When I’m not wowing you with my journalistic prowess, I’m slinging groceries at the home of surprisingly awesome beauty loot, Trader Joe’s. Back pain from lugging banana boxes non withstanding, it’s a pretty great job (spoiler: I get to “sample” cheese and wine most days and get paid for it). But working in retail, like working in food service, gives a person insight as to how to be a better customer and since it’s always good to strive to be a better shopper, especially when a shop like TJs is packed or when you’re dashing to grab your Turkey come the holidays. Here are some insider tips on how not to be that guy at a grocery store.


1. Don’t bag on the bags: Everyone knows that bummer feeling of getting to the check-out only to realize you’ve left all your reusable bags in the car/at home/in an alternate timeline where you are more organized. Still, if you live in a state that charges for bags, don’t grumble about having to buy one. Remember: it’s a state mandated rule to help cut down on waste, not the cashier’s secret vendetta to buy a yacht ten cents at a time. Anyway, if you just spent $4 on kale, you’re gonna want to transport it home safely in a 10 cent tote.

2. Take out your earbuds: I’ll be the first to admit it, grocery store muzak is the stuff of nightmares (literally, I still have nightmares about the year Adele’s 21 dropped and we played it all Christmas). While it can be tempting to bump up your own tunes while you’re looking for your favorite cereal, doing so puts you at risk. Stores have a lot of moving parts, from fellow customers, wayward kids and employees wheeling carts of product around the floor (see: banana boxes reference above). If you’re lost in the world of your own music (or, ahem, your phone), you may miss some of these obstacles. Save the tunes for the commute home!

3. Stow your phone at checkout: We’ve just established the potential *danger* of being distracted by your phone while you’re shopping — save any lists you’ve typed — but grabbing it out of your pocket once your haul is on the check out belt is still a premature move. The cashier might have some questions for you about your purchases, so rather than trying to beat your high score in Candy Crush by the time it’s all bagged up, make eye contact + give your full attention. Not only will it help move the line along, but being present during that interaction is a small but really nice gesture that shows the person at work you respect their time.


4. One sample please: On a busy shopping day sometimes a tiny slice of cheese on a toothpick can taste like manna from heaven. Giving out food samples is a great way for any store to spread awareness of their great products but sometimes people hog all the samples or complain about the sample size! Remember a sample is supposed to be a taste — an amuse bouche, if you will, to whet your palette for the tasty meals-worth of food you’re about to buy. If there’s a line for samples, take one. If it’s an open display, take two max. If you take more, the jerk alarm *will* ring in front of everyone at the store (I may or may not be kidding…)


6. Don’t say “I would hate working here!”: Even if it’s true — someone broke a bottle of red wine, it’s WAY too cold in the produce section, your favorite hummus is out of stock — making remarks like that to the store’s employees is simply rude. If the grocery store game has put you in a tizzy, take a second to breathe it out (I suggest strolling over to the flower section for this) or unleash your aggression by blasting some music during the car ride home, but not by saying something potentially hurtful to someone with a name tag.

7. Help bag if you can: Grocery store workers are basically Tetris masters when it comes to bagging, but if they have to ring up your purchases, not to mention punching in produce codes, it may take them a while to pack your groceries up. If you have a free hand or are on a tight timeline, it’s always nice to start bagging up your own groceries. And it’s simple if you can remember this jingle: Heavy cans and meat/are kinda like the feet/eggs and bread are the head/ and all the rest is the chest (full disclosure I did not make that up, its from Sister Sister but still relevant). Chances are your cashier will help you once they’re done ringing or call over a bagger if one is available but you will look like a rock star mensch if you bag it up yourself.

What’s your favorite store to shop at? Tell us in the comments!