Sir, Get Out of the Express Lane!

I had one of those “Just keep your mouth shut, Mark” moments today. I’m curious how you would have responded in a similar situation.

I was in a hurry before work and ran into the grocery store for a few things. It was early afternoon, the store wasn’t busy, so I quickly grabbed the stuff on my  list and headed for the check-out.

There were only two check-outs open at my end of the store, one regular and one express. The regular was busy, but the express was empty.  The clerk was just standing there waiting for customers. She was an elderly woman with a nice inviting smile on her face. I took a quick glance at the items in my cart, before pushing it into the lane. Roughly 15. That’s five more than the 10 allowed in the express lane, but who’s counting?. Apparently, an elderly woman with a nice inviting smile on her face is.

The clerk pointed to the express lane sign and scolded me. “Sir, this is the express lane.” She put an extra emphasis on THIS. I felt like a first-grader in one of those old-fashioned one room schoolhouses that just had his knuckles rapped with a ruler by the mean ol’ schoolmarm. What did I do? I didn’t want another rap on my knuckles, so with tail between legs, I left.

Grocery stores aren’t the only places where some employees often wield a mean “ruler”. How about the post office? You finally get to the front of a long line, and walk up to the open counter, only to hear this: “I’m sorry, I haven’t called you yet.” Or how about the airport? You need to talk to an airline employee at the gate counter. You wait patiently while he or she taps at the keyboard long enough to write “War and Peace”. “Excuse me,” you sheepishly say. “Can’t you see I’m busy,” is what you get back.

As I was checking out at the grocery store, I stole a quick glance at the express lane. There was no one there, except an elderly woman with a nice inviting smile on her face. You know what they say, “Looks can be deceiving.” 

Let me know what you would have done in this or a similar situation.


12 Comments on “Sir, Get Out of the Express Lane!

  1. She was doing her job, conditioning you to obey the rules, to keep you in line. No pun intended. It’s not as bad as parking in handicap spaces like UCLA football players used to do. You probably could have sweet talked or bribed your way thru it, but you did he right thing.

  2. You did exactly what your mother would have done. Quietly, said nothing, and go to another line. The problem will stay with the lady—— “the elderly lady with the (deceptively) nice smile on her face”. She has to LIVE with her disposition—-not you.

  3. Normally if I have less than 20 items, I head to the self-checkout line… It’s MUCH faster and I don’t have to try to read misleading “nice inviting smiles”.

  4. Did she really take the time and count the items? Especially since her express line was empty. She really doesn’t sound like a team player. I’ll tell you what I did in a similar circumstance … about 5 years ago …it was 7am and I went into Henry’s Market (great produce/gourmet type items) and I had to get on the road for an appt. There was only 1 lane open and the gentleman that was checking seemed completely oblivious that his line was getting longer and longer. I was about 5 people deep in line and I just spoke up in a real controlled tone/voice and said “Do you have any other checkers? There are people that have got to get to work.” He woke up and got on his intercom saying “Need all available checkers … people have got to get to work”. I laughed under my breath. Some people don’t have a clue.

  5. It’s extreme minimalism. It is a little better in California though. I’m allowed 15 items at the Safeway in San Francisco. I did exceed that once and the checker waited until he rang me up to comment, “Miss…please look up at the sign next time” (and he pointed up to the sign)- I was okay with that.

  6. I’ve had a few over the limit in my cart before at WalMart and at Reasor’s and the express checkers will see me in a longer line close to them and will have me come over to their line and check me out. I’ve also had over the limit and had express checkers say it’s not that big of a deal and only one time have I been scolded…. I didn’t leave tough….you must be nicer than I am…:)

  7. I used to work at Walmart. I would always take customers who where over 7 or 8 items. Of course, as soon as I did, someone would come up with only 2 items LOL. It is the customers that have 30 or 40 items that came into my line that bothered me. Absolutely no respect for others – and always with an attitude. I usually let the customers standing behind them take care of things!

    • And I’ve been one of those customers with a couple of items waiting behind someone with too many items in the express lane. It’s tough not to say anything. So I’m careful not to violate the express lane rule myself… usually.

  8. I see her point, just doing her job and all, but with no one in line, no one around and being close to the limit, whats the harm? C’mon!

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