Grocery cart etiquette

I have a confession to make.  I have grocery cart rage.  There.  I’ve admitted it. It starts when I first step into the store and try to obtain a cart by separating it from the chain of carts behind it. Invariably the cart I am wrestling with insists on dragging along the one behind it. After struggling for a minute, I give up,  leave it, and try the first cart in the next line.  Eventually I manage to disengage a cart and embark on my shopping only to find that this cart has a wobbly wheel and sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard when pushed.  Several minutes and a wrenched back later, I procure my cart.  This is when the real grocery cart rage kicks up several notches.  I now have to maneuver said cart around a store full of nig-nogs with no clue about grocery cart etiquette.

The first rule of etiquette is that all grocery carts should go the same way down the aisles.  None of this two-way business.  And the correct way to go is the way I am going.  It only makes sense.  You go from north to south down aisle one and south to north down aisle two and so on.  No skipping aisles and trying to sneak down the next one going the wrong way.  This is because when two-way grocery cart traffic is allowed, you can always guarantee that shopper A going south and shopper B going north will stop directly next to each other in order to spend five minutes searching the shelves on opposite sides, totally oblivious to the fact they are blocking the aisle.  It’s not like one of them thinks, “Oh, maybe if I had the sense to move my cart three feet past the other person’s cart, which is going the WRONG way, other shoppers could get through.”  Nope, the shoppers barricaded behind them simply have to wait until the clueless find what they’re looking for and move on.

The second rule is no one under the age of twenty-five should be allowed to drive the grocery cart. Ever! But there are always the two girlfriends who bring their six assorted children with them.  Why one of them doesn’t stay home with the kids and let the other go shopping alone in peace is beyond me.  Usually their carts are manned by the two oldest children—no more than eight years old—who run into things, block the aisles, and do wheelies in the middle of the store. There is typically a screaming toddler in the seat who is trying to climb out and a slightly older child climbing up the sides or the back of the cart while it is in motion.  I’ve even seen small children lying on the rack on the bottom of the cart. The mothers, of course, are completely unaware of their children’s antics because their noses are buried in their cell phones texting each other so they don’t have to actually talk to each other.  Meanwhile, in an effort to avoid grocery cart demolition derby, I have to weave and zig-zag down the aisles.  Otherwise I risk being rammed by pint-sized grocery cart drivers, or accidently running over a small child who has fallen from the cart into my path.  As I hastily snatch items from the shelf, I attempt to maneuver my cart through a temporarily open gap between the two children’s carts before the gap closes with both carts crashing into me on both sides.

Then there are the whole families who find it necessary to shop together.  Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Great Aunt Sadie, and a sullen teenaged boy are all bonding in the produce section and moseying along at the pace of an ancient, arthritic snail.  If I am lucky enough to bypass them there, where there is more room, I am certain to meet up with them in the toilet paper aisle. And somehow, even though I have scurried to get ahead of them, suddenly there they are right in front of me, lined up shoulder to shoulder across the aisle like the defense line of the Green Bay Packers.  There ain’t no gettin’ through!   No amount of polite coughing or “excuse me’s” will induce any of them to move out of the way, as they are in their own little zone and completely unaware of anyone else around them.  So far I have resisted the urge to “accidentally” let my cart make contact with one of their derrieres to try to prod them out of the way.  I have even tried backing out of the aisle and moving to another one, hoping I don’t forget to go back and pick up my toilet paper. But everywhere I go, they miraculously appear in front of me, as if their GPS is honed on me.  Frankly, it’s a little creepy.

Finally, let me explain that grocery aisles are like side streets.  You need to look both ways before pulling out.  Those on the main thoroughfare have the right-of-way.  After I’ve finally made it through the gauntlet of clueless shoppers and loaded my cart with 100 pounds of dog food, 50 pounds of cat litter, 2 cases of water, half a dozen large diet coke bottles and all my other necessities, it’s like I’m driving a two-ton semi.  It’s hard to start, stop, maneuver, and turn.  Once I get my momentum going, I need to keep moving.  So as I’m trucking down the home stretch toward the check out, my cart loaded so high I can’t see what’s in front of me, some nig-nog with a near empty basket will inevitably dart out of the end of an aisle without looking, causing me to slam on the imaginary brakes of my cart to avoid a collision.

I’m trying to work on my grocery cart rage.  I really am.  And I’m pretty sure I could conquer it if only the other shoppers would get a clue and get out of my way!

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2 thoughts on “Grocery cart etiquette”

  1. I share your anger. My pet peeve is the other shopper, usually Hispanic, who walks alongside his/her cart with one hand holding the side of the cart. This practice effective blocks the whole aisle in both directions. I have traveled all over South America and this method is very common there. That is why I labeled it as a Hispanic practice.

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