This Is the Rudest Thing You're Doing While Shopping

Coronavirus has changed the rules about how we live our daily lives—shopping included.

With so many uncertainties about coronavirus transmission in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many stores chose to temporarily shut their doors, with countless customers turning to online retailers instead of brick-and-mortar locations for their shopping needs. However, with stores reopening throughout the country, customers are once again returning to in-person shopping—and, in many cases, bringing some seriously rude behavior along for the ride. However, the rudest shopping habit you're engaging in on a regular basis isn't necessarily an obvious one.

According to etiquette expert Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of etiquette training school Beyond Etiquette, some shopping habits that wouldn't have merited a second glance pre-COVID have become major faux pas since the pandemic began.

"Before COVID-19, we're used to picking up an item to look at it more closely. However, post-COVID-19, we should avoid touching items we don't intend to purchase to minimize our contact with any germs or spreading any germs unknowingly," Tsai explains. However, that's not the only way you're making yourself an unwelcome guests at stores. Read on to discover the rudest shopping habits experts want you to ditch immediately. And if you want to avoid a serious etiquette error, This Is the Rudest Thing You Can Ask Someone, Etiquette Experts Say.

Getting too close to other shoppers

long line outside of store

Being respectful while shopping in a post-COVID world doesn't just mean wiping down your cart and using hand sanitizer—it also means giving your fellow shoppers a wide berth in the aisles.

"We want to practice social distancing and wear masks while we're outside of our homes as a way of showing consideration for other people's health and safety since we don't know what their circumstances are," says Tsai, who notes that it's always best to err on the side of caution regarding people's personal space. And if you want to ensure your behavior doesn't cause problems at work, This Is the Rudest Thing You're Doing on Video Calls.

Trying to get into a crowded store

people lining up to get into store

It may be frustrating to wait on a long line to get into a store, but arguing with the person in charge of maintaining the line won't get you in any faster.

"Don't yell at store clerks who are responsible for crowd control because they're only trying to do their job by protecting you, other shoppers, and staff," says Tsai.

Wearing your mask wrong

white woman wearing mask wrong below her nose

Masks can be uncomfortable. They can be inconvenient. However, if you're in a store, it's absolutely necessary that you not only wear one, but wear it correctly. Since stores are privately-owned businesses, they can also kick you out for refusing.

"You may think not wearing your mask isn't a big deal if you're not sick, but you don't know if you are carrying germs that can be passed to someone who is immunocompromised or someone who shares a household with someone who is immunocompromised," says Tsai. And for more great etiquette tips delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Wearing mesh masks

young blonde woman wearing mesh mask
Shutterstock/Maria Studio

If you are wearing a mask, make sure that you're wearing one that can actually contain your respiratory droplets—not a loosely woven or mesh one, à la Lana Del Rey.

"This is such a slap in the face to the people who are wearing their masks and doing things correctly," says consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with "A lot of us are trying to do our part to stop or slow the spread of the coronavirus, and this is especially important now when cases are on the rise again."

Being rude to service workers

woman talking to cashier in mask at supermarket

Shopping can be a seriously stressful experience during a pandemic, but that doesn't mean you get a free pass to treat retail employees badly.

"Remember to say please, thank you, excuse me, and maintain social distancing when you're interacting with staff; they're there to help you and they would like to be treated with respect and kindness," says Tsai. However, COVID affects our behavior well beyond the store—just check out these 11 Rude Behaviors We All Do Now, Thanks to Coronavirus.

Leaving your cart in the middle of the aisle

abandoned shopping cart in grocery store aisle

With many stores adopting one-way aisles as a means of limiting congestion, leaving your cart and browsing elsewhere has become more than an inconvenience, but a safety hazard, too.

"You have to navigate around a person's unattended cart as well as them," explains Ramhold. "I'm trying to shop for groceries, not navigate an obstacle course." And if you want to steer clear of a dangerous shopping experience, check out these 7 Signs You  Shouldn't Set Foot in a Store.

Not using a divider between your items and someone else's

divider on conveyer belt at grocery store checkout

With many people concerned about the transmission of COVID and other pathogens, it's important to respect your fellow shoppers' space by using a divider at the checkout.

"It's such a small kindness to put up a divider to help the person out behind you and let them know you're done loading up the belt," says Ramhold.

Ignoring the express checkout option

express checkout lane

If it says "10 items or fewer" overhead, that's a rule, not a suggestion, and it's especially rude to ignore the rules when so many people are more eager than ever to limit their time in the presence of  strangers.

"Getting stuck behind someone buying a month's worth of groceries while I'm just trying to pick up lunch is so annoying. I have two items—I picked the express lane for a reason," says Ramhold.

Taking too long to pay

Convenient store female cashier counting the cash at the counter

If you want to avoid the ire of both the cashier and your fellow shoppers, have your payment method handy well before the cashier lets you know your total.

"Whatever you can do ahead of time, do it," says Ramhold, who says this is especially important advice for anyone paying by check.

Handing items to the cashier directly

precaution safety for the coronavirus with masks, plexiglass, gloves, and more

That plexiglass partition is there for a reason, so try to limit your personal contact with cashiers by putting your items on the belt, instead of physically handing them over.

"I know some people might be germophobic about what the belt has touched, but most cashiers cleaned them pretty regularly before the pandemic and they're certainly doing so now," says Ramhold. And for more bad behavior to ditch ASAP, check out these 50 Things You Do Every Day That Annoy Other People.

Price matching without proof

grocery cashier looking at product

There's no shame in trying to get the best deal. However, if you're insisting that a store price matches your purchase, you'd better come prepared with some evidence that a competitor's selling the same item for less.

"At least have it on your phone," says Ramhold. "There's no excuse for not having some form of proof to show the cashier so they don't have to dig through ads or call a manager."

Using your phone at the register

young asian woman using cell phone at checkout counter

If you wouldn't pull out your phone mid-conversation with a friend or colleague, there's no excuse to do so when you're shopping, either.

Not only does talking on your phone hold up the line, it's downright rude. "Sometimes a good interaction can be the difference between a terrible hour on shift and one that was relatively okay," Ramhold explains.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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