Secrets Your Grocery Store Cashier Wishes You Knew

Most of us go grocery shopping pretty often. But no matter how many days of the week you find yourself at your supermarket of choice, you probably don’t know everything about how the store works — and how you can get in and out with as little hassle as possible. Who can tell you everything you need to know to make your grocery shopping go smoothly? Your favorite grocery store cashier.

Knowing the insider secrets can sometimes save you money. But it also makes your grocery shopping experience easier for you — and easier on the grocery store employees who help you out. Want to know how things really work behind the scenes at your favorite grocery store? Read on to check out the secrets your grocery store cashier wishes you knew.

1. Don’t go to the produce section first

woman holding a basket full of groceries

Want to get out of the store with just a few items? Don’t hit the produce section first. | iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

Have you ever gotten to the checkout line and wondered aloud how you ended up with $100 worth of items when you came in for just one or two things? Your cashier has heard that story before. And he or she has probably figured out some of the reasons why grocery stores are designed the way they are.

Reader’s Digest learned supermarkets put the produce department up front because “its bright colors put you in a good mood and inspire you to buy more.” If you’re serious about saving money — or just don’t want to get an arm workout when you get home from the store — you might want to start shopping in the middle of the store instead.

2. Try to choose fruits and vegetables with a sticker on them

shopping woman buying fruit

Make sure your fruits and vegetables have the right codes. | iStock.com/LuckyBusiness

If you do your grocery shopping at a store with a huge selection of fruits and vegetables, you’ve probably noticed there’s more than one kind of apple, tomato, pepper, or onion. Vegetables and fruits have different codes. So if you want to make sure you get charged the correct price — even if the cashier can’t tell the difference between a Gala apple and a Jonagold — select pieces of produce with the bar codes still on them. Or make sure you specify the name of the apple as they ring it up. That way, they’re sure to key in the right option and charge you the correct price.

3. Always put raw meats in a bag

Shopkeeper serving a customer in a grocery store

Always put your meat in a plastic bag. | iStock.com/Minerva Studio

There’s a reason why the grocery store provides plastic bags in the meat section. Packages can, and often are, leaking liquids (which contain lots of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses if you aren’t careful). If you skip the bag, those liquids can end up all over the other food you’re buying. And they can drip all over the cart and then the conveyor belt. Do everybody a favor, and pay attention to food safety. Go ahead and use one of those plastic bags, even if you prefer to use paper or reusable bags for everything else.

4. You can ask grocery store employees for extra help

woman is buying baked products

If you want your bread sliced, just ask. | iStock.com/YakobchukOlena

Your grocery store cashier might just need to ring you up and bag your groceries. But many other supermarket employees can field requests and go the extra mile when you’re in their section of the store.

Reader’s Digest learned the butcher will tenderize meat for you. They can also cut up a roast the way you want. The baker will slice a loaf of bread. The florist will likely give you some free greenery to go with your flowers. And at some stores, the seafood department workers will even add seasoning to your seafood and fry it for you. Talk to a manager, and they can special order an item for you or even arrange to have it delivered to the store regularly.

5. Organizing your items on the conveyor belt makes things easier for everyone

Empty conveyor belt

When you get to the checkout line, organize your purchases on the conveyor belt. | iStock.com/Grigorenko

Nobody has a perfectly organized cart when they finish grocery shopping. But you can make things easier on yourself and the grocery store employees who help you if you try to organize things on the conveyor belt.

Put refrigerated items together, group frozen items, stack cans, and put your produce all in one section. The person bagging your groceries for you will have an easier time packing your bags. And you’ll have a much easier time putting things away when you get your groceries home.

6. You should never put your loyalty card, credit card, or cash directly on the conveyor belt

woman paying with card

Don’t let your card slip under the conveyor belt. | iStock.com/ gpointstudio 

Putting your loyalty card or payment method down on the conveyor belt might seem like a convenient way to get it to the cashier, especially if you’re still unloading groceries from your cart. But don’t ever set these items down on the conveyor belt. Thanks to gaps in the belt, they could end up getting sucked into the machine. That could go a long way toward ruining your day. Instead, set your card on top of one of the food items already on the conveyor built (or just hold it) to avoid any mishaps.

7. When you’re checking out, you can leave heavy items in the cart

lady shopping with a full filled cart in a supermarket

You can leave heavy items in your cart. | iStock.com/Freer Law

For your convenience and theirs, cashiers would usually prefer that you leave heavy items in the cart. If you’re buying multiple 12-packs of soda or a huge bag of rock salt, the cashier would rather not have to move that item over the scanner (especially if, as in the case of a large pack of canned drinks, they can just scan one of the multiples you have in your cart). Cashiers have a scanner gun that will reach over the belt to your cart. All you have to do is let them know.

8. If you decide against buying an item, just hand it to the cashier

employee with customer

If you don’t want an item, just hand it to the cashier. Don’t ditch it on a magazine rack. | iStock.com/ leaf

When you get to the checkout line and look over your cart, you might change your mind about some of the items you chose. That’s fine — according to Reader’s Digest, as many as 60% of shoppers choose to ditch goods at the last minute — so long as you don’t stash them in the magazine racks or the candy bins within arms’ reach.

Instead, just hand those items to the cashier. They’ll make sure those items get returned to the proper section of the store, which isn’t likely to happen as quickly if you just abandon them on a shelf or a magazine rack.

9. You can ask the cashier to bag things a specific way

Paper bag full of healthy food on a wooden table

Want your groceries bagged a specific way? Then, just ask. | iStock.com/KucherAV

If you want your groceries bagged in a specific way, all you have to do is ask. There’s no point in getting passive-aggressive if a cashier doesn’t psychically know you want your yogurt separated from your milk or your fruits in a separate bag from your vegetables. Most grocery store employees — even cashiers who weren’t specifically trained on how to bag groceries — can easily accommodate your requests. You just have to ask nicely. (And remember not everybody bags groceries the same way you do.) 

10. You might not have to have a loyalty card to get the discount

Mom is giving a credit card

You might not have to have the store loyalty card to get a discount. | iStock.com/ GeorgeRudy

Most likely, you have a loyalty card for the grocery stores you visit most in your hometown. But if you’re traveling or patronizing an unfamiliar store, it doesn’t hurt to ask the cashier whether there’s a store card you can use. Many stores have a master loyalty card. And using it will let you take advantage of any discounts or sales without having to sign up for a program you aren’t going to use again.

11. Your cashier isn’t lying about coupon policies, which vary from store to store

woman looking at coupons in grocery store aisle

The cashier can tell you which coupons you can use. | iStock.com/bowdenimages

The corporation that runs a given grocery store decides on the store’s coupon policies. Those policies can vary from region to region. And manufacturers have plenty of restrictions about how coupons can be used. If a cashier tells you that you can’t use a coupon — or that you can’t double it — the cashier isn’t lying. It’s in your best interest to know the coupon policies at your favorite stores. That way, you won’t end up arguing with a cashier over a store’s policies.

12. If you want a discount, refund, rain check, or credit, prepare to wait for customer service

checkout lane

Customer service might need to help you with that discount or refund. | iStock.com/Princess-Sissi

At many grocery stores, a cashier has only a limited ability to help you if you want a discount, refund, rain check, or credit. Usually, a customer service manager will need to approve those requests. So you should be prepared either to wait for a manager to arrive or to take up the issue at the customer service desk. Cashiers want to help you. But no cashier likes dealing with a customer who gets annoyed when they need to call customer service. 

13. Your cashier wants you to pay quickly

grocery store cashier

Don’t dawdle in the checkout line. | Thinkstock

Most shoppers want to get in and out of the supermarket as quickly as possible. But the people in line behind you won’t be the only ones who grumble if you take your time digging around in your bag for your wallet or counting out $20 worth of change. Reader’s Digest learned at many grocery stores, management times every transaction. The cashier can actually get in trouble if you take too long.

14. Always double-check sales and promotions

Cart with products

Make sure you’re choosing the items that are actually on sale. | iStock.com/shironosov

Sales aren’t always what they seem at the supermarket. And to make things easier on your cashier, and your wallet, you should always double-check what you’re getting yourself into. That way, they won’t have to remove items from the transaction when something rings up at a price you didn’t expect.

Make sure you’re buying the right size of an item to get the sale price. Check that you’ve grabbed the right variety of produce or the correct brand of pasta. Realize that items on the endcaps aren’t always on sale. And items featured in the flyer aren’t always a good price either.

15. Cashiers also have to retrieve carts, so they’d prefer you return yours

market cart and supermarket

Do the grocery store employees a favor, and return your cart. | iStock.com/olegkalina 

Scientific American learned busy grocery store employees, including cashiers, baggers, and stockers, are the ones who have to retrieve the carts shoppers leave all over the parking lot. Grocery store employees note many customers think it’s too much work to return the cart to the corral or front of the store. For some customers, that’s certainly true. But if you can walk your cart back to the store or cart return, harried cashiers (and fellow grocery store patrons) will appreciate it.