A Catalog of Grocery Customer Species

You are among them

Written by Lord Lansdowne

All of you have been at one time done your shopping in a grocery store. When you go there all you notice are the high prices, the long lines at the cashes, and of course, the rude grocery clerks. If you worked in a grocery store like I do, you would start to be a little nicer to the employees, knowing all the abuse they have to put up with customers.

Many of you think that because you are a paying customer, you have to get everything you want, the way you want it. That's not true. So, I wrote a little listing of categories of people I have to put up with. Chances are you might fit into one of them. Chances are I hate you.


EBF finds it necessary to share his personal life with unsuspecting grocery clerks. Doesn't matter if the grocery clerk is a new guy or someone who has told them off several times before, he will calmly proceed in informing them of their back pain, of how well their nephew is doing in school, or some useless piece of trivia. EBF also finds it necessary to inform the staff why he is buying some item "I just love this type of lasagna, and since I have family coming over and the love lasagna, I just thought that I'd buy lasagna, although that brand over there is not so good, in fact last time I had it I had some terrible pains and went to the washroom for most of the night and...". How a clerk reacts to an EBF usually depends by how long the clerk has been in the store, and how many times he has had to endure the same guy. A fresh new clerk will stand there and politely smile and nod, the "customer is always right" line still ringing through his head. A veteran will probably contemplate murder (or suicide) or if in a really bad mood tell the customer where to go. EBF's favorite phrase (usually when they find out that the total of their groceries is $19.76) "nineteen seventy-six! That was a great year!".


The Complainer is as common as wheels on a car. Usually of the female sex, their only joy is to find something to complain about in order to make other's lives as miserable as theirs. The complainer will usually complain about stupid stuff, like a tomato over there has turned one zillionth of a shade darker, therefore it has gone bad, or that the milk's expiry date is on the other side. Or, if the milk has the expiry date on the facing side, that the milk's label is in French and that we are not in Quebec (for those that don't know, Canada is supposedly bilingual: French and English. Each product therefore must carry a bilingual label so that they can be sold in the French speaking province of Quebec). Usually they will go to a manager and complain that we should face all our labels on the English side.The Complainer is usually more visible when they go to the express cash with more than eight items, tell the cashier they are paying customers and are in a hurry and demand to pay with a cheque or (worse) with endless change. The Complainer can usually be spotted complaining to a friend how some products are 8 cents cheaper at the other store. Unfortunately they will never go and actually shop there to make the staff of this store happy.


These are the same folks that when they drive they make a turn and don't signal, or as soon as the light turns green, they signal to turn left. Doesn't matter how many times Clueless has been to the store, they will still find it necessary to ask where something is. A typical encounter is usually in front of the dairy section, where clueless will ask the clerk in charge of the milk, where the milk is located in the store. They usually carry a list with them with items they need and will ask help from a clerk in finding some unreadable item from it.Clueless is also the type of person that is unable to read a sign:

CL: How much is this?
CG: - pointing at 4 feet by 6 feet yellow sign with a large black 1.99 written on it - 1.99 sir".

Clueless usually giggles and they make some comment that they couldn't see the sign.Clueless are quite common when trying to free a buggy. Although each cart has a label with precise instructions written for a Grade 5 mind, and diagrams are posted on the wall on how to insert the quarter to free the buggy, Clueless can be seen pushing the quarter in just about anyway except the right one while giggling histerically.


There are two categories of cheap bastard. Looks fine, smells fine or looks dirty, smells just as bad. The former is usually an older person (see STARVED FOR ATTENTION), who after done their shopping, ask for someone to help them carry their grocery to the car. At the car they will ask you to load the groceries in the trunk. Done so, they want you to bring them the quarter used to free the buggy back. After that, they pocket the quarter and leave.The latter usually is seen lurking around the reduced bin section, examining carefully each damage package and complaining they are too expensive. A typical conversation with a Cheap Bastard of the latter section usually falls like this:

CB: How much is this?

GC: 2.99

CB: 2.59?

GC: No, 2.99

The cheap bastard will usually go to a clerk with a broken package and ask for it to be reduced. Cheap bastard also has an amazing memory as they can remember the price of each item they bought, so they can make sure the cashier is keying in the right price. If the Cheap Bastard thinks he has been overcharged 3 cents on some item, he will complain to the cashier, who will call a clerk for a price check. 9 times out of 10 the price is the one that the girl has entered. The Cheap Bastard will mutter something like "well, the signs are not too clear, I couldn't tell..". The Cheap Bastard's favorite line can be heard if by chance some item does not scan properly: "well, I guess it's free!" They will laugh at this as if it was the funniest thing on earth (see FUNNY GUYS, article 3).


This type of customer only arrives on the 27th of each month. They are here to cash their welfare check and it is impossible not to notice them. Dirty and usually surrounded by a particular aroma as if they haven't washed for over a week. Trash usually have 3 or 4 kids (trashlings) who run around the store, opening boxes and creating havoc, no matter how much the trash yells at them with threats of beatings and killing. Although most are ignorant and uneducated, trash generally are nice, although they can be heard yelling to their companion across the other side of the store to grab some more Kraft Dinner. Trash never buys essentials such as toothpaste or deodorant.


Lazy usually is a customer that not only expects to find everything they want the moment they arrive but that when they find it, they expect the underpaid, understaffed and overworked clerk to carry their grocery around for them. They are also the only ones that ask for something like prune juice and buy an entire case of it, and then demand that the box is rewrapped for them with some sturdy tape. Lazy usually is quite bitter (see "THE COMPLAINER") and if the service is not up to their standards they will usually make life hell for the poor clerk they have intercepted and complain to the manager.

There is also the semi-lazy. These bastards don't do all their shopping, then have the cashier make one of us clerks go get some more stuff for them, that may have been in the last aisle. Much to far for them to walk with their delicate feet.


Usually falls under the category of Cheap Bastard, however the Calculator Person is usually a financial wizard that will bring with them only $14 and change, while their buggy is holding more than $100 worth of groceries. Once they get to cash, they will calculate the costs together with the cashier and have her remove certain items to keep everything well within the budget. Guess who ends up bringing most of the stuff they left behind back?


Usually they mean no harm, but they can be more annoying then anyone else around the store. They seem to find a need to help every member of the staff, like holding the door for them when they are bringing something in (although the doors open by themselves), helping another guy put stock on the shelf, or just about anything that might get them killed. The Helper is convinced that he can make the world better for everybody else, and that his knowledge is above everyone else's. The Helper can be found lurking around the buggies in the desperate attempt to find someone unable to free one, or when a cashier is having trouble, asking the very dangerous question "did you type the numbers correctly Here let me check..". The Helper will also help the cashier by personally handing to her each item. The Helper completes his visit by ripping out the receipt from the cash-register by himself, usually when the machine is not yet done printing. These type of customers are fortunately rare.


SFA are usually elders that are in desperate need of company. SFA seem to get a kick out of entering a conversation between two clerks or to send some wise crack about working (ie: clerk is drinking water from a bottle, SFA will usually say "Did you substitute that water with Vodka? Hee hee"). SFA also seem to always be in need of something. A hand grabbing an item at stomach's height, reading the labels because they are blind (or so they claim, but they seem to be able to recognize us right away) or bagging their groceries in different bags, usually divided in size, weight, perishable, geometric shape and location in the fridge.

SFA are very careful with their budget. Overcharging a SFA of 1 or 2 cents will cause them to call the manager and complain that they have been robbed.


The Substitute is usually someone who doesn't do grocery shopping on a regular basis. Completely unable to navigate around the store (see CLUELESS), they tend to come up to a grocery clerk and with a long list in their hands ask for the most absurd items (some of them which are usually not even in a grocery store, like shoe polish). When learning that the item they are searching for cannot be found here, the Substitute will ask where he can find it and if the clerk happens to know of another store, what type they carry, if it's in stock and how much it costs.


ESL are generally nice people that have just arrived from a different country who have just recently discovered the wonders of a grocery store. Unfortunately, ESL will speak to a clerk in their native language expecting them to understand what they are looking for. When the clerk returns the favor with a clueless look, ESL will keep talking by making the gesture of eating something. Okay, we're in a grocery store: if you remove all the aisles where there are only items that are to be spread or drank, we find ourselves with 6 and a half aisles of possibilities or over 3,500 different products. Sometimes staff will speak the same language as the customer, but that's not always the case. Customers that do speak a little bit of English will get angry if you don't understand their accent, assume you're being racist and will go to the manager to complain. These customers tend to forget that sometimes clerks in a grocery store don't speak English so well themselves. ESL can usually be found asking if the product contains eggs or any other animal product.

12 The Perfect Customer

This one usually comes like a rarity. They are understanding, ask questions politely and don't bother sharing their personal lives with the staff. Can perfectly understand that we might be out of stock on some item. Doesn't tell clerks how to do their jobs. Doesn't complain if the store is extremely busy and although all the cashiers are open, that there are line ups. Lastly the Perfect Customer is happy with the way things are and doesn't want them to change. Unfortunately this type of customer is in danger of extinction and is hardly seen anymore in their natural urban habitats.

With comments and suggestions by Jeff Wright
(Article stolen.. er.. inspired by another article)