#953 When cashiers open up new check-out lanes at the grocery store

Smile like you mean it

Though I hate to admit it, I am a slow, indecisive mess in the grocery store checkout lane.

Since I am an extremely cheap person, I watch the prices scroll up on screen like a hawk, often saying things like “Oh, I thought that was on sale,” or, “Actually, I don’t really want that anymore,” forcing the cashier to call in price-checks to the unresponsive produce department or find a temporary home for the pack of melting Fudgsicles I’ve decided to leave off my list last minute.

And because I’m watching the screen so closely, I start late and take forever to bag my groceries and pay, awkwardly leaving my shopping cart blocking the lane for the next customer, a metal criss-crossed castle knight enforcing a firm “Thou shall not pass” law in its trademark silence.

Yes, I clog up the line and annoy everybody behind me. I’m one of four People You Don’t Want To Stand Behind in the grocery line, together with:

  • Fidgety Grandma, who on cue dumps a pile of warm nickels on the counter to pay and then slowly counts them out by sliding them across the counter with her index finger
  • Flyer Guy, who hands the cashier a dog-eared flyer from home, forcing him or her to manually tear out all the coupons while everybody waits
  • No-Math Jack, who sneaks in piles of extra items onto the Express Lane and acts like it’s no big deal

A warm glow

Yes, those tense, winding checkout lanes can be a pretty rough go sometimes. It’s not easy out there. You have to watch the anxiety levels, keep that blood pressure in check.

That’s why there are few things better than a spritely new cashier hopping onto the scene, grabbing the ‘next lane please’ sign from the end of the belt, flicking on the lightbulb above their station, and offering a loud, beaming “Next customer, please!,” to the scowling, stressed-out masses.

When that cashier lightbulb goes on, a bright warm glow showers down upon everybody waiting. People like me feel less guilty about holding up the line and folks at the end win the big front-of-the-line jackpot. Yes, it’s one, giant mood swing, one massive swelling of goodwill, complete with buzzing chatter, a few laughs, and even the occasional crinkly plastic sound of a tightly wound frowning turning upside down.

And sure, there’s a bit of line etiquette to sort out. Who gets first dibs on this new empty lane, after all? But it’s almost always better for everybody, regardless of what happens. So most of us, we just smile and enjoy the ride.


Photos from: here, here and here


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71 responses to “#953 When cashiers open up new check-out lanes at the grocery store

  1. Kenny

    And this happens the most at Targets, and we do know that white people love Target. The Guest Service Team Lead or Lead Cashier will call to the sales floor for all kinds of fresh team members to reduce backups to the typical 1 being checked out and one in line ratio.

  2. Liza

    It is a little bit like being the first table called to the buffet. When the new cashier points to you and says “I can help you over here” You walk over, beaming proud at being chosen first. A glow on your face as you leave the store, watching the masses still left behind grumbling.

  3. nursarahlam

    Some people just don’t understand the meaning of Express Lane so there is a sign board that explains no more than 10 items at the Express Lane but apparently there are people who simply think that they are the King and Queen so without shame, they proudly push their full trolleys up the Express Lane. There are at least 100 items in those trolleys.

    • david

      Ive actually been kicked out of the express lane and i was under the limit.Everything I had was big sized items so it filled up the cart. I had an assistant manager tellme from the other end of the check out twice that i was in the express lane. BOth Times I replied ,yes I know. one time i even said i only had 8 items. Then I got yelled at by the cashier tha ti would have to go to another check out. I made sure to show the receipt to that asst manager on the way out who happened to be talking to the manager. H e apologized but i still told him he could shove the receipt.

  4. Jenn

    I used to work at a grocery store and I think it would be wonderful if the express lanes locked at a certain number of items. Say express it 12, lock at 17. Because 1 or 2 items over isn’t that big of a deal but after a while it gets insane. I’ve actually had people say to me “Oh, I think you can manage” when I had a line around the corner and they had a full cart! It can get to be annoying.

  5. When I’m at a grocery store, it always angers me that I’ve been in line for many minutes and am still two or three away from the finish line. Then, a cashier opens a new line, and Mr. Johnny-Come-Lately at the end of the line decides to take it. Whatever happened to decency and etiquette? America, what have you become!?

  6. Rebecca

    As a cashier, I believe it goes both ways—there is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you’ve made someone’s day that much easier and less tedious. I feel like a superhero that comes in and saves the day when I flip on my light and with a strong, loud enough to be heard over the hustle and bustle, voice say, “I can take the next customer on register two!”

  7. Sometimes it is bad for the cashier as everyone rushes over all at once from the other lanes.

  8. Paul

    In England, we only pretend to enjoy this because it seems like the reasonable thing to do. In reality, we love cuing. There’s a bit of a common sense/masochism catch-22 there.

  9. Amilie

    This might just be in my area, but it seems like the days of last-in-liners jumping to the head of the new line are coming to a close. It used to happen all of the time, but now it seems conventional to let the second and third people move over before the free-for-all commences. Anyone else notice this?

  10. Well Isnt it nice to feel appreciated. Most people just say its about bloody time and procede to change there mind question 2 for 1s and pay in small change. At least some appreciate it.

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  12. stu

    This happened to me the other day, another guy and I both saw it opening and rushed to get there first but both packed up laughing when we realised that we had both been thinking exactly the same thing and couldn’t decide who actually got there first:)

  13. Not only at grocery stores, but KFCs and McDonald’s too… ;)

  14. roxanne

    I like doing that if it is a cashier that I know….and no one else goes rushing to the line. This way, I can pull out my wad of coupons and not have anyone glaring at me while I chop at least $5 off my order…

  15. Sarah

    I’ve worked at a grocery store for the past 7 years and am now a manager. It makes us happy that you are happy because we do this.

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  17. Chris

    I’ve actually heard a lot of places asking for the “next customer in line” to come over – insinuating they actually care who comes over – but in reality with tight lanes at the grocery store rarely can the next customer or even the one after that actually make it over without causing a huge scene or rearrangement of people.

    Now personally – if I see a fresh cashier coming into the fray and I’m not right at the front, I’ll gamble and pull myself out of line ready to jump on their cash. No guilt then… it was my gamble!

  18. thanks this helped me a lot

  19. hmm id love to see more of this subject ahaha

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  21. freakin yes! i LOVE when this happens.

  22. Chris

    I like to let the other person go first, I really don’t care, unless I am in a big hurry, but that is rare. I just don’t get the big deal and if it matters so much to someone else, go for it. If that two minutes makes them happy, go for it. Btw I work at a grocery store and we are told to go and get the next person in line. People can be very petty about waiting, when, if they were to time it, it is surprisingly a very short time they are in line, unless there is a crazy coupon lady or someone with more than one buggy.

  23. Carly

    Here I was thinking it was commonly-accepted line etiquette that the next person in line at the register got to go. Apparently! Interesting.

    I came across this moment recently at a highway rest stop Wendy’s. A register opened up and, in typically Canadian fashion, the throngs of people (myself included) tripped over each other to thoughtfully let someone else go first. After looking around and gesturing others toward the open till for a bit, I ended up being that someone.


  24. Elizabeth Kirsch

    Nothing makes me happier than opening another for a customer. I’m a Customer Service Manager at Wal-Mart. Just easing the tension after a long shopping trip by getting them out quicker puts a smile on my face.

  25. L I S U

    yeah this is awesome, but then there are times when they say that and you and another person look at each other like oh i think he called me and its awkward to go to the lane you know

  26. nothing

    I work at a grocery store and whenever I open a new lane I never call out that I’m open I just walk over to the first person I see (usually also the last in line) and tell them to come on over. I think it takes confusion out of the situation of who should get first dibs in a new lane

  27. a

    As a former cashier it is people like you would made me quit. I HATED scanning groceries for people like you. They made the whole checking out process ridiculous. putting back groceries, trying to get “deals” by pretending something is on sale. And my BIGGEST pet peeve was people that leave their cart behind. Really? It’s on the way out the door! take it with you and don’t be rude to everyone else. Cashiers are over worked and don’t need people adding more crap to their day. Just pay your bill, take your cart, and try to be cordial

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  30. C.C.

    I also think it is awesome when someone is standing in line takes the time to look at me, see that I just have 2 items compared to their full cart, and says “you can go in front of me”.

    I do think it is awesome when I am at the end of the grocery line and that checkout opens next to me, and the checker looks right at me and says “I can help you over here”

    Yeah that’s awesome.

    • spike

      I like to be the one to let the person behind me with only a couple of items go ahead of me. It’s much appreciated with many thanks and smiles all around. Awesome!

  31. wendywithaurora

    With hungry, toddler grandson on hip and long line-up…awesome…
    Just happened TODAY:D

  32. Pamela

    This happened to me yesterday and I was chosen as the first customer as she was walking towards the cash. It was pretty sweet, although I think a couple of people in line at another cash were a little annoyed by it. Ooops but still smiles for me!

  33. Ashley

    Used to work at [insert name of big box store here]. It was kind of annoying the people you named on the list, but I kept a smile on my face the whole time, since it was my job.

    I didn’t have to pick up the carts, but someone else did. I didn’t have to put away the stray items, but someone else did. At the end of the night, it ended up taking up everyone else’s time, since we worked as a team to get everything done after closing.

    Half the time, those half-melted fudgesicles ended up being lost revenue for the store, since we couldn’t put them back on the floor. It would have been unethical. What if someone had bought them and kept them frozen, but went to open them, and found that someone else had left them out to melt before they had been bought? So we pulled them and we had to mark it as lost revenue.

    Sometimes we’d try to get the 2nd or 3rd person in line when we opened a new lane, but they’d already have all their items on the belt. Sometimes, we’d open an express, and follow the directions of our supervisor and take the next person (who ended up having 50 items) and someone would walk up and complain to me, asking why I had taken someone with so many items. Well, I know this wasn’t something that they knew, but it wasn’t really my decision either. The checkout stands didn’t really have room for 50 items. All I could do was stutter asking for another cashier.

    Some things in that business made it nice, some made it annoying. I had a lot of patience, so I lasted a lot longer than some people do. I don’t miss it, but, it was a job, and being unemployed right now, I’d do it to have an income. I would, though, prefer if the customers were a little nicer sometimes, because cashiers put a lot into their jobs, and they deal with a lot every day!!

  34. Amanda

    Its awesome when they open a new line and the cashier recognizes that the person who is actually next in line is the one waiting behind the one slowing up the line, not the person at the very back of the line. I hate when they say ” I can help who’s next” and the last person in line goes over instead of letting the person who was waiting before them forever go.

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  42. My dad is the Fidgety Grandma, Flyer Guy, and No-Math Jack

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  44. It should be pretty clear who gets dibs on the new lane — the people waiting the longest. But idiots seem to think it’s a free-for-all and they can just run in front of people who were there first. These cheats probably drive the same way.

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