Grocery Cart Etiquette —You’re Going to Wish Everyone Used This!

grocery cart etiquette


By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

Grocery cart etiquette — at first thought it might seem silly or odd — but keep reading! Knowing and using the tips in this post makes grocery shopping more predictable. And what’s predictable is more easily managed. Most of us don’t enjoy the task of grocery shopping, so anything that makes it more predictable makes it more pleasant.

By the time you’re finished reading, you’re going to want to post a copy of this short post on the door of every grocery store you visit! 🙂

If it hadn’t been for this reader’s letter, I don’t think I would have thought to put together these grocery shopping manners. However, after reading her letter, I bet you’ll agree with her that they’re needed.

Hi Maralee!

I don’t know if you can help with this or not. Do you know if there are any written grocery store manners?

Before I go shopping, I feel I need a Xanax. (Kidding!) The aisles are full of people pushing carts every whichaway making it impossible to get down the aisle without having to say a million times, “Excuse me!” as I reach for what I need.

I recently stood behind a lady talking on her cell phone oblivious to me and the fact that I was trying to get her attention so that I could pass her. I finally lightly tapped her on the shoulder, smiled, and said, “Pardon me.” She gave me the dirtiest look. You would have thought I ran over her toes with the cart.

It’s hard to go from one aisle to the next. I’ve had people bump into me numerous times.

If you can offer any help, I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance,

Allison  T.

Grocery Cart Etiquette

1.) Just like when driving, stay to your right. In grocery store aisles, push your cart close to the right side of the aisle. Keep the middle of the aisle open for passing. I realize that the aisles are tight, and this isn’t always possible.

2.) Park and walk across the aisle. When you need something from the other side of the aisle, park your cart on the right, and walk to the item(s) on your left.

3.) It’s OK to reach in front of people for an item. It’s fine to stand next to people (standing next to them makes it more likely that they see you) and reach in front of them if you let them know what you plan to do in advance. Try saying something like, “Excuse me for a moment, please. I need two cans of soup.” Then, wait for a moment until they either verbally acknowledge you or move slightly out of your way. Adding the word please positively impacts the way others perceive you and their willingness to do what you asked in a kind way.

4.) You don’t want to reach from behind (or around) people to get an item. Reaching from behind or around people makes it possible that they haven’t seen you. People get startled when a hand suddenly comes from behind them! Step to the person’s side, and proceed as above in step 3.

5.) When making your way up or down an aisle, yield to oncoming shoppers if a “parked” cart is on your side. Just like when driving, if someone is coming from the opposite direction and there’s something on your side of the road (the aisle) that’s parked and blocking clear passage for both of you, it’s your responsibility to move over to your right and let the oncoming person pass.

6.) When you reach the end of an aisle, stop and look in both directions before turning into the main aisle. Imagine a stop sign at the end of each aisle. As with driving, come to a stop, and look both ways before maneuvering your cart into the main aisle. Those already in the main aisle have the right of way.

7.) In general, when checking out, stand in front of your cart while placing items on the conveyor. It’s easier to stand in front of the cart (the side opposite the handle) because it’s the lowest part of the cart, making it easier to retrieve all the groceries and load them onto the conveyor. But if doing so makes your lane too crowded, stand behind or beside your cart as needed.

Some grocery stores are set up so that cashiers take the groceries out of the cart to ring them up. If this is the case, stand in the check-out lane facing the cashier so you can engage in pleasantries.

Once the cart is empty, pass it to the section of the checkout lane where the groceries are bagged so that the bagger can place the bagged groceries in your cart.

Grace Note: When you’re finished (or nearly finished) putting your items on the conveyor, place the divider up as your signal that the people behind you are welcome to begin loading their items onto the belt. It’s gracious for you to do it so that they don’t feel as if they’re intruding on your space.

8.) In the parking lot, place your cart in one of the designated cart “corrals.” If the store doesn’t offer a designated spot for carts, return yours to the entrance area, or place it horizontally in front of your car or in some similar location that keeps it from blocking parking spots or causing others to have to move your cart out of their way before opening their car door.

9.) Observe your store’s no-tipping policy. If a grocery store has a no-tipping policy, it tends to be strict about it. It’s best not to put the bagger in the awkward position of having to turn down your kind offer of money. Some baggers who accept a tip so as not to offend an overly assertive customer must give it the manager immediately because keeping it can be grounds for dismissal. The cash then either goes into the till or is placed in the general fund for associate celebrations (birthdays and the like).

If your store has a no-tipping policy, and you want to tip your regular bagger(s), ask when their birthday, wedding, and work anniversary are, and remember them at holidays. Place your money in a card, and you’re not tipping them, you’re celebrating their special days! Plus, this larger sum of money you’re giving a few times a year is going to make more of an impact on their budget than the dollar or two tipped during a weekly visit.

Grocery Cart Etiquette —Now That You’ve Read It, Don’t You Wish Everyone Used It?!

It would make shopping more pleasant if everyone were on the same page about what’s expected of them up and down the grocery store aisles. Grocery cart etiquette is a little thing that makes a big difference when you add up all the trips to the store we’ll make over our lifetime!

What’s Next?

If you have a question, you can email me personally at In the meantime, if you’re not a part of the Manners Mentor family, please join now by typing your best email address in the box below this post. And enjoy your FREE, illustrated dining skills guide as my welcome-to-the-family gift. You deserve a seat at every table! With the skills you’ll find in its pages, you’ll be set for business, social, or family meals from casual to formal!

Until next time, keep doing what only YOU can do! Bless those around you by being you at your authentic best!!!

Blessings, hugs, and happy shopping,

grocery cart etiquette

Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

5 Traits of Great Friends

5 Traits of Great Friends

Are you head cheerleader for your best friend's life? Are you and she much more alike than different? Those are among th...

10 Unique Habits of Remarkably Gracious Ladies

10 Unique Habits of Remarkably Gracious Ladies

Let's sand down our rough edges and polish up our manners. Here are ten habits of gracious ladies that not only will kee...

How to Graciously End All Your Conversations

How to Graciously End Conversations

  By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor How can you conclude every conversation on a high note? How can yo...

Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Maralee's email list and receive all her new posts directly in your inbox.

Buy Manners that Matter for Moms now!