve used stopped accepting cheques years ago
    ** In the U.S. 20% of adults rely on cash [no debit card] whereas here the figure might be around 3% – even the homeless on-the-streets can get a ‘basic’ bank account + debit card [go through a social worker if no fixed abode]
    ** The chain food stores have self check-out in many of the busier branches [works great!]
    ** Any transaction under £30 can be paid for by contactless card [no button pushing, no signature, no ID]
    ** Everybody in my extended family has food [& beer, wine, ciggies] home delivered. You can pick the day, the hour of the day & it’s free delivery for orders over $50-£100 depending on store.
    ** I only go into food stores these days when I need something fresh that can’t be frozen [e.g. I freeze my milk & home made curries/stews]
    ** I quite often notice that people with a handful of items are waved ahead a place in the queue by the person in front of them – people are very aware of other shoppers

    • barn owl
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Curbside grocery pickup is the more frequent choice here in Texas than is the home delivery option (though the latter is available). On days when I’ve had enough of the toxic behavior and massive egos of academia, I fantasize about working at the nearby grocery store, pushing a cart around and loading it up with items for curbside pickup orders. No one doing that job ever seems stressed, in my experience.

      I plan and prepare all my meals, and typically do my grocery shopping about once every 10 days, very early on a weekday morning before work. I have a backyard vegetable and herb garden (and frozen or canned produce from my garden) to supplement this, but occasionally I need to make an additional trip to the grocery store for a few things. In those circumstances I might add a number 5 to PCC(E)’s list:

      5. Would it kill you to help load some of your groceries into the bags?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Haha. When I was stressed in the corporate world, I would fantasize about working at Home Depot but I couldn’t walk around on those hard floors all day.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        I was thinking of moving to Dallas for a couple of years back in 2012 & I looked at the day-to-day practicalities – I quickly realised I’d be completely stuck without a car. Back then I think it was only Krogers & Wholefoods who home delivered, but it was not the essentials & only dry goods that didn’t require cold trucks were supplied.

        Unfortunately the very well paid Dallas job went on hold, but frankly I was quietly relieved to not have to suffer a return to driving everywhere – I no longer keep a car & thus I save fortunes on maintenance, tax & insurance. I love the European city compact lifestyle of being able to work, eat, shop & play on foot & by bus. I suppose that lifestyle is just possible in Austin or Houston, but I suspect rents are very high in those compact centres suitable for walking. I just looked at Dallas home deliveries & it’s all changed in such a short time – Burphy etc. Good.

        A seeming non-stress job that would suit you is toiling at a garden centre – plants, pets, ornaments etc. Garden centre employees look happy to me, but it’s part of the job to adopt a sunny disposition & I expect the line manager doesn’t permit public grumpiness. I’m with you re academia!

        I can’t be doing with garden veg – it’s so cheap to buy from the shop. I have a corner of a communal greenhouse for peppers & toms [8 sq ft my share] – worth it for the taste sensation & all at waist level for saving the old back!

        • barn owl
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 6:25 am | Permalink

          Two growing seasons for backyard tomatoes each year here, and greens can be grown year round. I make at least $50.00 every year selling excess Suyo cucumbers, daikon, and red noodle beans to colleagues at work. I hope to retire someplace where there are good farmers markets, and where I might not need to have a car.

          There’s a nice garden center about a mile from my house, and the employees always seem content and mellow. Often they’re surrounded by butterflies and hummingbirds as they work. They have what must be one of the Top Ten Surliest Cats in Texas in residence though – there are signs all over with his photo and warnings “I bite!” and “I scratch!” I’ve never seen anyone attempt to pet him. Sometimes he’s lying on the checkout counter and one is a bit wary of reaching over him.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

          “…daikon, and red noodle beans” – new to me so I googled. Never eaten either, but the beans look interesting & of broad application. Gonna look if I have space for them somewhere, but will taste them first. So thanks for that!

          Down the Chinese quarter [tiny UK Birmingham version – call it the Chinese 16th]. Will see if I can get a daikon & the beans for a tasting.

          You should get a pic of surly cat for PCC[E]

    • Graham
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      And in Waitrose, if you’re registered for the system, you can walk up and down the aisles with your own bar-code gun, packing as you go and pay at the self service check-out. Tesco and Sainsbury’s started doing similarly recently in some stores.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Sainsbury’s have had these for many years, and very convenient they are too. But…they have just “upgraded” their system, and as with all too many IT upgrades it’s the customers who are having to bear the brunt of the teething problems: freezing handsets, out-of-order checkouts, and general system crashes. Dontcha just love technology?

      • Les Faby
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        Since people have cellphones, I wonder why they can’t let you use an app and use your built-in camera as a bar-code reader. Cost of equipment is zero that way and they won’t have to check out/in readers.
        Alternately, RFID was supposed to be able to read tagged containers. Produce could be an RFID exception, though.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

          RFID will be general in UK chain food stores very soon – including fresh, loose produce. The checkouts will be gone & replaced by an airport-style radio frequency scanner that you wheel your loaded trolley through. You only unload your supermarket trolley at your vehicle. This will reduce supermarket labour & floorspace costs substantially.

          Amazon Go shops is trialling there own camera+sensor system for their physical stores, but I don’t like it at all. Far too intrusive in a weird way – behaviour modelling & the rest of it. Too late now though – the bots & tests on humans are here.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        As you’re aware mean, mean Waitrose stopped their unconditional free tea/coffee scheme – now you have to buy something first – scandalous! Good products though, ‘cept for that Prince Wingnut’s ‘Waitrose Duchy Brand’ [or any organic brand of course – all a scam].

  29. Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    On average I choose poorly, but I am always glad to let someone go ahead. Most people are far less patient than I am and they might own a gun, which I do not.

    It would be easy to fine people in those lines. 10 or less: pay normal. 11 or higher total grocery bill is multiplied by 1.2.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:39 am | Permalink

      “Right sir, that’s your ten items. I’m sorry but our system won’t accept any more on this transaction. You’ll have to queue up again for the rest.”

      Though you would need a very large security guard to be standing nearby… 😉

      Probably easier to implement on the self-checkouts.


  30. John Black
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I hold doors open for people behind me, even if they’re a fair ways behind. It feels good.

    I let people in front of me in traffic. It feels good.

    And of course I’d let PCC(E) go first with his 1 item if I had a basket full. It would feel good.

    I think people generally have a good heart, but often aren’t that aware of the world around them.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:43 am | Permalink

      I’m divided about holding doors open. Frequently it results in the approaching person having to hurry up so as not to delay the door-holder unduly.
      Which actually annoys me (though I don’t show it) if I’m the approaching person, or embarrasses me if I’m the door-holder.

      There’s an awkward separation distance where the decision to hold or not-hold risks being wrong either way.


    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      In transit, I often waive my priority – even when I’m in a hurry. I find John Black’s explanation “It feels good” a very good reason.-

  31. FB
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    If the guy was thinking “what if I let this person go ahead of me and another person shows up with another three items, and then another? The problem is unsolvable.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Whatcha get for shopping at “Zeno’s.”

      • FB
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        A variation of the problem: first customer with 30 items, second customer with 30 items, third customer 3 items.

  32. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I once heard someone describe “eternity” as being 16th in line at the grocery store, everyone’s cart is full, the scanner’s broken, none of the items have prices, the girl at the register doesn’t speak English, everyone wants to pay by check, but nobody’s got ID. Now knock 15 minutes offa that & you’ve got eternity.

  33. grasshopper
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    The checkout staff at my Aldi store scan the queues for people with very few items, and wave them through to the front.

    There is a local $2 shop which displays signs at the cash register declaring that shoppers trying to pay whilst on the phone will not be served.

    I like the $2 shops. It’s where I buy gift certificates for all my friends.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      LOL – $2 per friend. Genius.

  34. shelleywatsonburch
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. My favorite grocery store feature is self checkout. I would let someone with fewer items go ahead of me, because it’s polite and also I don’t like knowing that someone is behind me watching my every move while they wait 🙂

  35. Mike Anderson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Soon our groceries will be delivered by drones and these kinds of horrors will be over.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      What? You mean I won’t get to use my flying magnetic car for errands like picking up my food pills? Hmmphh. Some future.

  36. Paul Monne
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I will let someone ahead of me if it is only me. I will not make the decision for all the folks behind me. If everyone in a 10 person line let one single-item shopper cut the line, the poor schlep at the end is in a 20 person queue that they probably would not have selected.

    I don’t let cars cut in for the same reason.

    Does this mean I lose my Canadian citizenship?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Do you live in Southern Ontario? If so, no. This is how Ontario is. If you live anywhere else in Canada, including Western or Northern Ontario, you need to immediately move to Southern Ontario because where you are living is not meant for you.

      • Paul Monne
        Posted March 24, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        Brantford born and bred!

        If somebody *asks* me if they can cut the line, I will in turn ask that person to get permission from everybody else in the line. If collective permission is granted, then by all means….please go ahead.

        It’s a fine line, (no pun intended).

        I hate the chaotic stampede that is instigated with a newly opened register, and the siren call of “I can take the next in line over here!” The good staff will actually lead the next customer to the till, and not let mob mentality run amok.

        • Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          Where, o where, is that Good Staff?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:52 am | Permalink

      “I don’t let cars cut in for the same reason.”

      That is actually a very valid point. Benefits the cutter-in, disadvantages the driver(s) behind.

      If the car wanting to enter the traffic stream has been there for a little while then I may let him in. But I’m conscious of the fact that I’m thereby delaying everyone behind me slightly. There’s no 100% right answer.

      The people I curse are slow drivers at the head of a queue who then let someone else cut in front of them, which doubtless makes them feel good without a thought to the drivers stuck behind them.


  37. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately I don’t have to do that much shopping. However, I do not like it. I try to go only during the week, never on weekends as the places are a zoo. I usually only go to the very large grocery stores here, called Dillons. That way there are always plenty of cashiers so no lines. The places I notice with lousy service are Target and sometimes Wally World. Target always has minimal help, sometimes in a great big store one or two cashiers. So you get behind someone who has been in there shopping for hours and you never get out. That is why they have pizza and coffee places in the store, so you can spend the night.

  38. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I think most people are so absorbed in their own lives that they don’t notice others or how their actions impact them. However, I still find your grocery store stories oddly soothing. Perhaps it is the common banal suffering we all share that soothes me.

  39. Marion
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Talk about a first-world problem! Consider yourself blessed that this is the worst thing that happened to you today.

    • Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      This is a light-hearted post, in case you hadn’t noticed. I don’t need the rebuking, thank you.

  40. KD33
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink


    But one caveat – if the fast lane is open, and say has two people in line, and I’m in a normal line with a pretty full cart, I am less inclined to let the person with 2 or 3 items skip in front of me.

    But then, I’m a big bad American city person.

    Another grocery related question: if it’s a big parking lot, and you’ve carted your stuff far from the store, do you feel the obligation to return the cart, or let the min-wage high school students collect them?

    • Laurance
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Ummm…don’t your big parking lots have places to put your carts so that you don’t have to go all the way back to the store? Do you mean to say you just leave the cart standing there in the parking lot getting in the way of cars needing to park?

  41. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    A few grocery stores here have self checkout lines for which cheques cannot be used.

    Before the days of public transit “clipper cards” someone ahead of me in line for the train delayed me and 2 others by not asking for help in the someone Byzantine process of buying a ticket from an automated machine.
    A train came and went while she was trying to figure it out, and we all had to wait an additional 20 minutes.

  42. EliHershkovitz
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    You can earn 6% cash back on groceries using an AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card (I save $360 annually). That pays for all my grocery delivery throughout the year.

  43. Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    The civilising process never ends, simple considerations and apologies. What do we get? affronted individuals and lack of recognition of misunderstandings. Sober drunks.

  44. Posted March 24, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Practise not being in a hurry often, and quickly.

    That goes double when driving.

  45. Les Faby
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I prefer one unified queue for the next available checkout. That way, you are not concerned about which line is best and if the guy ahead of you has 100 items, you are not stuck waiting for him.
    I use self-checkout for small orders. I feel guilty taking away a cashier’s job, though.

    • nicky
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      Yes, they do that in banks, automatic tellers, post office and some other places, why could that not be done in these stores? In fact, they do it here for the ‘express’ counters, the ’10 items or less (fewer)’ ones. There are 2 to 6 cashiers, but only one queue. Same for the ‘auto-counters’ in Europe.

  46. Ken Phelps
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    God: 2
    Coyne: 0


  47. Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    But for me it’s quite the other way around and I can report from the opposite perspective:

    You can count me among those who regularly buy 20 or more items. So when I get to the belt with the shopping cart, it will take a while before I get everything on the belt. When I see people behind me with only a few things in their hands, I always, really always tell them, they could line up in front of me. Because it makes me nervous and stress me when people stand behind me, watching me impatiently, as I put my many things on the belt. So I’m glad when they go infront of me and in the meantime I can empty the shopping cart in peace and quiet.
    Often, people even thank me several times for letting them in; they do not know that I am as happy about the change as they are.
    And then there are the cases, they are rare, but they exist, people even refuse to go forward. Maybe they are not used to it that someone offers them something good even when it is only a shorter waiting time.
    Or they are polite polite people which consider my offer as a break of the holy unwritten shopping rules that the one, who is the first in the queue, has to be served first. In these cases I can do nothing and of course I feel stressed. These are the cases when politeness turns into a trap for everyone and when it becomes to the opposite of that to which it was invented for.

  48. Jiten
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    It’s not fair on the others to be let ahead. Wait your turn! Another solution is to buy more stuff yourself.

  49. Posted March 24, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  50. Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I live in Australia and if you tried to present a chegue for payment they would fall over laughing at you. Cheques have NEVER been accepted at ANY supermarket.

    It constantly amazes me that in the USA people still write checks for retail purchases. I have not written a cheque in Australia for at least 10 years…

    I was in Las Vegas a year ago and went through a “fast lane”. The person ahead of me tried to pay with a check. He was asked for ID and presented an out of state drivers license. I rolled my eyes and waited while the checkout person consulted a manager who, as fully expected, denied the request. The “customer” had no other form of payment and abandoned he cart of groceries and left the store. Would have been far faster to go through the standard checkout lanes…

    People using a “fast lane” should ONLY be allowed to pay with cash or credit/debit cards…

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

      “NEVER”? “ANY”? Are you sure? Coles accept traveller’s & personal cheques according to their T&Cs [w valid ID & must be drawn on an Aussie bank in AUD obv].

      Similarly personal, government, bank & travellers’ cheques are accepted at Woolworths Supermarket although you may have to speak to the service desk manager for some options.

      That’s the two major Aussie supermarket chains.

      I know that travellers cheques don’t go down well in Oz & usually it’s wise to cash them at a bank to avoid disappointment, but I don’t believe for one minute that a personal cheque has never been accepted at an Aussie supermarket as you claim.

      • Posted March 24, 2018 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm… Let me revise my comment.

        In my 49 years in Australia, I have NEVER seen anyone pay with a personal cheque at a supermarket, but it is really common in the USA, at least in the Midwest.

        The only condition in the USA is that the cheque needs to be drawn on a local (same town) bank. Never seen anyone required to show ID either…

        With the the power of Google, I checked, and both Australian chains claim to be willing to accept personal cheques in the manner and with the conditions you describe.

        From a practical point of view, have you ever actually tried and been successful paying with a personal cheque at an Australian supermarket?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 3:54 am | Permalink

          I’m just deflating your claim from a universal solid Aussie assertion to what it really is: a neck dote [which can be very painful & needs to be seen by your doc]. 🙂

          As to my own experience – I have none. BUT I found a news report as follows: Brenda Palmer rings up 45 years as checkout chick at Coles Malvern in Melbourne:

          “I maintain the biggest change that ever hit the supermarket was the barcode, we didn’t have barcodes until the early ’90s. The next one to that would be EFTPOS because we had to process cheques it’s made life a lot easier. They’re the innovations that have cut down our workload”

          SOURCE So Brenda is very glad for EFTPOS because it allowed DC & CC transactions – killing the cheque transaction. I reckon cheques in supermarkets were a daily occurrence around 35 years ago & EFTPOS rolled out from 1985 starting with petrol stations.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

          If you go back far enough into small town mid-west you would see something even stranger. Only two banks in town and all the stores had checks available for both banks. You go in, buy something and just ask for the check on your bank. Fill it out, sign and you were done. No id no nothing.

  51. klf
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    They got there first. Why is your time more important than theirs?

    And why the rush? Me thinks you need to chill.

    • klf
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:37 am | Permalink

      Whoops, was that rebuking? My bad!

      Guess I concur with the ‘first-world’ commenter. The post didn’t quite come off as that light-hearted to me. But I live in California where “me first” is the SOP.

      Guess the knee-jerk ‘rebuke’ to that poster’s observation strikes me as a little… thin-skinned.

  52. Moregain
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    I write from England.
    It is years since I’ve seen groceries paid for by cheque.
    I’m all for letting someone with only a couple of items go ahead of me but this can bite you. I let someone with one item move ahead of me but he didn’t mention that when he got to pay he would spend forever discussing with the checkout lady which cigarettes were the cheapes, what special offers there were and on and on (in GB cigarettes are kept covered behind the counter).
    Don’t be fooled by people with only a few items. Only yesterday the blighter in front of me had about six items but he was obviously shopping for himself and two other people as every two purchases had to be paid for individually without the correct change and three separate receipts were needed. I’m gonna take a folding chair with me in future.

  53. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    In New Zealand the fast aisles do say “Fewer”.

    That aside, I thoroughly agree with PCC’s complaint. Especially the bit about people wanting to use involved and tediously slow ways to pay.

    I also hate people who buy 2 items and insist on paying by card. Just another slower way to pay. What’s wrong with cash?

    But most of all, people who get on a busy rush-hour bus (having waited several minutes at a bus stop) and only then think of fumbling in their bag for their purse from which they laboriously extract a 20-dollar note for a $5.10 fare so the driver has to make change while the whole busload of passengers waits impatiently.


    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 4:33 am | Permalink

      For small transactions (in the UK the limit is £30) contactless card payment, where you just hold the card to the machine, is now as fast as cash.

  54. Jonathan Dore
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    If the most annoying people also have trouble paying (and you say in this case the guy was elderly) it could be that their perceptions are impaired to the point where they’re no longer aware of subtleties and variables like “the guy behind me only has one item”. He may just be able to do the one thing at a time, focusing on putting each item on the belt, focusing on packing, focusing on paying etc.

  55. Rod
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    If PCC approves, there is a website caed ntawaysright, in which one can spend MANY hours reading abut the trial and tribulations f cashiers and there in the retail/service sector Everything stated above and much more besides is there fr your amusement and occasionally, horror.
    Sorry, sometimes my o desn’t wrk!

  56. Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I always let someone go ahead if they have just a couple of items, or point out the 10 Item or Service Desk it open for transactions. But there was this one time in a very busy grocers, a man came up behind me with 3 items and I had half a cart load. I let him in front of me pointing out he only had the 3. He smiled, said thank you, moved ahead, then waved to his wife —- who came over and pushed a fully loaded cart in front of me. She said thank you and proceeded to unload. The cashier had already scanned the man’s 3 items and looked at me with pity. She had no choice but to scan the rest. No good deed goes unpunished.

  57. Helen Hollis
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    L also enjoy going to the grocery store when they open. Recently got in line behind someone who had one item. I was so excited. Until the cashier announced his total (2.49) and he produced a hundred dollar bill. Maybe he wants the grocery store to be his bank? Of course the cashier did not have the ability to give him change in that amount because the store had just opened. I looked at the cashier with pity as she paged for a manager. The customer did not seem to notice that two more shoppers ended up behind me during this time.All of us held in limbo because he likes to carry large bills. His car had a fish symbol on it though. Must make it okay.

  58. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Yep, here in Canada, it is very likely you would have been moved to the head of the line. Similar situations happen to me all the time both in Canada and in neighbouring Washington State where I have one or two items and someone with a full shopping cart will let me go ahead of her or him. Similarly, if I have a full cart, I will wave anyone with only a few items to go ahead.

  59. Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    A First World problem? – at least there was food on the shelves.


  60. Posted March 26, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I always let the small purchaser go ahead of me in line. No brainer.

    I don’t get reciprocal treatment very often; but I figure that:

    1. I need to be the adult
    2. To give is (truly) better than to receive

    • merilee
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink


  61. Posted March 26, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve been in stores with 1-10,11-20 and 20+ lines. That was weird.

  62. Posted April 5, 2018 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Do they not have self-service?

%d bloggers like this: