Self check etiquette

Recently, it came up on our local Facebook page that someone was wondering what to do when using the self-check line at Stop and Shop and the person in front of them was done checking but still bagging. Should one wait? And the answer is of course, yes.

First of all, this is an excellent but unfortunately infrequent example of a question in good faith about etiquette in this particular Facebook group. Actually, I don’t have the analytics (Colleen, our fearless leader here at A Madison Mom, is also a moderator over there, so she would know better). But it seems like the usual trajectory of these things is that someone asks about where to buy local honey for allergy relief and it devolves into a referendum on alternative medicine and the effect of big pharma or something like that. In this case, people shared all of their thoughts and advice and even a solution came to light that many knew about. (More on that later)

For my part, I was thrilled to see a conversation about one of those things that are totally in my wheelhouse. To wit, I have so many things a shopper can do (or should not do) if the person in front of them is in that liminal time between paying and actually leaving the checkout line.

Do: Get Comfy

Let’s imagine I’m at the checkout and there’s someone in front of me who is bagging their groceries but has already paid. The first thing I’ll do is get comfortable. If I am carrying 16 more things than I intended to get and I don’t have a basket or cart because I just came in here for milk but the Easter candy has just been set out and I don’t want to miss out on all the flavors of Peeps (you’re welcome Easter Bunny!) there’s a little shelf where I can put a bunch of stuff down. Whew! Let’s all breath a sigh of relief (not too loudly or it might be perceived as impatience to the person bagging. We’re not there. Yet.)


Don’t: Invade their space with your cart

This one applies to the traditional checkout as well. The cart MUST stay behind the line of assault, which here means the corresponding space in the walking aisle to where your groceries are either in your cart or on the belt. For our purposes, the food is still in the cart and the cart should remain behind the area where you will unload the food onto the belt. Sometimes the bagger hasn’t paid yet and must get back to the cash register equivalent. (What do they even call it these days?!) Stay back!


Do: Breathe

Every so often my watch will vibrate and instead of an incoming text or phone call, it’s a reminder to breathe. I don’t know why. Maybe it can monitor my stress level somehow. It has buzzed for this purpose more than once in this very situation.


Don’t: Accidentally activate your music on your watch


Sometimes just touching your apple watch makes that Barry White heavy playlist from last night and no one here is your first, last or everything. And it’s much harder to stop that music than to start it for some reason.


Do: Get yourself ready to go

You can enter your phone number to activate your Stop and Shop card. I have to do this every time because I lost my card when my purse was stolen in maybe 2010. I could get a new one, but in this case, it takes several different screen prompts and entries to get to the point where you enter your phone number (which for me, is a little bit of a mental challenge because what was our land line number in 2010? Did I use the land line or my cell phone? Or did my husband set it up? It all takes the few minutes that enables even the slower baggers to get themselves out of the way.


Don’t: Get yourself in a tizzy

You might be tempted to just go ahead and check your social media accounts. Remember that local honey post I mentioned? If you go down that rabbit hole (or into that beehive, as the case may be), you will definitely be clicking on “load more comments” because suddenly there is nothing more important than that puppy mill legislation being considered by the local government. Not even putting your groceries on the cart like you were so annoyed you couldn’t do!


Do: Check whether there’s a late edition to the grocery list from home.

Now is the time when you can get that peanut butter/jug of orange juice/package of uncrustables/weird ingredient for special baking project that the people at home really need. Later, the text might as well have been sent to Valinor or some similar place where what you need is magically delivered by your mother/spouse. But texts definitely can’t get though the shadowy seas and also no one returns from Valinor and also also I hope there are no Stop and Shops there. OK, enough Tolkien!


Don’t: Text anyone back

If you see the person in front of you has enough to do that you can dash to the refrigerator section and back, do it. If not, wait patiently and do not send passive aggressive texts to your loved ones about feeling like their servant.


I really feel like those things give the person in front of you enough time to bag their groceries and leave. But if not, don’t give them a hard time. Examples of this would be loudly sighing, emitting smoke from your ears or worse: ringing your groceries up and putting them on the belt, cruelly mixing your mangoes with their mangos (oh the humanity! Or fruitmanity!)

There is one polite way to proceed without interfering with the bagger, and that’s to put the little plastic bar the store provides across the checkout area to divide their stuff from yours. Each of the self check outs have one of these, neatly stored lenghwise along the bottom end of the bagging area. You could maybe politely ask the person to put it up or show them where it is or what to do. Or if you are like me, you can put it up yourself when you are bagging in hopes of creating a revolution of people putting up their own dividers routinely,


This is my stuff, protected from oncoming groceries by the handy-dandy divider!

This is my stuff, protected from oncoming groceries by the handy-dandy divider!

I found out about this divider from that Facebook post, and found that I was in the position to use it as the bag-ee soon after. I happily found the divider and narrated my activities to all that could hear. What a benevolent and wise shopper I was! “I’ll just slide this divider in like so and you can go ahead!” Of course, after a few frozen dinners and some nilla wafers came down, I realized one groove was not actually there, so the whole thing just slid to the side and all of their stuff mixed in with my stuff. So that was a big fail! I checked today and they have fixed the problem, at least in aisle 3.