Proper Line Etiquette

Proper Line Etiquette

Was just in the store the other day, when a common scenario popped up.  A new line opened up.  Now let me lay some of the groundwork before I go into what happened.  I happened into the store probably somewhere between change of shift–the time around the dinner hour when folks take over for staff that have been there all day.  That also happened to translate into lots of customers popping into the store before they got themselves home to their own dinner–all at the same time of course.

I can’t recall what I was actually purchasing in the store, but I remember it was something that I specifically needed for a certain occasion, and it was one of the only places that I knew that carried what I needed.  Increasingly in this particular store, you can tell that it has not been very well managed. Often times when I go in there, the line can be prohibitively long. I’ve even seen the poor clerk make a phone call to someone in the back pleading for help to no avail.  So much so, that I have gone on another occasion, picked out what I needed, got to the line and saw how painstakingly slow it was taking, and decided, you know what?  I REALLY don’t need this item that badly, and proceeded to waltz out of the store without making a purchase. Irked that I didn’t get what I wanted, but realizing I was in no mood to wait in a slow moving line.  Some things are just not worth the aggravation.

On this particular day, there were probably more than half a dozen people in line, with only one clerk checking shoppers out.  I arrived when she was processing a very tedious return.  There seemed to be many questions, and much to and fro between the associate and the person she was helping.  A solid 10 minutes or more had passed and I was thinking to myself, I’ve waited this long, I might as well just bite the bullet and get what I came for.  Eventually, a cry for assistance to a manager in the back resulted someone else coming to the front to speed things up.  She called to no one in particular, “I can help the next customer”.

By this time, at least another half dozen people had gotten in line behind me.  Now the question arises, how on earth do you determine who is next, and how the line reshifts between the two clerks?  Someone from the very end of the line bolted their way to the front, and I thought that they might possibly lose an eye when one of the other customers who had been waiting for a much longer period was trying to make her way over there and started to voice her dismay.  I decided that I would just stay put, as I knew the line I was in would probably speed up, once the complicated return was out of the way.  While I was waiting, a couple people went back and forth between the two lines trying to hedge their bets on the winning queue and the likelihood of making it out the most quickly.

It’s a tough call.  If you were standing all the way in the other line and the next to be wrung up, is it worth moving all the way to the other line?  If I’m going to be next anyway, do I really care, and couldn’t someone behind me just as easily go to the new register?  I think sometimes there is some solidarity going on among those who have been waiting and great diplomacy is necessary to make sure a brawl doesn’t ensue. Sometimes being in the same scenario, I can say I’ve done the “all’s fair in love and shopping” and in my opinion, first one to get there, wins.  Depends on the kind of mood I am in, if I’m in a hurry, and if anyone else is vying for that new opening.  Sometimes I just let an irritating, rude person who has butted in front of me just go ahead, because I decide it’s not worth my energy–but sometimes it is, and you better not be on the receiving end should I decide to let loose my wrath.

I can remember someone trying to cut in front of me in the pharmacy line one time, and I loudly suggested, look lady, I really have no patience for you, I’m sick too, and we’ve all got someone sick to tend to and have already been waiting quite a while. You can get in the back just like everyone else. She tried to play like she didn’t realize that she was stepping in front of everyone, but seriously people? There are unwritten laws of proper line etiquette, for god’s sakes!

Anyway, would love to hear what your thoughts are as sometimes it can be enough to throw me off the deep end.

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4 Responses to Proper Line Etiquette

  1. Mary B says:

    Drives me crazy when new lines open up and it is a free for all. I love how Kohls has the one line that feeds to all the registers. People peel off as registers open.

    My least two favorite places to shop are Safeway and Kmart. the lines are agonizingly slow and they never have enough people checking out. I have to be desperate to shop there.

    Feel your pain about the lines – people get a little crazy when shopping!

    • Barb Welsh says:

      I can relate sister! I’ve even gone back into the office in Safeway and made the manager come out to help at times. Agree at Kmart, although I think it’s gotten a tiny bit better lately. This time the culprit was Ross. What is a girl to do?

  2. Mommiest says:

    Standing in a slow-moving line with a customer apparently trying to refinance his house in front, we can revert to the civil equivalent of one of our primitive ancestors. Ever see an Australopithecus take a number? They don’t. They just don’t have it in them.

    So when a store has just one line inching along, I have to wonder whether or not the store management does this on purpose, watch us on the security cameras, and take bets on which one of us will crack first. Don’t let them win. Hold fast to your humanity.

    Someone with just one item and I’ve got a basket full? Let them go ahead. A young mother with small kids, or an older person? They can go ahead of me, especially if one of the small kids is crying.

    Sometimes, a little courtesy is all we have.

    • Barb Welsh says:

      I like your positive spin, and I do try and be reasonable to others when I can. Letting go of the stuff that doesn’t matter much (like letting the mom with the wailing child go in front of you) keeps us all more sane in the long run 🙂

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