17 Rudest Shopping Habits, Etiquette Experts Say
This is what you should avoid if you don't want to be that customer.
Retail work is not for the weak. These employees' days are filled with endless tasks—from assembling complex product displays to spending hours standing on their feet. On top of all that, they have to deal with customers who are sometimes less than kind. At any point in time, there is always at least one shopper who has made it their life's mission to make retail workers' jobs more difficult and ruin the shopping experience for the rest of us. But even if you consider yourself a smart and respectful shopper, your own behavior could secretly be the problem. To make sure that's not the case, we talked to several experts who shed a light on the things you should never do as a customer. Read on to discover the 17 rudest shopping habits you need to avoid.
Interrupting workers when they're helping someone else
Retail employees are there to help make your shopping experience easier. But that doesn't mean you're the only guest they have to attend to during your visit. Linda Johansen-James, retail expert and founder of the boutique retail management firm International Retail Group, LLC, says this is something many shoppers forget—especially during times of the year when stores are overcrowded and understaffed.
Instead of understanding that this is not something the average retail worker has control over, many shoppers will go out of their way to take their frustrations out on those just trying to do their job.
"One of the rudest things that retail workers experience is being interrupted while helping another customer," Johansen-James notes.
Cutting the line
Remember, you're not more important than other customers in the store—and that includes in the checkout line.
"So don't try to push your way to the front," retail and consumer expert Andrea Woroch says. "If you're in a rush, order from your phone before heading to the store and choose curbside pick up or drive up to help you beat the long checkout lines."
Waiting to compare prices when you check out
We're all working hard to get the best bang for our buck. But while there's nothing wrong with trying to save money, Woroch warns against waiting until you're checking out to start searching for coupons and comparing prices.
"You're better off being well prepared in advance before you step into the checkout lane as this could also hold up the line," she advises.
Ignoring express lane limits
Another rude checkout habit you may be guilty of is trying to push the boundaries of express lanes. That 10-item limit isn't a friendly suggestion, and if you're disregarding it, don't be surprised when the cashier—not to mention other shoppers—show their frustration with your lack of consideration.
"Don't pretend you can't count 10 items in the express lane," Karen A. Thomas, founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette, says. "And no, five cans of the same item are not counted as one."
Trying to return something outside of store policies
Some of the most common consumer complaints center about "unsatisfactory product characteristics or difficulties in processing returns and refunds," Michael Podolsky, consumer expert and CEO of PissedConsumer.com, tells Best Life. But if you're unable to return something due to the store's policies, taking your frustrations out on a retail worker is not the way to go.
"Instead, consumers should read a desired product description and learn the return and refund policies of a store before making a purchase to make shopping a seamless process," Podolsky recommends.
Holding up the line to find your receipt
The customer service line can be a hectic place. So if you're trying to make a return, it's also rude to not have everything in order by the time you get to the front.
"Don't hold up the checkout or customer service line by spending time trying to find your receipt," Woroch warns. "Get organized before you head to the store."
Not being prepared to pay
If you're just making a regular purchase, the same idea applies. Have your wallet out and be ready with your form of payment before you get to the front.
"Waiting until the last moment and holding up a line of people behind you until you find your credit card or count out the correct change is time consuming and rude to those behind you," Thomas says.
Testing products not intended for testing
Of course we'd all like to know if the items we're buying are worthwhile before we spend our hard-earned money on them. But that's what online reviews and return policies are for, if there is not a tester available.
"Many people will spray deodorants in-store, but then replace the can they've tested with a pristine one to put in their shopping basket," Philip Adcock, managing director of Adcock Solutions Ltd, a company that helps brands and retailers improve the consumer experience they offer, shares. "When shoppers do something like this, the store generally can't sell the tested product, which can lead to a major loss of inventory and money, especially for smaller businesses."
Putting items back on the wrong shelves
Replacing a product where you found it instead of randomly plopping it on the shelf closest to you is just common courtesy to the people working at the store. After all, they're the ones who will need to find and return all those misplaced products to their rightful home.
Not only are you creating more work for the store's employees, but you're also doing a disservice to your fellow shoppers.
"The next person might actually look for the same item and won't find it," Jacquelyn Youst, etiquette expert and president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, explains.
If you're not willing to bring the item back to the correct rack, at least hand it to an employee so they can do so.
Standing too close to other shoppers
While you don't need to stand an entire six feet away from other shoppers like we did during the pandemic, you should still show some kind of respect for their personal space.
"When it's your turn to pay, leave a shopping cart length between you and the person behind you," Thomas suggests.
Leaving clothes in the dressing room
Don't treat a store's fitting room like your bedroom. If you leave a pile of tried-on clothes behind, somebody else is going to have to come and clean it up. So, do your part whenever possible to make sure you're taking anything you tried on out with you.
"You should rehang or fold the clothes you don't plan to buy and return them to a staff member on your way out of the dressing room," Bonnie Tsai, founder of Beyond Etiquette, says.
Doing so also speeds up the line for changing rooms, according to Tsai—which makes it a better experience for everyone involved.
Ignoring spills or broken items
While it may be embarrassing to have knocked that jar of sauce onto the floor, failing to report the spill to a store employee is deeply inconsiderate—and could even prove dangerous to other customers who might slip on it.
And that holds true for messes you didn't make, too.
"Driving by it like you didn't see it just because you didn't cause it is rude," Thomas says.
Blaming employees when something is out of stock
Sure, you might be frustrated that every store within a 20-mile radius of your home is out of a product you desperately need to get your hands on. But it's certainly not the cashier's or customer service manager's fault, and there's not a whole lot they can do about it.
"Don't harangue the store personnel if they run out of much sought-after items—it's not their fault," Marie Betts-Johnson, etiquette expert and president of the International Protocol Institute of California, says.
Talking on speakerphone
Your phone call may be fascinating to you, but the chances are good that not everyone around you in the store feels equally as interested.
"If you must make or take a call, do so quietly and never on speakerphone," Thomas advises.
Not watching your kids while shopping
If you're not carefully watching your kids while you're shopping, you're being undeniably rude to the other people in the store.
"You should never leave your kids unattended because they may injure themselves in the store," Tsai explains, adding that it's important to make sure your sure kids are fed and well-rested before taking them on shopping trips. "It's also not the staff's responsibility to watch after your children."
Trying food before you buy it
If it's not being offered as a free sample, it's not a free sample, no matter how tempting it looks.
"Refrain from sampling items that are not out for sample such as grapes, fruit, and candy," Thomas says. "That's actually stealing!"
Not using your manners
It doesn't matter if you're asking for a new size from a sales attendant or just taking your receipt from a cashier: Manners count from the start to the end of your shopping trip.
"The three most important words in the English language—'please' and 'thank you'—cost nothing but are invaluable," Betts-Johnson says.
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