17 Shameful Things Your Grocery Cashier Sees You Doing (Could #9 Be an Honest Mistake?)

Find out what your grocery cashier is silently critiquing as you check out.

female cashier giving client groceries
Updated July 11, 2024
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From kale to ketchup, dish soap to dubious delights, grocery clerks witness a kaleidoscope of our culinary choices.

But do they silently judge your quirky combos or frequent forgetfulness? Probably not.

So ditch the anxiety, grab your favorite cash back credit cards, and let's explore what actually raises eyebrows at checkout.

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Joking about theft

Anton/Adobe frustrated female cashier checking out products

“It doesn’t have a price tag, so it must be free!” They’ve heard that one before.

Considering that retail establishments lost $112.1 billion to theft in 2023, according to the National Retail Federation, the joke isn’t really funny.

Being rude

XaMaps/Adobe depressed senior female cashier at store

Don’t forget that grocery store workers put a lot on the line to keep toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other essentials in stock during the pandemic.

They deserved our respect then, and they still do. Be polite.

Asking for all the rain checks

nenetus/Adobe senior male cashier scanning products

No one will judge you for asking for a rain check on a really great deal. But you will get a side eye if you come in asking for one every week.

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Not returning your grocery cart

Davizro Photography/Adobe shopping cart with groceries at supermarket

Whether or not you return your grocery cart is widely regarded as a litmus test of morality. It’s the kind, proper thing to do.

While there’s no punishment for returning a cart, the grocery store employee in charge of rounding up carts in the rain may curse your name if you don’t park yours in the return stall.

Paying in coins

Degimages/Adobe depressed woman with pennies on table

Unless that’s literally all the money you have, do the poor clerk a favor and exchange them for bills at the bank rather than forcing the employee to count the contents of your couch cushions.

Exact change is nice, but paying for anything besides a candy bar in coins is obnoxious.

Paying with a check

Andrey Popov/Adobe businessman handing over cheque to client

While not as onerous as paying in coins, paying with a check isn’t much better. The grocer has to wait while you make it out, ask for your ID, process it, and pray it doesn’t bounce.

Leaving the checkout line

Gorodenkoff/Adobe customers paying at cashier

Sometimes, nature calls unexpectedly, but make sure to heed it before you get in the checkout line.

Leaving everyone behind you waiting isn’t going to win you any friends among grocery clerks or your fellow customers.

Cheating on the express lane limit

polack/Adobe groceries on cash desk at store

Nobody will bat an eyelash if you’re one or two items over the limit. But if you stretch it too far, it’s rude to the cashier (who probably has a smaller counter to deal with your purchases) and the other customers who want to check out quickly.

Letting your kids run wild

Nejron Photo/Adobe woman paying cashier at grocery store

Every toddler alive has thrown a fit in the grocery checkout line, so the kids aren’t the real problem.

It’s when you do nothing to mitigate the situation (or you escalate it by yelling or threatening your children) that earns you judgemental looks.

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You leave unwanted items wherever

pressmaster/Adobe supermarket manager with store sales manager

Grocery store employees have enough to do without cleaning up the clutter customers create.

If you decide later that you don’t want an item, give it to the cashier when you check out rather than leaving it on a random shelf.

Cutting the line

rh2010/Adobe man placing grocery at cash desk

This selfish practice is rude not only to the people behind you but also to the grocery clerk.

You’ve now made them the referee who has to tell you to review what you learned in second grade and wait your turn.

Too many or expired coupons

Monkey Business/Adobe woman in supermarket with coupons

We all love a good deal from a stellar coupon or an ad.

However, if you come in with a fistful of coupons — or worse, haggle with the employee to get them to accept expired ones — you’ll probably elicit a scowl from the cashier.

Talking on your phone while you check out

Drobot Dean/Adobe man writing notes while doing grocery

The grocery store clerk doesn’t want to hear about your kid’s soccer game delay or the work call with your client.

Treat the cashier like a person and pause your conversation to be alert enough to respond to “Paper or plastic?”

Talking about how expensive everything is

Anton/Adobe couple arguing at grocery market checkout

Here's something most of us can relate to these days. With everyone trying to fight inflation and the rising cost of groceries, it's common to feel frustrated when you see how much higher your weekly grocery bill is.

But maybe you don't need to talk about how shocked you are at the prices every time your cashier runs an item. It could be seen as rude and almost as if you're blaming the cashier.

Wearing pajamas into the store

deagreez/Adobe senior man celebrating on purple background

The jury is out whether wearing pajamas in the grocery store is tacky or just your own business.

Just don’t be surprised if an employee snaps a pic to submit to the People of Walmart blog.

Bringing your pet

Alexandr/Adobe cheerful dog in trolley with groceries

Nobody will judge you for bringing a legitimate service dog or emotional support animal on your shopping trip.

But they will giggle behind your back if you bring a Chihuahua in your purse while you get milk and eggs.

Using a line with the light off

Anton/Adobe couple arguing at grocery market checkout

The lights above the registers indicate whether the employee can serve additional customers. If it’s off, the cashier is probably waiting to go home, go on a lunch break, or use the bathroom.

They won’t be very happy to serve you when they’ve indicated they’re unavailable.

Bottom line

bodnarphoto/Adobe man placing groceries on cash desk

Forget worrying about the cashier judging your shopping cart contents.

The true measure of your character at the grocery store lies not in what you buy or your smart shopping hacks but in how you treat the people around you.

Be kind, patient, and respectful — that's what will truly leave a lasting impression.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson

Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.