Working in retail is a more taxing occupation than some people might assume. But when you consider what’s often required of retail employees—carrying heavy boxes, memorizing countless price codes, and spending long hours on your feet—it becomes pretty clear that these jobs can be both physically and mentally draining. And that’s not even the worst of it. What really makes retail such a tricky—often frustrating—line of work to be in is dealing with rude customers. Not only do they make the jobs of store employees more difficult, but they also tarnish the shopping experience of their fellow consumers—often without even realizing it. So, for the sake of retail workers and shoppers everywhere, these are the rude shopping habits that etiquette experts say you need to break ASAP.
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.
“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,” explains Philip Adcock, managing director of Adcock Solutions Ltd, a company that helps brands and retailers improve the consumer experience they offer. 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.
Testing cosmetics on the display stand
According to Adcock, customers also frequently try products like nail polish and other cosmetics by using the shelves or product displays as a canvas to get a sense of the color or finish. “You can always spot displays that have been in-store for a long time by the mass of samples painted on them,” he says.
Price-checking at the cash register
You may be eager to get the best deal possible, but that doesn’t mean a busy checkout line is the place to figure out how to obtain those discounts.
“Holding up the line to have each item in your cart price-checked is not only time consuming for the cashier, but extremely rude to the other shoppers,” says Toni Dupree, founder of Etiquette & Style by Dupree, an etiquette and finishing school in Houston, Texas.
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 are the ones that will need to find and return all those misplaced products to their proper place.
Not only are you creating more work for the store’s employees, but you’re also doing a disservice to your fellow consumers. “The next person might actually look for the same item and won’t find it,” says Jacquelyn Youst, etiquette expert and president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. 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.
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,” says Bonnie Tsai, founder of Beyond Etiquette, who recommends making 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,” she says.
Leaving clothes in the dressing room
Somebody’s got to clean up those dressing rooms strewn with clothing, 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,” Tsai says. Doing so also speeds up the line for changing rooms, she says. It’s a better experience for everyone involved.
Standing too close to other shoppers
If you value your personal space and don’t appreciate it when someone violates it, that likely means others around you feel the exact same way about theirs. This is a good thing to keep in mind when shopping in a busy store.
“When it’s your turn to pay, leave a shopping cart length between you and the person behind you,” says Karen A. Thomas, founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette, who notes that this also allows the person ahead of you some privacy when conducting their transaction.
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!”
Talking on speakerphone
Your phone call may be fascinating to you, but the chances are good that not everyone around you feels equally as interested. “If you must make or take a call, do so quietly and never on speakerphone,” says Thomas.
Pushing the boundaries of the express lane
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,” Thomas says. “And no, 5 cans of the same item are not counted as 1.”
Ignoring spills or broken items
While it may be embarrassing to have knocked that jar of sauce onto the floor, failing to report that 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.
Not being prepared to pay
It pays to be aware of your surroundings when you’re shopping, especially when the cashier is ringing up your items. In other words, have your wallet out and ready.
“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,” says Thomas.
Blaming employees when an items is out of stock
Sure, you might be frustrated that every store within a 20-mile radius of your house is out of a product you desperately need to get your hands on, but it’s not really 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,” says etiquette educator Marie Betts-Johnson, president of the International Protocol Institute of California.
Ignoring the checkout attendant
The person checking you out at the store is a human being and they deserve the 30 seconds of your time it takes to make eye contact and say hello.
While Betts-Johnson cautions against getting into a full conversation while in line, she recommends being kind and keeping in mind that “they are not robots and have a tough job to remain polite and smiling for an eight-hour shift, despite the rudeness they inevitably experience.”
And not saying “please” and “thank you”
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.