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20-40-60 Etiquette---Would you move that grocery cart...please

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: January 23, 2012

To ask the 20-40-60 team an etiquette question, email

By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I do the grocery shopping for my family. My concern is how best to deal with the people who clog the aisles. Most grocery stores have aisles wide enough for two shopping carts to pass as long as each person pulls his or her cart over to the side.

It is very common for people to stop to look at an item and leave the cart in the middle of the aisle, blocking anyone else from passing down that aisle. My nice guess is that they are simply not paying attention to anything other than what they’re looking for. My guess is that they are unaware that other people ALSO shop in the grocery store, and that they are so overwhelmingly important that any of the rest of us who happen to be in the store should be glad to step aside.

Well, I have managed to not say anything mean to them … yet.

What is the proper way for me to proceed?

1. Simply go around, using the next aisle, and then work my way back to the spot I wanted.

2. Say “pardon me, I would like to get to the coffee over there.”

3. Say “hard as it is to imagine, there are other people in the grocery store who want to use this aisle.”

4. Stand there and stare (glare) at them until they emerge from their reveries and get moving again.

5. Ask them to move their cart to the side.

6. Or something else.

So far, I just try to ignore it and go to another aisle and come back later and hope I don’t run into them again.

CALLIE’S ANSWER: While I see how this can be frustrating, give people the benefit of the doubt. It can be as simple as a smile and “excuse me.” We all have come in contact with tacky people. In this case, simply move out of their way.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Wow! You’ve put a lot of thought and energy into this. I think the easiest thing to do is to excuse yourself and ask them nicely to move. That should snap anyone out of their reverie. It takes less energy on my part to assume that people are concentrating as hard on getting the right ingredients at the best price instead of deliberately and thoughtlessly pushing others aside.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Navigating the grocery takes a lot of patience. Fortunately, some grocery stores have wide aisles and you can get around these people, but, probably your best response is #2. It moves them out of the way of the item you are trying to get.

The people who leave the cart in the middle of the aisle in our grocery stores are everywhere. They irritate me, too. However, I have done it before when I was not thinking. You might suggest to the grocery store personnel that they put up a sign saying, “Slow carts on the right; do not park in the middle of the aisles; and be aware of other people in the store who are also trying to shop.”

GUEST’S ANSWER: Christina Nihira, local community volunteer and newspaper writer: The weekly grocery trip is often an onus. Unfortunately, we all need to eat.

Crowded store aisles tend to inflame an already adverse situation. There are some rules of the road. Cart etiquette is akin to driving a car. Caution and care are necessities to avoid those head-on collisions. When pushing down the aisles, stay to the middle and center. When you want an item, pull to the right and park the cart.

More importantly, however, is common courtesy. Although you may think manners come naturally, not everyone takes the time to practice them, especially when they are harried. Set yourself apart and use “please,” “thank you” and “pardon me.” Nice manners and a smile speak volumes about you.

Another option is altering the time you visit the store. Perhaps going during early morning or off-peak hours will help reduce congestion.

For some enjoyment and practical information, check out Carol Redinger’s “A Book of Grocery Store Etiquette: A Guide for the Consumer Based on Over 30 years of Observations and Aggravations.” The author has worked in the grocery industry in various positions and writes a fun, informative guide about how to best navigate through your shopping experience.

Happy shopping!


by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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