Food Drive

We all long to be great at something. I am a great grocery shopper.

Raquel Chilson

I don’t mean I have the greatest nose for bargains or that I’m the fastest shopper, although I can pick up everything on a 20-item list from my wife in less than 30 minutes—unless I get stuck behind a shopper digging out nickels and pennies for the exact amount instead of using the bills clearly visible in her wallet.

Or I have to wait 10 minutes to buy a package of hamburger because someone parks his or her cart in front of the meat case like it’s a Kodak photo spot at the Grand Canyon.
Or I’m trapped in the cracker aisle between ginormous, all-terrain assault shopping carts that can carry four sugared-up kids and have the turning radius of a Hummer.
Or because traffic is tied up by two shoppers who choose the busy intersection of dairy, nuts and fresh produce to catch up on the last 40 years of their lives.

I am a great shopper because I never do those things or violate the other unwritten rules of supermarket etiquette. My No. 2 goal every time I enter the store—No. 1 is remembering to bring the reusable cloth bags from the car—is to do unto fellow shoppers as I would have them do unto me.

This has left me with a serious shopping martyr complex. It seems the harder I try to make shopping at Publix a pleasure for my unreciprocating fellow shoppers, the higher my free blood pressure reading.

But really, the rudeness and sheer heedlessness displayed by so many shoppers should come as no surprise. How do you think these people get to the store? They shop the way they drive—like no one else is on the road.

Like misery, shopping martyrs love company, and I found plenty online—screen after screen of websites and blogs with names like Edible Garbage and All Things Cretinous. Some are even grumpier than me, like the germaphobe who scolds shoppers for “getting handsy with produce.” We’re supposed to “eyeball” it.
Sorry, but if I’m paying $2.99 a pound for “ripe” peaches, I want to know if they are harder than baseballs. Besides, who doesn’t wash supermarket produce before eating it?
As for abuse of express lanes—the traditional No. 1 complaint—I’ve noticed less of that lately. Maybe it’s because stores began changing the “10 items or less” sign to the grammatically correct “10 items or fewer.” Perhaps all those shoppers with 23 items simply didn’t understand the sign. Who knew?

But that’s a lonely bright spot in an expanding universe of annoying behavior. Attention, shoppers!

• Etiquette starts in the parking lot. Unless you’re waiting for a handicapped space, it is jerky behavior to stop and wait five minutes for a primo spot to open up, causing a logjam. Move on! It won’t kill you to walk an extra 100 feet to the store.
• We are not in England—stay to the right when exiting and entering the store. I am weary of heading out the salida with a full cart and nearly colliding with a shopper using it as the entrada.
• If you can see that an aisle is gridlocked, don’t be a lemming and make things worse. Park your cart away from the aisle and then retrieve your item(s).
• The supermarket is not Chuck E. Cheese’s. Leave the kids at home. If you must bring all four, make the older ones walk and skip the aisle-blocking behemoth carts.
• The supermarket is not a yoga class. Yet, I often see shoppers in a deep state of meditation. Is it really that hard to choose between Honey Bunches of Oats and Banana Nut Crunch? If you are that conflicted, please back away so we can reach the Lucky Charms.
• The supermarket is not a book club or other setting for idle chitchat. One time I had worked my way down a list of 20 items and needed only mangoes to be done in record time. Blocking my access to the golden orbs were three carts, the shoppers engrossed in gossip. Pretending to inspect the bananas nearby, I leaned in discreetly for a listen.

“She was volunteering at the ASPCA and one day she comes home with this dog, and her husband says...”

I hung around and tried to look like a man who needed mangoes, but I was invisible to the group. I could have interrupted but that would have been so rude. What did I think this was, a supermarket?

Email Greg at

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