DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m puzzling over what is considered good etiquette in grocery stores.
I don’t get in the checkout line until I’ve gotten everything, and I don’t delay the checker with special requests or interminable chatting. I try to be patient, but today I lost it a bit when the woman checking out ahead of me first delayed the line with long questions to the checker about the availability of a certain type of bean, which the checker enabled with multiple calls to the back room, where no one picked up.
Once that was resolved, the checker informed the customer that there was no tag on a bulk item and we had to wait again until someone came up to get the item and take it back into the store to find the correct code for it.
During the second lengthy delay, the woman apologized to me and I politely responded that I would never make others wait for me the way she was making me wait. Her response, however, indicated that she believed that she was a helpless victim of circumstances, and as much a victim as I was.
Given how unlikely it is that anything could be said that would make these types of narcissists consider other people before themselves, is there a positive way of handling these situations? I don’t want to pick on the checkers because I know it’s a tough job, but couldn’t they be trained to shuttle these sorts of time-wasters off to the service desk?
GENTLE READER: Before answering your question, Miss Manners feels compelled to ensure that we have a shared vocabulary, an inevitable delay for which she hopes you will forgive her.
In her dictionary, responding to an apology by saying that you would never be so rude yourself cannot reasonably be termed “polite.” The woman in front of you acted inconsiderately -- possibly intentionally, possibly by accident. But she apologized. The “positive” way to respond is to accept her apology gracefully. If you are instead looking for an “active” way to respond, you will have to switch to another checkout line.