They won't get off the phone, they're fighting loudly with their spouse about money, their kids are bouncing around like caffeinated sugar fiends, or they're arguing with the front-end manager over expired coupons she can't take. As a former cashier, mom, and avid shopper, let me share some tips on what not to do in the checkout line.
1. Don't ask random strangers to watch your children.
With so many horrific, true stories about kids being snatched from stores by strangers, you should never ask the cashier or another patron to watch your kid(s) so you can run back to the dairy case and grab that milk you forgot—even for one minute.
2. Don’t judge people by what they’re buying.
As if cramps aren't enough of an annoyance once a month, shopping for personal hygiene items can be an equally uncomfortable event if you're the type to be easily embarrassed. Don't exacerbate an already awkward experience by gawking at the personal items in their cart.
3. Don’t come to the register unprepared–especially if you’re writing a check or have coupons.
To keep the line moving swiftly, have your coupons already cut out and your check partially pre-filled to make sure you're not scrambling at the last minute. This gets everyone in and through faster.
4. Don’t use the candy racks to hide unwanted items.
During my time working at the supermarket, I can personally attest to the horror of discovering rotting meat shoved under the candy rack because people were either too lazy to take it back, or too ashamed by not having enough money to pay for an item. Give it to the cashier and she can have someone run it back to the appropriate place.
5. Don’t treat your cashier like a bank teller.
If you think the cashier is a bank teller, you're in the wrong place. She's likely not allowed to give you the rolls of quarters from her drawer for the laundromat next door. If your store doesn't have an associated bank inside, feel free to stop by the customer service counter and inquire there instead.
6. Don’t demand ridiculous change back.
It's reasonable that on occasion you may need or want specific change back, but paying for a pack of gum with a $100 bill and then getting all bent out of shape when the cashier can't make change is a bit extreme. Cashiers’ drawers are frequently pulled throughout their shift, so they often only have a limited amount at any given time.
7. Don’t talk about politics.
With the upcoming election, politics seem to be on everyone's mind, but using the checkout lane as a soapbox for your chosen platform is extremely inappropriate. Go ahead and be proud of your candidate, wear your political support buttons or campaign stickers, but don't quiz fellow shoppers who they're voting for.
8. Don’t go back to the cashier if you forgot to use your coupons–go to customer service.
After your transaction is done and you realize you've forgotten to use your coupons, the cashier's hands are pretty much tied. Luckily, this can usually be remedied by taking your receipt and your coupons to the customer service desk. Even if you forget to use your store rewards card, many stores will let you enter your receipt information at home online for the points to still count.
9. Don’t use pickup lines.
There are plenty of ways to meet your soulmate…the checkout lane shouldn't be one of them. Unwanted flirtations can be uncomfortable and extremely awkward for everyone around.
10. Don’t have long conversations.
Recognizing an old friend at the store is one thing, but wanting to have a full-blown reunion by blocking the aisle or register is definitely not okay when the store is packed with people trying to check out. Give her your number or email so you can catch up at a more appropriate time.
11. Don’t let your child’s tantrum go unchecked.
Without stepping on some toes, I can honestly say that there’s nothing more distracting than an out-of-control child trapped in the checkout lane, kicking carts, digging through the candy, or shredding magazines because you're not paying attention to them. As a mom of two, I can certainly appreciate there are times that, despite your best efforts, you simply can't reason with a five-year-old. Ask the cashier or customer service desk to hold your cart, then take your child outside and let them calm down before returning to the checkout.
12. Don’t try to sneak 30 items through the express line.
It's totally acceptable to have a couple extra items in your basket, but when you're very clearly over the limit, you're slowing down the express-lane flow. Avoid the traffic jam and other shoppers’ anger by picking the appropriate lane.
13. Don’t ignore the CLOSED sign on the register.
The light is off and the CLOSED sign is clearly visible at the end of the register, so you shouldn't feel entitled to start unloading your items anyway. If you only have minimal items, ask the cashier if she can accommodate you or if you need to move to another lane.
14. Don’t lie in order to get a better price.
Most often, organic produce costs more, and while we're always looking for better deals and prices, changing the produce sticker or directly lying to the cashier about which type you're purchasing shouldn't be one of the ways to save money.
15. Don’t take offense if you’re asked for your ID.
It's the law, and you shouldn't feel offended when the cashier asks for your identification. Even if you look of age, the cashier isn't going to risk their job by not asking for your license. If you're buying alcohol or tobacco products, have your ID ready so they can scan it in and get you through the line faster.
16. Don’t haggle over prices with the cashier if the line is long. Take price discrepancies to customer service.
There really is no use arguing over a mere difference in cents with the cashier. She doesn't set the pricing, nor can she alter it on the fly. If you find a price discrepancy, take your receipt to the customer service desk and ask them to check it. They'll be happy to compensate you the difference if it's found to be wrong.