11 things you should never do in a grocery store, according to former employees

Stephen Chernin/Getty ImagesSome of your grocery-store habits could be making someone else’s life more difficult.

Grocery stores can serve hundreds of people per day, which means employees have plenty of opportunities to observe the best, the worst, and the ugliest customer behaviour.

Insider spoke to former grocery-store employees to find out what customers should never do while shopping for food, and how to avoid these bad habits.


Avoid placing items on shelves where they don’t belong.

BSIP/UIG via GettyIt may take an extra few moments to return that can of beans to its proper home, but you’ll be making someone’s job a lot easier.

Former supermarket assistant Joanne Archer of Expert Home Tips told Insider that it really irritates staff when customers leave items strewn about the store.

“Most of us have done it, but it’s incredibly frustrating for shop assistants and shoppers alike. A birthday card in the frozen section? Ice cream by the chips? Not only does it make the shop look messy, but it can cause food to spoil and waste goods,” said Archer.

“The more profit a shop loses through this waste and the time spent tidying up, the less likely it that shoppers will get better deals on groceries,” she added.


Never block the aisle with your cart.

ShutterstockJust as there are street-traffic rules, grocery-store aisles have their own road etiquette.

Former supermarket employee Pedro Richardson of Travel With Pedro told Insider that cart congestion in the aisles can cause everything from flaring tempers to food spills.

“Some customers forget they are in a public space and totally block the way with their cart, stopping what should be a normal flow of people. Remember to keep your cart close to you and the shelf, so that there is plenty of room for others to walk through with their own carts,” said Richardson.

In addition, he said you may want to hold off on allowing your child to pilot the shopping cart since many traffic-related aisle incidents are caused by young children who aren’t as able (or willing) to keep the cart in line.


Try not to do your weekly shopping right before the store is set to close.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesThere probably won’t be many staff members able to help you when it’s close to closing time.

Just as it’s considered rude to demand to be seated in a restaurant a few minutes before closing time, strolling into your local grocery store just before they lock the doors for the night is definitely frowned upon.

“Please don’t come in one minute before closing with the intention of shopping for over an hour for a month’s worth of groceries. Yes, the store may still be open at 8:59 p.m., but stores aren’t usually capable of keeping full staffing for an hour over their designated leaving time,” former grocery-store employee Emmi Buck told Insider.

If you really must run into a store just before closing, try to be as swift as possible and limit your purchases to necessary items. Save browsing the aisles at a leisurely pace for your next trip.


Don’t squeeze or touch the produce unless it’s absolutely necessary.

ShutterstockAlways wash produce before you eat it.

It’s natural to want to check the condition of produce before purchasing it, but shoppers should try to keep their poking and prodding to a minimum.

“Squeezing produce in itself is a bad habit, but some people tend to squeeze items too hard, damaging the produce and leading to a loss of revenue for the store. No one will buy those tomatoes or those mangoes with deep finger marks, especially the person who squeezes them too hard,” said Richardson.

Instead, learn how to identify if an item is ripe by its appearance. For tricky items like avocados or peaches, do your best to be as gentle as possible when handling the items.

And always remember to wash your produce before eating – other shoppers have likely handled the produce in the same way that you have.


Never leave a mess behind without telling a staff member about it.

ShutterstockIt can be a safety hazard if it’s not dealt with.

Dropping an item or knocking something over may be an embarrassing moment, but former supermarket cleaner Albert Navarret told Insider that shoppers should always tell an employee if they have accidentally spilled something inside the store.

” It makes the store look bad to other shoppers. Tell someone! The employee won’t get mad at you, and you usually won’t have to pay anything,” said Navarret.

Beyond helping the store keep up appearances, telling staff about any spills can also prevent any accidents or injuries that may be caused by slippery floors or broken glass.


Kids should not be sitting inside the main part of shopping carts.

ShutterstockChildren should only be sitting in the upper part of the cart, if needed.

Though it may be tempting to corral your children inside what is essentially a rolling cage, keep your shopping trip sanitary and safe by keeping kids out of the cart unless they’re in the part that’s specifically meant to be sat in.

“Not only is it unhygienic, but it’s also dangerous. The cart can easily topple due to too much weight applied to one side,” Archer told Insider.


Don’t eat food or open an item before purchasing it.

ShutterstockBuy it first to avoid the awkwardness of a confrontation with staff.

Though you may think there’s no harm in digging into a bag of chips you plan on paying for, many stores consider opening items before purchase to be terrible etiquette and may even approach you for shoplifting.

“Don’t open things before you buy them. This is just rude. Even if you plan to buy it, the item isn’t yours yet. Most supermarkets have strong policies about this, and you may be approached by a staff member,” said Navarret.

If you simply can’t wait for a snack or drink, take the item you’d like to open to the register and pay for it before continuing with your grocery shopping.


It’s rude to leave your shopping cart way outside of the designated area.

ShutterstockYou should try to return your cart to the storage area.

Returning your cart to the designated space takes just a few moments and can save employees a lot of hassle during their shifts.

“Employees hate when shoppers leave their cart at the furthest end of the parking lot, or shoved up against the landscaping,” said Buck.


It’s not worth asking employees to “check in the back” for fresher food.

DmyTo/iStockYou might want to try coming back another day.

“Don’t ask floor assistants to go check in the back for newer stock if the items on the stock floor are not to your liking. The movement of food from the back of the store to the aisle is on a strict date schedule, and pulling from the newer stock leads to more wasted food than necessary,” said Johnson.

Instead, you might just want to come back in a day or two to peruse the new stock.


Placing a broken item back on the shelf can be hazardous and bothersome for employees.

ShutterstockSomeone could get hurt if the problem is ignored.

If a shopper accidentally breaks a toy, electronic, or other non-food items, they are expected to alert a member of staff rather than simply walking away from the item.

“Never break something and then put it back on the shelf,” said Buck, who explained that leaving damaged goods on the stock floor leads to problems for staff and may result in another customer inadvertently buying a broken item.

“We won’t charge you for the broken goods and we know clean-up is a part of the job, but please don’t make it harder on us,” she added.


Don’t blame an employee for an expired coupon or sold-out item.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesIt’s not their fault.

This should be obvious, but most grocery-store employees don’t have any power to set sale dates, immediately order new stock, or reactivate an expired coupon.

“Don’t yell at the staff if an item is out of stock or your coupon is expired. We get that it is frustrating if you planned on buying a certain item, but there is a 99% chance that the person you’re taking your frustration out on had nothing to do the issue,” said Buck.

If you truly believe a mistake has been made, you can ask to speak to a store manager, but shoppers should keep in mind that most staff members don’t have the authority to discount items on request.

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