Supermarkets For Beginners

Shopping QueueAre you a student living away from mummy and daddy for the first time?

Are you a dusky foreign type unfamiliar with all the ways of western civilisation?

Are you a country bumpkin recently moved to the bright lights of the big city?

Are you unsure about Supermarket Etiquette?

Then this guide is for you!

What Is A Supermarket?

A supermarket is simply a corner shop – such as you would find in the north of England – with a few notable differences:

  • it’s bigger,
  • it’s rarely on the corner,
  • more than two children are permitted in the store at one time.

The supermarket is laid out in a number of aisles with similar products situated next to one another to stop everyone going crazy trying to find things. Canned goods, clothing, electronics, drinks, frozen food, meat, vegetables, flowers, bread, sample counters trying to offload the cabbage-flavoured biscuits that aren’t selling as well as projected, bathroom and kitchen supplies: all these and more are stacked high and sold cheap(ish) at the supermarket.


Americans call them carts but Americans spell aluminium wrongly so it’s best not to listen to them and refer to them as trolleys. Trolleys are the wire contraptions on wheels that you push ahead of you while shopping in the supermarket. By walking down the aisles and selecting items from the shelves and cabinets to either side of you, then placing those items in the trolley, you reduce the need to juggle your shopping and the appearance of hernias.

With four wheels and the ability to travel backwards and forwards and turn corners you could be mistaken for thinking that manoeuvring a trolley is a lot like driving a car. But it’s not. Here are the differences:

  • when approaching a junction:
    car: slow down, stop, look all ways, advance if clear,
    trolley: chaaaarrrggggge!,
  • when pulling out from a stationary position:
    car: mirrors, signal, manoeuvre if clear,
    trolley: chaaaarrrggggge!,

There are also accepted rules of conduct when performing basic shopping tasks using your trolley:

  • when browsing for or selecting an item from the shelf it is sometimes not possible to take your trolley with you. To make sure that other shoppers realise you haven’t simply abandoned your shopping to rot you must leave the trolley at a jaunty 45 degree angle across the centre of the aisle. This indicates that the trolley is still in use and that the owner is somewhere nearby and further prevents other shoppers from blocking off your return to the trolley, a source of stress you want to avoid!,
  • if part of the aisle is blocked off by another trolley or a crate ready to unpack new goods and what you want is opposite the obstruction simply park up and block the aisle completely. It’s your right. You were there first. Other shoppers understand the queue system and will accept what would be an incredibly irresponsible and self-centred act in any other situation in the world anywhere and will wait patiently with beatific smiles on their faces,
  • shopping is important but it’s not as important as friends so stop and have a long, loud chat with anyone you recognise. Don’t think for a second that you might be blocking the aisle or standing in front of exactly what someone else wants to buy because life’s too short to worry. Don’t worry, be oblivious.


The acoustics in supermarkets are perfect for amplifying the cries and tantrums of children. Take yours with you and try it out. The sound of echoing, piercing screams may not strike you as appealing but scientific studies show that other shoppers actually appreciate the noise as it speeds up their shopping experiences and keeps their minds focussed. Even if you find the noise bothersome, sending painful shocks down your spine and setting your teeth on edge, try not to quieten your child or consider taking it out and locking it in the boot of your car. Tune it out, knowing that you are doing a service to your fellow supermarketeers.

Shopping Shelves


Eggs are special. Eggs are sold in cardboard cartons and – as indestructible as they may appear at first glance – eggs sometimes crack leaking out egg blood. When purchasing eggs from a supermarket you are engaging in a form of lottery designed to weed out the weak from the strong shopper. It is your task to discover the carton of eggs containing only unbroken shells whilst simultaneously crushing as many other cartons and cracking as many other eggs as possible and throwing them back haphazardly for the next eggsplorer to rifle through. This delays those who come after you and prevents them from overtaking and stealing your spot in the checkout queue.

Supermarket Checkout

At the end of your incredible supermarket shopping experience you must either try to outrun the elderly employee stationed at the front of the store or pay for your goods at the checkout. Running is easier but frowned upon and will lead to community-wide shunning.

Paying for your goods involves walking up and down the rows of checkouts looking for the smallest queue, queueing, thinking there’s a faster-moving queue a few down, moving, being beat by another shopper, returning to your queue to discover someone has stolen your spot, picking another queue, spotting another fast-moving queue, deciding not to move this time, and winning the Oh No! The Person In Front Has Managed To Find All The Non-Barcoded Items From The Shelves lucky dip while whole families arrive, do a month’s worth of shopping, pay, and leave.

When it is your turn, start to remove the items from your trolley and place them on the conveyor belt. You will notice that the conveyor belt moves in sharp, jerky motions rather than a smooth one. This is to knock your bottles over and cause all carbonated drinks to explode when you get them home. The wise shopper lays his bottles down.

After you have unloaded your trolley you can move to the other end of the checkout and start to pack the products into bags. At this point you must do one of two things depending on your sex:

  • if you are a man you must have your wallet ready, open, with credit or debit card easily accessible, eager to hand over the card or place it into the chip-and-pin machine at the exact second that the checkout operator states the bill, knowing you can continue to pack while your card is being scanned,
  • if you are a woman you must complete packing away everything before reaching for payment, said payment consisting of no less than eight money-off coupons, a varied collection of coins from the bottom of a deep purse, and the bulk payment of your bill by cheque, written and signed slowly so as not to make a mistake.

This will complete the supermarket experience. At first these many rules and traditions of shopping will seem quite daunting and alien and you will want to break away from them, acting with consideration to others. Stop! Against the raging torrent even the most rigid of rocks eventually wears away! Happy shopping!

Accompanying, advanced-level guides Dealing With Shopping Bags That Rip As Soon As You Lift Them From The Boot Of Your Car For Beginners and Suppressing Your Rage When The Checkout Operator Nearest The Alcohol Section Is 16 And Requires Authorisation From A Supervisor Before Selling You Any Beer, Wine, Or Spirits For Beginners coming soon!

Author: Mark

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  1. Bravo!

    Keep telling it like it is… 😉

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  2. Speaking as a former cashier, the coin women should be fucking SHOT.

    Also–try being a New Yorker SAYING cart in a place other than New York. They laughed at me in Chicago. Laughed!! And THEY call them buggies!!

    And it has to be aluminum–it’s on the tin foil box.

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