The Sainsbury's Finishing School

A debate over the etiquette at supermarket checkouts has been sparked this week after a customer in Sainsbury's was refused service by an irate member of staff until she hung up her phone. It went a little bit like this:

Cashier stares at woman.

Woman asks if everything's okay.

Cashier says:  'I will not check your shopping out until you get off your mobile phone.'

Woman ends her call and says:  'Apologies, I didn't realise that it was Sainsbury's policy that you are unable to use your phone at the checkout'.

'Well you learn something new every day', came her reply.

I have to agree with David Mitchell on this - both women sound nauseatingly passive-aggressive, irrelevant of the debate behind it - which is whether it's okay to talk on the phone while being served. It isn't against the law, but neither is weeing in the shower - this doesn't mean it's okay.

Earlier this year I stood behind a woman in a shop who, on reaching the front of the queue, said into her mobile: "Can I ring you back in a minute? I'm just getting served". Depressingly, I was shocked enough to remember it months later, which proves how often I've seen the opposite happen.

The concept of mobile phones is brand new when you look at the time span of the human race, but this isn't a good enough excuse to warrant the behaviour we display towards them. Not only do we stay on them when being served in supermarkets, we shun real conversation for texting. We favour looking through Instagram to looking up at the world without a filter. We watch gigs through a screen.

Our phones are the automatic answer to having a moment to wait in a queue. If we're not careful, smart phones will eventually outwit us. Not because they're becoming cleverer, but because ten brain cells pop every time we sit on a train and scroll through Facebook for the entire journey. I don't think this debate has everything to do with phones, though.

I've often been annoyed by checkout cashiers who have failed to acknowledge me. People lacking manners lack manners whether it involves a phone or not. Supermarkets require inevitable exchange between staff and members of the public that bring out these tendencies. Most of us spend more time than we'd like shuffling through supermarkets isles, and life sometimes requires important phone calls. The small part of me that isn't cynical thinks we (and this woman) should be forgiven if the two sometimes overlap.

Perhaps the rude customer in question was just complaining about the price of tuna to her friend on the phone, to which I say: fair enough.


  1. Interesting! I was reading this trying to decide whos side im on here, i think it is the case of basic manners although little interaction is required at the checkout i would still find it slightly inpolite if someone did it to me mmm then again i think i would be even more offended by the cashier insisting i hung up the call! The customer is alway right after all but manners dont cost a thing.

    Great post.



    1. Thanks for reading, Lisa! I agree, it's not a very black-and-white argument! x

  2. Good post!! I find it infuriating when people talk on the phone and gesture to cashiers, or worse, text and completely ignore them whilst they are being served! It's so rude. It's no different to somebody scrolling through their phone or texting their mate whilst you have a face-to-face conversation with them...so.so.rude!
    Equally, I know what you mean about cashiers being rude as well. Nothing irks me more than going to the supermarket and the woman serving me talking over her shoulder to her mate, or her neighbour three people back in the queue. It's not good customer service at all!

    I'm not sure I would have done what that cashier did, by refusing to serve her, but good on her for saying so!

    Flora x

    1. Ugh - I hate it when people use their phone during a conversation. Glad I'm not the only one! Thanks for the comment! :) x

  3. Ah, perfect post! I thought I was one of the only people who has to get off the phone before they get to a till for fear of being rude. I'm forever telling my mother off for doing this very thing! tsk tsk...

    Thank you for introducing me to your blog, your words are very strong and posts well written. Yay for discovering new things!


    1. Yeah I always see people talking on the phone when they're being served, so rude! Thanks for your kind words! :) x