Employees Reveal What Really Goes on Behind the Scenes at Your Favorite Grocery Stores

Have you ever wondered why supermarkets always put their eggs and milk toward the back? Or why cashiers encourage you to use plastic bags over paper? Here are all the secrets you’ve always wanted to know about your local grocery store.

Cashiers are judged based on their efficiency at checkout

Portrait of woman cashier smiling at checkout

They have to work quickly and efficiently. | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Cashiers get so good at their scanning jobs because they scan items every day. But it’s also because they’re actually measured by how quickly they scan. Their IPM, or items scanned per minute, can be a deciding factor in whether they get a raise. Their IPM basically says how good they are at the job and sometimes will be the reason for a longer break, too. Some cashiers even practice scanning items to get better.

Next: Cashiers hate this food group more than anything. 

They hate produce more than you can imagine

Male cashier with customers

It makes their lives harder. | Noel Hendrickson/iStock/Getty Images

If you go to the grocery store and load up an entire cart with various produce, every cashier will want to run away from you. That’s because most produce does not have a barcode. Instead, the cashier either needs to memorize its item number or look it up in the computer. The latter means your transaction takes that much longer, while the former means more logical thinking for the cashier. Either way, they don’t like it.

Next: You won’t believe how much food supermarkets waste. 

Grocery stores waste billions of pounds of food

So much food gets wasted. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Every year, the United States wastes more than 130 billion pounds of food. And about 10% of that number comes from grocery stores. Stores frequently overstock produce shelves to make it look more appealing to the buyer. Plus, any piece of produce that doesn’t look nearly perfect likely gets tossed before it even makes it to the shelves. And those sell-by dates mean food must be taken off the shelf after that time — even if it’s still perfectly good.

Next: If you ask this, you’re just wasting employees’ time. 

Don’t ask if there’s more ‘in the back’

Woman stacking shelves in supermarket

What you see is what you get. | Jochen Sand/Getty Images

Store employees want you to know that there is no such thing as a stock room. At the grocery store, what you see is what you get. So when you approach an employee and ask them to check the back for more of an item, they might just take a quick lap around the store to waste some time. But they won’t come back with anything from the imaginary stock room.

Next: Shockingly, you could probably get away with this. 

You could probably get away with shoplifting

empty supermarket aisle

People steal millions from grocery stores. | paulprescott72/iStock/Getty Images

According to Forbes, one out of every 11 people in the grocery store will steal something. The three most stolen objects are meat, baby formula, and razors. Each day, more than $35 million worth of goods are stolen from grocery stores. Security, weighted check out areas, and more just aren’t enough to stop thieves from stealing something small, such as a candy bar.

Next: You’ll be surprised by which type of person steals the most candy bars. 

Businessmen frequently steal candy bars

defocused of shelf in supermarket

Business men tend to steal candy more than you’d think. | antpkr/iStock/Getty Images

According to Thrillist, business men steal candy bars more than you’d think. It could be the stress of working such long hours that makes them want to do something rebellious. Or maybe they think they’re powerful enough to get away with it. Either way, it’s surprising, but maybe they just need that sugary fix.

Next: Cashiers can’t help each other with this for fear of stealing. 

Cashiers usually can’t scan each other’s items

View of happy shop assistant with customer

Execs are worried about theft. | leaf/iStock/Getty Images

The higher-ups don’t trust low-level employees at most grocery stores. That’s because they’re worried about employees stealing items with the help of their fellow coworkers. It’s still possible for employees to create scams among each other to ensure they don’t pay full price for items, but expect to be fired if you do this.

Next: Here’s why employees want you to use plastic bags instead of recyclable paper ones. 

Grocery stores hate when you use paper bags

Woman carrying a bag of groceries

It costs them more money. | Jupiterimages/iStock/Getty Images

Paper bags cost grocery stores money. According to The New York Times, plastic bags cost about $.01 to produce versus $.05 cents for a paper bag. This means grocery stores pay a lot more to have you haul away your groceries in paper bags. Stores have been trying to phase out paper, but plastic is much worse for the environment. So if you wonder why cashiers push for plastic bags instead of paper, you know why.

Next: There is a proper way to pack a grocery bag. 

Packing a grocery bag is a true art form to the cashiers

Customers of Ralphs supermarket use plastic bags

Everything goes in a certain order. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

When cashiers help pack your bags, they have a system. The heaviest items go on the bottom. Lighter or more fragile items, such as bread and eggs, go on the top. Plus, most cashiers will put square items in the corners of paper bags to get the most space out of them. If you sort your groceries and group them together before placing them on the conveyor belt, cashiers will truly appreciate you.

Next: You should always sanitize this item before consuming it. 

Employees recommend wiping your soda and beer cans

Wipe them down before you drink. | iStock/Getty Images

Cans go through the ringer before they’re put on store shelves. They touch tons of bacteria-filled surfaces, including the bottoms of workers’ boots. It’s best to wipe off that can before you put it to your mouth. CBS tested 20 soda cans from various places (including grocery stores) and filled 20 petri dishes with disgusting bacteria. Wipe down your soda can and consider pouring it into a glass before drinking it.

Next: You can ask a store employee pretty much anything. 

Employees will never ignore a customer’s request

Supermarket clerk helping a customer

They will always find the right person to help you. | cyano66/iStock/Getty Images

Employees don’t want you to know this, but they’ll never say, “That’s not my job,” if you ask them to do something. They’ll either check on it for you themselves or walk with you to find the right person to help you. They’re trained to provide the best customer service possible. (That’s with the exception of checking the stock room that doesn’t exist.)

Next: You won’t believe how dirty that shopping cart is. 

Your shopping cart is dirtier than a toilet

lady shopping with a full filled cart

Bring some sanitizer with you. | Freer Law/iStock/Getty Images

A study that was done to determine how dirty shopping carts actually are found that 50% of them carried E. coli. The study also found that carts most likely contain germs straight from the bathroom. And yes, the amount of bacteria on your shopping cart shockingly does exceed the amount found in a restroom (per square inch, that is). Pack some wipes when you go to the grocery store to wipe down the cart before use.

Next: Here’s why bread and milk are always on the outside aisles. 

Essentials are placed on the outskirts of the store to ensure you’ll browse everything

People shopping in a large supermarket

The layout is specially designed. | Ljupco/iStock/Getty Images

Have you ever wondered why bread and milk are always on the outside aisles? That’s because in order to get to them, you have to go down one of the inner aisles filled with food you don’t actually need. And that’s why items are placed as such. Even though you didn’t need those cookies, you couldn’t help but grab them as you walked down the aisle toward the milk.

Next: This is almost always the first thing you see at the store, and here’s why. 

The produce aisle is almost always the first thing you’ll see

Shelf with fruits

Produce draws people in. | 06photo/iStock/Getty Images

When you step into a grocery store, you’re likely to step right into the produce section. That’s because the fragrance from fresh foods has been proven to make people hungrier. Plus, the produce section looks pretty, and you’ll spend more money if you buy more produce than anything else.

Next: This is why certain stores have products that others don’t. 

Manufacturers must pay for their shelf space

Supermarket shelf

They may pay to be at eye level. | Nirad/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever wondered why certain items are carried in grocery stores and others aren’t, it’s usually because manufacturers didn’t pay for shelf space. If they want their item seen, they need to pay for it to be in the store. Then, of course, they’ll make money when it’s sold. But if they don’t pay for that store, customers won’t find it. That’s why some grocery stores carry products that others don’t.

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