Saturday, June 19, 2010

Attention Shoppers!

Today while grocery shopping, I had to deal with a particular kind of ‘shopper’ – not the kind that we usually run across and can avoid or get away from quickly. Today was a doozy, and has prompted me to vent here, as opposed to punching someone in the face over it. (For this post, I’ll be referring to grocery store customers, but this can happen anywhere, really.)

This woman today is not the kind of shopper who has stopped for a LONG time to decide whether to choose between the Hunt’s or Heinz ketchup, or worse yet, doesn’t even know what they’re looking for in the first place but have found themselves in the middle of the grocery store anyway. To explain how bad this woman was, I’ll cover the normal types of inconveniencers most of us face when doing our routine shopping. Now, many times shoppers will stop and look for a moment then pick up an item and get out of the way, but I’m not talking about them. The problem shoppers are those that are stopped in the middle of the walkway or else right in front of something you want, and both types can dramatically increase the amount of time you spend in a store. Either way, these two groups can be broken down into a few sub-categories. Before I break down the types, I’ll label each one for you (hopefully none of these describe you):

    • Aisle Blockers (AB)
      • Slow Movers (SM)
      • Shopping Stoppers (SS)
      • Cart Leavers (CL)
    • Shelf Blockers (SB)
      • Inconsiderate Thinkers (IT)
      • Oblivious Thinkers (OT)
      • Cart Leavers (CL)

I want to point out that I think most people don’t fit into any of these categories, but there’s no need to discuss them here. To all those out there, thank you. Unfortunately, just as there are those for whom this list does not apply, there are shoppers who can claim more than one. To those of you, you make me want to hurt someone sometimes. Also, some of the categories really easily blend with others, and I am very aware of that.

First to discuss is the Aisle Blockers – Slow Movers (ABSM), the type of aisle blockers who travel down the lane very slowly, taking their time, looking at seemingly every item on the store’s shelves. They will occasionally stop to look at something, but all the while, never move from the middle of the aisle so they can be passed. Many times, they will be on a cell phone or be very engaged in a conversation with a co-shopper, and will not be very attentive to their route and will swerve back and forth across the lane. Every grocery I can recall shopping in has enough lane room for 2 carts across, with occasional reduction for advertising/displays. This small amount of space makes the ABSMs very aggravating, but the issue can usually be resolved by backing out of the aisle or just waiting till you’ve reached the end.

Next is the ABSSs, who are typically faster than the ABSMs while travelling from one item to the next, but once they find something, then the problem begins. Instead of getting out of the way, they stop in the middle of the aisle, take a step over to the item, and pick it up. Sometimes, in a worst case scenario, they will stop to decide what to get before picking it up. These are probably the least irritating of the classifications, and can be avoided in the same fashion as the ABSMs.

Last of the Aisle Blockers are the Cart Leavers (ABCL), who end up being almost the same as the Shelf Blockers, Cart Leavers (SBCL), so I will talk about them both here). These people move their cart to some inconvenient location, park it, then walk off to a nearby area to pick something else up. This happens most when traffic is heavy in a particular area, but that just makes it that much more unacceptable, as it really just adds to the problem for everyone else, while improving conditions marginally for a single individual. The best way to handle these is to make physical contact with their cart (or the ABCL/SBCL themselves!) in an effort to make room for your own cart to get by or to make available a blocked product. This way, they know that they’ve pissed someone off, and hopefully they will take this knowledge and work to prevent it in the future. If that doesn’t actually happen, at least then you got some stress out in the process.

The next main category, the Shelf Blockers, are more of a nuisance than the Aisle Blockers, as there is no simply getting around them. The fact is, they are blocking something you need, and you must therefore wait for them to move; you can’t just turn around or go around (well, you can, but then you have to backtrack/skip an item on your shopping list, and this is usually not a feasible option).

The first of the Shelf Blockers is the Inconsiderate Thinkers (SBIT), who stop in an aisle, in front of something they are thinking of getting. They may be holding two items, or discussing the pros and cons of the various options before them, but whatever the case, they’re in the way. Often these shoppers leave their cart in the middle of the lane, and that causes a doubly cumbersome situation. The highlight of the SBITs is more than the fact that they are in the way, but that they see you, maybe even acknowledge you, but don’t even come close to making an effort to move out of the way. What, is it first come first serve, and ignore the fact that there are other people you are inconveniencing? Make sure you get my attention when I’m in your way so I can acknowledge you too and passive-aggressively remain in your way! Payback may not get your shopping done any quicker, but it sure feels good.

The last group to cover is the Oblivious Thinkers (SBOT). I can’t make up my mind on who I think is more annoying: the SBITs or SBOTs. In their general descriptions, the only distinction from one group to the next is that this group never looks up/away from the shelf to realize that they’re in your way. On one hand, these may be better, in the event they do get around to paying attention to their periphery and move along more quickly when they notice you. On the other hand, they may also turn out to be as much a pain in the ass as the SBITs by NOT moving once they’ve gotten around to noticing you. As previously stated, you can’t usually just avoid or bypass these situations, so instead, the best course of action is to make a few rude comments (especially to others who may also be stuck along with you) about people in general who get in the way, without specifically identifying the cause at the moment. If they’re smart enough, they’ll get the hint and may move on more quickly for you. Regrettably, the oblivious person is usually oblivious to your comments.

Well, now that all these items have been covered, I want to get to the grand-daddy of all the annoying shopping blockers: the woman encountered this morning. She fits into none of these categories, and yet all of them. How’s this possible, you ask? She wandered slowly around the store, going back and forth from one side of the aisle, appearing to be taking in the sights. Occasionally she’d stop to pick up and look at an item, only to return it to the shelf from which it came. Despite multiple attempts to get around her or dodge to another aisle, she somehow managed to get back in front of me, as if she was planning it. However, the most frustrating part, and the explanation how how she doesn’t fit into any of the classifications, is that she never actually picked up anything to buy! She wasn’t even shopping as far as I could tell and it actually looked more like she was just scoping out the store! Of all the previously mentioned groups, at least their bother has a purpose behind it. I’ve never come across such an annoying shopper, let alone one who was so annoying for no practical reason.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Unfortunately, nothing. I am at a loss as to how to deal with someone like this. There is a silver lining, however: this probably will never happen to most of you, so you’ll never need the would-be imparted wisdom on what to do when it happens. And honestly, maybe this puts all the other regular types into some perspective? Happy shopping!


  1. That would certainly annoy the hell out of me. Since I've started doing some mystery shopping I think I may know what she was doing though. They occasionally have stealth audits, where your job is to go to a store, find a long list of products, record the price and some info then report back what the prices were but in the mean time you have to make it look like you're actually shopping. Ideally you're supposed to do this when you're making a regularly scheduled shopping trip so it isn't so obvious but this person was probably new and just out for the funds. But then, I could be completely wrong and it could be some whacked out crazy person that was overly bored lol.

  2. You have NO CLUE how this annoys me. My biggest annoyance is when you see the item you want but someone is RIGHT THERE for 20 years hanging out like they are about to move in or own the place. I sit back in annoyance just waiting for the opportunity to say 'excuse me' to get my item. Man it rubs me the wrong way!

  3. James, I think I've seen that before, and can't rule that out here. Doesn't make it any less annoying, however...

    Clint, I do have a clue. That's why I posted this. ;-)

  4. Nothing worse than a shelf blockin cart leaver with children! Ugh...

  5. I just ran into another SBOT today... :-/


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