10 Items or Less: The Grocery Store Pet Peeves That Drive Us Crazy

Categories: Grocery Guide

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This TV series is painfully underrated, by the way.
My mother shops and cooks for a living. She's there at Randalls or H-E-B or Kroger every single morning -- sometimes Costco, depending on the client -- with her battery of cloth sacks and cold bags, waiting for the day's haul of fresh produce, raw meat and canned goods to rumble down the conveyor belt. There, her carefully selected heads of cauliflower and paper-wrapped salmon filets are mashed and wrangled into submission by some well-meaning (ideally) yet clueless bagger.

It happens with such frequency that I now look forward to her morning "checkout report," which occurs like clockwork around 10:30 a.m. every day.

"Well," she'll start with a long sigh. "Today, they put my eggs at the very bottom of the bag and tried to throw a bunch of cans on top." She always stops them, kindly, and asks them to follow the universal rules of bagging: bread and eggs on top or in separate containers; perishables into the cold bags; raw meat, fish and seafood separate from the rest of the produce. She is usually given a withering look by the bagger, whose actions are then further skewed by pointed sarcasm and exaggerated gestures.

HERE, LOOK, I'M PUTTING THIS STUPID BREAD EVER SO EFFING GENTLY INTO YOUR DUMB REUSABLE BAGS. HAPPY, LADY?

But this doesn't just happen to my mother. It happens to all of us. Grocery stores are ticking time bombs of OCD-triggering mania and wellsprings of pet peeves that make normally kindhearted people want to stab their fellow shoppers through the eye hole with a carrot. I polled my co-workers about their own biggest grocery store pet peeves, finding comfort in the idea that I'm not alone when this grocery-induced rage sets in.

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The abandoned cart of a shopper who had to jettison his groceries for the sake of his own sanity.
Sacking groceries incorrectly.

"I try to help the baggers out by putting all the frozen food together, all the canned goods, fruits and vegetables. It means the raspberries don't arrive home in pieces after clanging against a can of Wolf chili. And it's easy to put the frozen and cold stuff in one of those refrigerator bags for the trip. Also makes it easier to unload at home. Most baggers seem to recognize and appreciate this and bag accordingly, but some totally disregard it and slam unlike things together. When I've spent $200 to $300 on an order, this is infuriating. If you're going to do that, let me bag it myself." -- Margaret

Gross packaging and unkempt displays.

Nothing says "We care!" like spoiled food in the produce department and sun-damaged merchandise on the aisles that's been there since the Carter administration. The worst offenders? "Dirty boxes. How the hell long has the corn flakes box been sitting on the shelf that it got dusty?" says Olivia. "[And] bloody meat packages. If it leaks, it ain't wrapped right."

Bottlenecking checkout lanes during rush hour.

What's the busiest time of day? Let's figure it out so we can shut down most of our lanes and staff the remaining ones with prison wardens. "I presume they see me coming and shut down all but two lines," says Monica. "Did I mention I usually shop after work -- primetime? I must hit every shift change/breaktime right on schedule."

Rubberneckers.

There are two kinds of rubberneckers in grocery stores: Those who are new to the store (maybe they're in town, checking out Central Market for the very. First. Time. Ever.) and those who are taking a vacation for the afternoon. Or, as Olivia puts it, "people who don't know what the fuck they are doing at an ethnic market. Fiesta is not a tourist destination. Don't go there to gawk at the many, many Mexicans buying 50-pound sacks of pinto beans and giant cobs of roasted corn. I ain't in no freaking freak show."

Pointlessly small plastic bags.

"I know I sound like a cranky old person. Years ago, if I recall correctly, they didn't use the small plastic bags that are used today, where you can only fit like one thing inside each bag. Like, if you buy laundry detergent, a jar of pasta sauce and a 2-liter soda, that's three bags. What good is that? Instead of making the job easier, you just wind up leaving with a shitload of plastic bags. I don't recall this always being the case, but maybe I'm hallucinating." -- Craig

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58 comments
MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

I can't count the number of times I've been mis-keyed. Then I have to argue with customer service, "I understand garlic pods are 2/$1 and ropes of garlic are $26/ea but not only did I NOT get two ropes of garlic but I've NEVER seen ropes of garlic in the store."  

mollusk
mollusk

Kroger, in and of itself, for its multitude of indignities.  (shelves that shout at you....shudder....)  I drive past them to go elsewhere.

I also bag my own groceries, having gotten the same lessons as Hanabi-Chan when I was a teenager at Handy Andy.  A smile and "I've got it, thanks" usually suffices.  If there's an unusually motivated sacker, I smile again and agree, but only if he/she can first describe how my kitchen is laid out.  That one always works.

V-Gizzle
V-Gizzle

i hate it when people want to write out a check in the express lane... or any lane in fact! get with the times and use your debit card for crying out loud!

j.s.
j.s.

Why, when s/he is checking out the person before me, and I'm loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt, does the cashier almost never turn it on?  Too often I'm seething as I manually push all of my groceries down a belt that's designed to carry them to the same place, automatically. Why?

Back in the Saddle to Fit
Back in the Saddle to Fit

Stores that don't seem to have a sense of what sells. If you see a brand that is constantly off the shelves next to others than aren't selling, order less of the nonseller. HEB wheat pizza crusts, for example, fly off the shelves and often are sold out. Yet hundreds of white flour crusts hang collecting dust.

stevek77536
stevek77536

Not really a peeve, but a sobering observation on "work satisfaction".  99% of the conversations I overhear between the checkers, baggers, etc. involves "when did you come on?", "when do you get off?", "when do you go on break", and similar.  The boredom factor seems immense.  I even had one bagger put my reuseable bags into the store plastic bags.  As I watched this, the checker turned and saw it, grabbed my bags away, and said "Dude!"  A good argument for staying in school.

Loona_c
Loona_c

1. Fruit flies in the produce dept.  (where else are bugs?!)

2. Stores (like super Target, Walmart) that expect you to put your cloth items (clothes, towels) on the same conveyor belt that last had leaking meat packages (and who knows what else) on them.


Brad McLelland
Brad McLelland

I don't like going for a couple items and leaving with $200 in food. That's kinda my fault though. Hahaha.

PeopleSuck
PeopleSuck

-People who bring all 17 of the children to the grocery store and don't pay attention to their behavior.
-People who are rude to employees.
-People who knowingly get in the express lane with a cart full of items.
-People who are not prepared to pay (have their card/cash/etc. ready) when the time comes.
-People that pay with a LoneStar card and still complain.
-People that wait and hold up the line while looking over their receipt, hoping for a mistake.
-People that don't let the baggers know special instructions, then scream at them.
-People.

Sean Casey Caldwell
Sean Casey Caldwell

"Imma pay for THESE with my Lone Star Card. Imma pay for THESE with my WIC card. IMMA pay cash for the cigarettes, and put the beer on my credit card. Ugh.

Marcy Basile
Marcy Basile

Itty bitty plastic bags. If you won't offer paper anymore, at least use bigger, better plastic bags so I don't get a separate bag for each item. Very wasteful and annoying.

Celeste12
Celeste12

Worst ever... in the Express line particularly, when the cashier has to go off to the other side of the store to get the cigarettes the customer wants, and comes back with the wrong ones, or another option, and the customer can only consume one very specific type, and packaging type, of cigarette. Next thing you know, they've gone to look for that particular type and package three times. So much for "express lane."

Tina Greenwood
Tina Greenwood

When you find a store that carries a specific item that you like and then all of a sudden they quite carrying it just when you had made a special trip there to get that item. :(

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

Honestly, nothing really bugs me inside the stores. 


But Phoenicia, where's the damned bike rack?

Ray Hadfield
Ray Hadfield

Sometimes you need to go to 4 or 5 of them to get each stores seperate "specials"....

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Little old ladies who wait til the groceries are rung up and bagged and the final tally is announced before digging for their checkbook and a pen, then taking 5 minutes to write a stupid check.

b.wallace
b.wallace

having my change given to me in a wad without having it counted back to me by the clerk.  people leaving their carts in the middle of the aisle and wandering off as if no one exists but them.  i see this all the time at whole foods where the aisles are  especially narrow and crowded. this bugs the crap out of me! i passively aggressively accidentally ram their carts.  i don't get it.  would these same people just stop their cars in the middle of the street? probably.

SirRon
SirRon

The other day a grocery checker carded the dude in front of me, who was obviously over-21. The guy waited in line to buy a single sixer of Smirnoff Ice. But *no one* over 21 drinks Smirnoff Ice, so the carding was annoying but warranted. Surprisingly, he used the old "Uh, I forgot my wallet in the car" trick and jetted out. 

We crossed paths in the doorway as I was exiting and I thought, "the balls on that guy to go and try again." I hung out in the doorway and watched him go back for that sixer to the same checker, but this time with his wallet. Dude really needed that Smirnoff Ice.

What were we talking about?

LaurenK
LaurenK

I have lots of grocery pet peeves: I constantly irritate the teenage population of Houston by insisting on bagging my own groceries, and my husband has accused me of “cart rage” when people block aisles for no reason. But one of my biggest irritations is the obsession with giving out samples at peak shopping time. I get that they want to promote new products, but the tables they set up tend to block major intersections in the store and cause huge traffic jams, especially when the sample is something good (anyone who’s seen the chocolate and butterscotch sauce table at Central Market knows what I’m talking about). My husband and I once saw a fist fight over a poorly placed chocolate-covered popcorn table whose crowd was bumping into a very long checkout line at Costco.

AwesomeMargie
AwesomeMargie

My beef is with shoppers.  Please, for the sake of everything holy, especially as we await a new Pope, stop leaving your shopping cart in the middle of the aisle.  You see me, and about 9 people behind me, yet you will glance over and still do it.  I will bump the shit out of your cart each and every time, asshole.

CameronEu
CameronEu

Premium olive oil at Spec's that is 3 or 4 years old and rancid. Still for sale.

Bottles of ten year old white wine, same place, that's now vinegar: still for sale, as wine.

Both of these instances, set against the annoying tv commercials with really, really white dancing.

FullCourtHoustonPress
FullCourtHoustonPress

#1: Self Checkout machines which freeze up after every other item and require that the attendant comes over to type in a code to let you continue checking out. Especially when that attendant isn't around. ESPECIALLY if it's the guy that works at Kroger on West Gray who rolls his eyes at you and acts like you just ruined his day by asking him to do his job. I think he is at the one on Studemont now. Short white guy with glasses that looks like he hasn't showered in a week.

lily
lily

I'm sorry - the worst is when the store is packed and the store decides that they need to restock an aisle, that is already stocked enough and you have to fight your way down the aisle around all the other carts. Can't you do this overnight when no one is there?!

Hangupandshop
Hangupandshop

You forgot the number one pain in the ass... Women pushing shopping carts like drunk drivers while talking on the cell phone.

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

normal sized plastic bags, and still with only one item in each.

jennytulltx
jennytulltx

"I've got the penny" then a 30 minute expedition as she rummages through her impossibly huge purse looking for the damn thing!  People who don't seem to realize they need to pay for this stuff until the last item is rang up and bagged - then they start fishing for the credit card or writing their check that requires very carefully drawing each letter.  Cashiers and baggers who never acknowledge the shopper, instead chatter to each other. HEB's damn store brands to the complete exclusion of preferred name brands.  My apples tossed down the conveyor.  Clueless people wandering the meat aisle.  The family the shops together stays together, but they are blocking the whole damn aisle.  Those big grocery carts with the damn kids play cart attached.  ARG! 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

RIGHT?!  I get behind either the guy writing a check on the 2nd out-of-state bank of YouFigureItOut Township, with a 10yr-expired military ID, or grandma who haggles EVERY price and/or taxible item while paying a $109 bill in un-rolled Canadian pennies.  

DesertTrip
DesertTrip

@j.s.  It is entirely possible that their belt is not working well and doesn't stop when it should, thus crushing everyone's merchandise against the chute as it narrows to the scanner (I had this today), or maybe there is a big puddle of chicken blood or a spill she wants to clean before letting others put more on it so he/she is taking groceries manually, then wiping it down before turning the belt back on (also happened to me today). 

jshafferrn
jshafferrn

@stevek77536 I am glad I'm not the only one who has had my bags... bagged.

One thing I notice about my local grocer is that, when it's windy, they keep the parking lot meticulously clear of carts.  I appreciate that.

My peeve is people who block premium parking spots with the cart when they are done loading the car.  Take the time to at least put it in the cart return!  I bring a cart in from the parking lot every time I go to the store, even if I'm only picking up one or two things.

PeopleSuck
PeopleSuck

Oh yeah, and extreme couponers (unless they are donating). NO ONE NEEDS 50 TUBES OF TOOTHPASTE.

LittleOldLadiesBFF
LittleOldLadiesBFF

@Jalapeno Those "little old ladies" have earned the right to take their time. They've had to put up with PIGS like you many, many times over the years. Have YOU ever had to dig thru YOUR pockets to find the right change to pay the gas attendant? Have YOU ever been distracted & not notice the red light changed? Gettin' the picture yet, jerk?
You live 80+ years & tell me how fast you move, AZZHAT!! Show some DAMN respect for those "little old ladies" YOUR ELDERS, cause if you roll your eyes, or give an impatient "sigh" while MY mama is "writing a stupid check"... I'll show you what a DICKWAD looks like... in front of the whole damn store!! SHAME ON YOU!! 

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

How about parents who let their small children "help" push the shopping cart. Giving a small child something they can use as a battering ram is very bad idea. Yes, this has happened to me on more than one ocassion. Got my toes ran over once too.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

Christ, that drives me insane too!  Especially when the bloody machine asks you to please put item in the bagging area when the item is already in the damn bag! Or asks you to scan it after you have already scanned it. It is even more annoying when you only have 1 item.  The whole idea of the stupid self-checkout was to get you in and out of the store quicker. WRONG! This is probably why I don't use those infernal things anymore.

lily
lily

stupid.. men do the same thing, you could have just said "people pushing carts while on the cell phone."

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@jennytulltx

You totally nailed the bit about the people who seem surprised that that they are being asked to pay for the stuff.  So all the stuff gets rung up, they act shocked about being asked to pay, then they fumble for their checkbook, look for a pen, "what's the date?", and a lot of time these people are seniors. Seems like they'd have it all figured out by now.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editortopcommenter

@jennytulltx So...all the things? (These are all additional reasons I hate grocery shopping as well.)

stevek77536
stevek77536

@jshafferrn I had a discussion about this with a couple who for years have argued about it.  One said it created jobs (leaving the carts out), the other said it was a waste of the baggers.  I tend toward the latter.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

Have you managed to make anyone's cart entries go over the shelf into the next aisle? ;)

AwesomeMargie
AwesomeMargie

@Hanabi-chan Ugh.  Kids can be the worst.  Ain't no one got time for you to let your kid control the cart.  Move it or lose it.

jennytulltx
jennytulltx

@kshilcutt @jennytulltx  - Oh, Katherine, hon, you just don't know!  At the HEB I am just a wound tight bundle of Pet Peeves and Pissedoff!  Thank the Dear Lord for Specs!

LittleOldLadiesBFF
LittleOldLadiesBFF

@Jalapeno @LittleOldLadiesBFF That's what I was going for... to CHARM you! Be nice to "little old ladies" cause ya never know when it might be MY "little old lady" mama in front of YOU!! (Rest assured, she WON'T be alone & then you really WILL meet me!)
Have a NICE day... 
BULLY!)! 

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

@Hanabi-chan Now, I'm not saying yes, and I'm not saying no, but lets just say there have been some "clean up in aisle 6!" announcements after I'm done....;)


SirRon
SirRon

@AwesomeMargie @Hanabi-chan Kids are the worst!1 They are always wanting to do things they can't and are always in the way. On top of that, 93% of the time you can't understand a damned word they are saying! If only there was some place they could go until they were adults.

We'd all be better people for that.

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