Dear PoP – What to do When Express Line is Violated?


“Dear PoP,

Last night, I went grocery shopping at the new and extremely busy Safeway at the City Vista condo building. Having only 8 items, I went to a checkout line labeled “Express 15 Items or Less”. As the couple in front of me started putting their items on the conveyor belt, I noticed they had a lot more than 15 items. I estimated 25 items. So my question is: At this point, since they have already waited and are the next in line and already loading stuff up to be checked out, do you mention that this is the Express lane? I just went to another line, but was rather disgusted.”

Ah, this is one of the small but very frustrating aspects of life. I think we’ve all probably encountered this at one point. I know I never say anything, because I think it’s just not worth it. I wish the cashier would see the violation before the offender puts all his/her items on the conveyor belt. But that’s not very realistic. I think this is a situation where some folks are just inconsiderate and it is easiest to just wait. But I can understand that if you don’t say anything the offender is likely to continue his/her behavior in the future. On the flip side, I was at the Giant on Park Road the other day and I only had some milk and a very nice customer let me go ahead of her. So it may all even out at the end of the day…

Has anyone ever mentioned to a shopper that they have more than 15 (or whatever the number is) items in an express lane?

73 Comment

  • Whatever you do, DON’t simply talk to the person like an adult and mention they are in the wrong line.

    You SHOULD do one of two things.
    1) Make passive-aggressive comments to your friend or some other person in line such as “Can you believe SOME people don’t understand the concept of an EXPRESS line”. But make sure that you can be overheard by the person so they feel shame in the depths of their hear and commit suicide immediately upon their return home for such a horrible transgression.

    2)Call Jerry Sinefeld and tell him of a fantastic life situation that he could make a whole show about similar to the waiting for a table at a restaurant.

  • this should not have been posted

  • This is getting Trite.
    accept the small inconvenience and think about something important in your life.

  • Recently at the Petworth Safeway I ended up in line behind a lady who not only had tons of stuff in the express line, she was paying with food vouchers, 3-4 separate transactions where the clerk had to verify the items matched what she had. Then her boyfriend’s stuff in the cart separately. It took like forever. While I had the chance to switch lines (and I should have) I just stood there patiently. The clerk was not the least bit pleased.

  • How ’bout just get over it.
    This is about as inane a complaint as the goofy latte guy at Tynan. Buy your groceries, go home, pop a beer and chill out. It’s not a big deal.

    Gosh, what would you do if you had a *real* problem?

  • I have been in regular line with 15+ items and the express line is empty. Store personnel (express cashier, cashier manager, MOD) has directed me to the empty express line and I have heard loud talkers and endured funny looks as line grows behind me. You deal with it and move on.

  • The self-checkout lanes at the Columbia Heights Giant are the absolute worst for this – and, of course, the people who never learned basic math skills like counting to 12 are also, inevitably, the people who need the employee to stand over their shoulder and walk them through the entire self-checkout process (thus negating the whole concept of self-checkout and delaying all the other people who are waiting for things like ID checks for alcohol, etc.).

    It’s one thing when you’re squeezing through with 13 or 14 items instead of 12, but I’ve seen people take entire carts full of groceries through those lines and the employees don’t seem to take any notice. I hate to add to what I’m sure is already an excessive workload in this economy, but at the end of the day, it’s the employees – particularly in attended conveyor-belt checkouts – that need to be a little more on the ball about regulating this stuff.

  • You say to yourself: “THIS IS NOT A REAL PROBLEM,” and you wait.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I loved the Sandinista Safeway when they only had express checkouts.

  • I actually think it’s quite indicative of the shallow “me” culture we have. It shows you have no respect to your fellow shopper/citizen and are only worried about yourself.
    And people wonder why there are is so much crime and murder in the world. It just blows my mind oh how little we respect each other…

  • There is no reason to ever react to this.

    I read my email on my phone while waiting in line and send out requests to my staff during these breaks. Enjoy them for what they are- a chance to clean out your in-box on saturday afternoon.

  • I have pointed it out in the past if there is an “express offender” in front of me. The people usually feel pretty bad about it, but I let them stay in front of me. No sense in making them wait in an even longer line.

    @JoeEsq74 – I hate when that happens! I always feel like such a jerk if I get redirected to the express lane with a whole shopping cart of groceries.

    @PoP – I always let people in front of me if they only have one or two things since I usually have a full shopping cart. They always seem so amazed that I am letting them in front of me! I did that at the Giant on O Street to a guy with just milk about a month ago – weird that the exact same situation happened to you (no it wasn’t you haha)

  • Nice juxtaposition with the previous post about a murder!

  • “The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way.”

  • I’m not too troubled by it, given that I usually avoid the express lines anyway. They are anything but.

    When it really irks me is when the cashier selectively calls people out. As in, lets her friends through with giant cartfuls, but actively counts the items of other customers.

  • Many times store will direct customers to express to handle overall traffic flow. I was impressed with Target recently, where they had a staff directing every customer checking out to minimize overall waits. In grocery stores, regular lines are often faster anyway — checkers get baggers and larger loads with fewer transactions to process.

    Agree with above comments about the friviloty here.

  • and people wonder why the washington post article pointed out a “white whine” like this… hello!?

  • This is such a terrible, terrible thing. The end of days must certainly be near. If this ever happens to me, I’d probably just totally lose it, start screaming “why, why, why!?”, throwing things around, maybe lose control of my bowels, and start beating the offenders mercilessly.

  • or… clutch your pearls and scream for the police!

  • Really? Really? I’m not even sure that this would make the cut for Dear Carolyn. It might make “Ask A Drunk Hipster” in The Onion, though.

    Next week, guest posts will include such gripping controversies as, “what should I do when the bartender repeatedly serves other people, even though I was there first,” and “my garbage man keeps spilling cans and bottles when he takes the trash, should I confront him?”

  • Remember when the Soviet Safeway used to count your items ?

  • This is why stores should just have the single queue like at Trader Joe’s – it makes the entire system more efficient and gets rid of the need to figure out which line is going to be fastest.

  • As Voice of Reason so elequently put it: people who spend time, say, complaining about the Redskins’ offense are worse than Hitler. Don’t they know there’s a boy in a well somewhere?!?

  • I can’t believe this was posted.

  • “This is why stores should just have the single queue like at Trader Joe’s ”

    Couldn’t agree more. No matter how long the line or how crowded TJ’s is, we just zip right through. Once the line (at Foggy Bottom) seriously wrapped all the way back to the produce! Zip, zap, we were out in no time.

  • The best and most useful comments on this site are the meta-comments about whether PoP should have made the post in the first place.

  • Who cares. If you’re in a hurry, use the self-check out. Also, a single check-out line would be much more efficient.

  • This is one of those small annoyances that’s symptomatic of a larger societal problem. It’s human nature to care about yourself above all others, but in functional societies, people are trained to at least pretend to care a little about others, especially when others are watching. Like in express lanes.

    In a properly functioning society, people obviously violating fair rules that are established for everyone’s convenience would be fearful of being chastised, and that fearfulness would have been internalized to the point where they simply didn’t violate the rule.

    But as our American society devolves, kids don’t learn that violating social niceties will be punished, and grow up as adults for whom those niceties are meaningless.

    Fortunately, people are never too old to learn. If you give people feedback, and make clear that what they are doing is frowned upon, they MIGHT improve their behavior. If you say nothing, they’ll never change.

  • Whenever this happens to me I rush home and post bitter passive aggressive comments about it on my blog. That will show ’em!

  • You know what’s even worse than whining about people in the express lane with too many items? Whining about someone posting about whining about people in the express lane with too many items.

  • A waste of HTML! Hogwash and horse shit. I guess what I am really trying to say is that this should not have been posted.

  • i wonder why so many people who don’t think this post is worthy of their time nevertheless take the time to read 30 comments and add their thoughts?

    those of you who don’t think this is “worthy of posting” should consider getting their own blogs and not wasting your time commenting on this one.

  • Eric in Ledroit nails it.

  • @Eric in Ledroit: Since you are now a member of that club, you should be able to answer your own question.


  • i agree with the “life is too short” crowd

    but, i WILL say this: don’t assume the express checkout offender is intentionally violating the item limit.

    a lot of stores – safeway and giant included, do a piss-poor job of marking what lines are express and what ones are not. at giant i can never tell when the lane is lit up to be express and at safeway there was a time i didn’t notice the sign hanging from the ceiling.

    but yeah, these days there are much more important things to be worried about.

  • There are some odd thinking people in this City, exactly why it is the slum it is. Simple Human Respect, if you dont have it you don’t understand it.

    By the time they plop down their stuff knowing they are being an ass, the problem has already started and it would take more to correct it than to let it pass. Casheers should be able to add a $10 Surcharge for anybody who does this, cash only. This could be given to a local food bank. It should be a store policy, people who are inconvienced for inconvencing others learn more quickly the value of Simple Human Respect.

  • I would be not very likely to shop at the Supermarket of Simple Human Respect, that would charge me $10 or make me go wait in another line if I made the mistake of (gasp) using the express line with 17 items instead of 15. Yes, it’s true: the value of Customer’s Money is more important than the value of Simple Human Respect when you are running a business.

    This is so silly.

    Who cares if someone, possibly for reasons that had nothing to do with their own lack of respect for others (e.g. they made a mistake, or were directed to that line by an employee) has more than 15 items? You’re probably counting their six-pack of beer as six items anyway.

    Anyone who’s too stupid to evaluate the best line before they start waiting in it, regardless of what the sign says, deserves what they get. You can either whine on a blog about it, or just get in the best line there is when you are checking out and deal with life.

  • i hate when this happens too, and i hate all the commenters that are making such a big deal over the posters annoyance. i agree with whoever basically said that this is just one example of a whole mindset of selfishness. the same people that bring 30 items to a 15 items or less check out are probably the same people that will double park to talk to a buddy on the street or run into a friends house for a minute, and probably are the same people who cause gridlock in traffic, and probably are the same people that litter from their car window, etc. you guys dont think that its a big deal to be disrespected by your neighbors, to your face? then fine, stfu and let them run all over you. but dont come crying to pop though next time you have a ‘big’ problem like someone breaking into your car and stealing your shit. its the same mentality that drives both scenarios.

  • The Soviet Safeway had better ways of dealing with non-comformists.

  • saf

    “If you’re in a hurry, use the self-check out”

    No. Don’t. Or at least, not if you’re me. Those things never work for me. Seriously, I am a smart person and I know how to count and how to work the machine. But that damn scale – I hate the machine and its “unexpected item in bag. Remove item.”

  • I’d like to point out that the “Express” sign hanging above the lane is so far up that it could be easy for someone to miss without realizing it (I did this repeatedly at the Watergate Safeway one summer, until someone finally pointed it out to me and I felt like an ass). They should have the signage where you can see it as you approach the register, i.e. underneath the lit lane #, like Giant.

  • I must admit that I have gone a few items over the Express Line limitation on a few rare occasions. But I don’t think I’ve ever committed an egregious violation. Unless you are talking about a cart full of items, I don’t think it’s a shopper’s job to point this kind of thing out. It should be left to the store employees. One time at the Whole Foods in Silver Spring a cashier pointed out, quite politely and gently, that I had too many items for the express line and asked me to keep it in mind next time. Sort of a “You may not have noticed the sign, but this line is for x number of items.” I apologized profusely and he proceeded to ring me up. No aggression, passive or other, needed or involved.

  • Since this conversation has gone from useless to cuckoo, I’d like to make an observation.

    “15 items or less” is not proper English.

    I don’t think “15 items or fewer” is either. While better, shouldn’t it be “15 or fewer items?”

  • So if you have a bushel of 10 bananas is it one item or 10? If you have a bag full of the same kind of apples does the bag count as one or the number of apples?

    What is the etiquette regarding these? Things I think about as I feel the glare of disapproval from my fellow shoppers speculating that I have over 15 items when in fact I have 10 and the basket is just full from the space a bushel of bananas and a bag of apples takes up…

  • What should you do? Cause a scene. As most of my fellow posters have correctly noted, this is an offense that cannot go unpunished. I mean, youre probably going to have to wait an extra 4-5 minutes to buy your groceries right?

    First, start huffing loudly and rolling your eyes. Maybe add in a repetitive foot tap for good measure. I dont know about you all, but when I look back in line and see this happening, I hurriedly push all my groceries across the scanner to make way.

    If this doesnt work I’d suggest tossing groceries in their direction. Something soft like a loaf of bread. You dont want to come across as a real jerk or anything.

    Now that we have settled this can we get back to the real issues facing our community like foam/no-foam lattes?

  • Beat them to death with a frozen tenderloin. Once the tenderloin thaws, eat the evidence.

  • I admit that when I’m in a particular mood, I sometimes get annoyed by the so-called express offender. But then I generally stop and think to myself (a) the net negative effective on my life, if any, of waiting a few minutes is very, very small, and (b) allowing myself to get worked up about such a small inconvenience is not worth any benefit that might be gained by lashing out at some stranger for this perceived sleight.

    Some earlier comments noted that the express offender is representative of some kind of selfish “me” culture. I’m not sure I agree, but, to the extent that is true, I’d say the person who gets so steamed about it is also representing the negative side of “me” culture as well.

  • This question has a simple answer: you should go home and write an indignant, self-righteous rant on your blog. Alternatively, you could attempt to solicit third-party validation by exploiting someone else’s blog as a soap box for your personal grievances.

    In general, one should always strive to take offense over every minor annoyance that occurs during the course of one’s day. This is because our identity as Americans consists precisely in our capacity to be offended by our fellow citizens, especially those to whom we are ideological opposed. Without this pervasive spirit of partisan bitterness, our two-party political system – the most successful and glorious of its kind since the Roman republic – would fail.

    So remember: whenever you neglet to seethe in rage at someone who blocks the pedestrian crossing, or cuts you of in traffic, or plays their music too loud, or bumps into you on the metro – the terrorists have already won.

  • “Beat them to death with a frozen tenderloin. Once the tenderloin thaws, eat the evidence.”

    Pummel them with a bottle of wine and you’ve got yourself a perfect crime!

  • No way. This actually happened to me last night. So I grabbed a magazine caught the latest on Jon and Kate. When life gives you lemons…

  • As others have pointed out, there is a certain irony to complaining via comment thread that a blog post is a waste of time. Despite the argument made above, though, the same irony does not exist in merely pointing out said irony.

  • Anybody who is not bothered by Express Excessors probably is one. If you are an Express Excessor, you have my scorn. There is a special place in Hell for these subhumans, and in this place in Hell there is only one store and only one checkout line. And they are all in it. Forever.

  • @ The Cap’n, et al:
    We’re all here because we like to give our opinions and read others’. When someone is a douche, we like to point it out. Complaining about someone’s post being a waste of HTML isn’t some kind of Grand Irony, it’s just us saying, “Hey! Look at this douche!”

  • “Despite the argument made above, though, the same irony does not exist in merely pointing out said irony.”

    If I have followed my meta-criticism-logic correctly, your post is:

    A criticism of a criticism [3] of a criticism [2] of a criticism of a useless post [1].

    [3] Post pointing out the irony of pointing out the irony in commenting on a stupid post (Me)
    [2] Post pointing out the irony in commenting on a stupid post (Eric in Ledriot)
    [1] Original stupid post

    That makes this post a criticism of a criticism [4] of a criticism [3] of a criticism [2] of a useless post [1]

    [4] is your comment to which I am responding.

    Without question, at this point, I hold the award for most ironic, hypocritical, self-referential comment, by posting a criticism of your criticism of a criticism of a criticism of a useless post.

    The actual substance of this comment is, that I think there is no basis for declaring any comment in this chain of criticisms “non-ironic” since, if the first is ironic in it’s hypocrisy, certainly each successive comment is more so.

    Anyway, I hope someone will choose to take this to the next level. Luckily, there is no theoretical end to how far this can go.

  • Worst. Post. Ever.

  • no one answered the question, i.e. what do you do when this happens

    i’m always astounded when people fail to answer a direct question posed in a blog entry. you could even vent *after* you answer the question, but how useful is it in a discussion forum to reply to a question with the critique that the question shouldn’t be asked?

    my answer is, i have never experienced this or perhaps i have never paid enough attention to the number of items the person in front of me has (probably the latter, since i imagine someone must have been in front of me with 15+ items at some point in my life…ha)

  • Eric in LeDroit is right. It’s one thing to suggest not getting worked up about it” as a way to handle express-lane violators. Criticizing PoP for posting the entry is douchey. If you don’t like the post, skip it or git yer own blog!

    I for one like these kinds of posts. This blog is about life in the city, and little annoyances are part of that life. So talking about how to handle them is perfectly acceptable. What makes this post any more frivolous than the real estate listings (which I also love)?

  • spirit equality: I answered the question.

  • Dear PoP,

    Earlier today, I was browsing on your fancy and extremely interesting blog. I read a post that was not very interesting, about a problem that isn’t really a big deal. As over 50 comments followed, I noticed there was more html on the page dedicated to how awful the post was than to the post itself. I estimated 25 times more html. So my question is: At this point, since they have already taken up the html and made the comments, do you mention that everyone complaining about wasting html is wasting it themselves? I just stopped reading the uninteresting post like a normal person, but was rather disgusted.

  • Beat them about the head and shoulders with a hard salami while spraying them with grape soda.

  • Why is it that the most asinine posts always get the most responses?

  • Eric in LeDroit is right. It’s one thing to suggest “Don’t get worked up about it” as a way to handle express-lane violators, but criticizing PoP for posting the entry is douchey. If you don’t like the post, skip it or git yer own blog!

    I for one like these kinds of posts. This blog is about life in the city, and little annoyances are part of that life. So talking about how to handle them is perfectly acceptable. What makes this post any more frivolous than the real estate listings (which I also love)?

    And to answer the original question, I’ve never had to deal with the express-lane violator situation — a combination of almost always having more than 12-15 items and shopping late at night in the ‘burbs, when lines are less of a problem.

  • What do you do? You just suck it up and go on with your life.

  • One time I came to the registers with a full cart and there was just one cashier and he was at the express lane. There were no other customers around so he waved me in. I had alread loaded up the belt and suddenly there were three or four other customers with just small baskets. I was embarrassed, but what could I do about it?

  • Local grocery stores perversely assign their slowest/least experienced tellers to the express lanes, thus negating most of the benefits of lower item counts. My suggestion is to go at a time when you can afford to wait. Life’s too short.

  • Solution:

    Make the width of the aisle too small to allow a full size cart through.


  • When I lived in Mount Pleasant we drove to the other side of the park to do our shopping. Better selection and these kinds of things are much less frequent.

  • @Jamie:
    No. Because, you see, those of us who don’t think this is an inappropriate post aren’t trying to stake out some sort of intellectual high ground about what is worthy of a post. So there is no irony.

  • This is a very serious concern you have! This reminds me of the time I threw my white cashmere sweater in the drier, and it shrunk on me! Can you believe that? It up and shrunk! People just don’t know about quality these days.

  • When threre are always four express lanes and one or two regular lanes open (I’m looking at you, Dupont Safeway) don’t fault me for using the express lane if I have 17 or even 20 items. It’s unrealistic for everyone to get in line in those two lanes, which end up wrapping all the way up the aisles. Yeah I got called out on it last week, but I don’t care, because I don’t feel guilty.

  • it sad that people cant handle a complaint about a rude customer using the express line with too many items.

    its a quality of life issue people. little things do matter. or has DC made you all tough and hardened that you can’t respect people anymore??

  • Kudos to the dozens of folks who took the precious time to inanely comment on how inane they think the post is.

    Lots of things happen when you live in a neighborhood, some are important and some are trivial. You don’t have to be a part of every conversation. Just go to the next post and give some attention to what *you* think *is* important.

  • I’m never getting in the regular line again, no matter how many items I have. I’ll just let you deal with waiting and give you an intimidating look if you say anything.

Comments are closed.