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Louise Elerding: While shopping, buy into etiquette, too

You’ve got manners

Posted: March 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Take a poll among your friends and ask if cutting coupons, watching for specials and being selective consumers are as valued as the etiquette part of shopping. Surveys show that people do wish that consideration and manners were included more in the shopping scene.

You can begin with good manners in the parking lot, before you even enter the store. If someone has spotted an open parking space before you do, and they have their directional signal blinking, that is a cue to let you know it’s theirs. Scooping it out from under them is not a good idea and shows a distinct lack of manners. With good karma surrounding you for being polite, you’ll find a fine spot in just a few minutes.

Once you enter a grocery store, likely your first gesture is to select your shopping cart. Here is where the fun begins. Shopping cart driving can be paralleled to driving a car. It is a moving vehicle. You can bump and be bumped — even get the back of your heel bruised by someone not paying attention to you. This accident will always call for a polite apology. Paying attention to the aisle traffic is a must.

Leaving your basket in the middle of a major traffic aisle to go grab a sample of the featured item of the day is rude.

When that happens someone else usually has to come along and move your basket to the side or struggle with trying to squeeze by. Pull over to the side of the road, park, and let traffic go by you with ease.

Bringing young children shopping can be a challenge at times. If the child is unhappy and uncontrollable, consider leaving them home where they can be doing something they really enjoy, with people they like being with. This also affords other shoppers an enjoyable and peaceful shopping experience.

When retail shopping, keep in mind that the sales representatives can be extremely busy. If you need assistance, use direct eye contact and a polite voice to state your needs. An associate can only help one person at a time. Be as patient as possible.

While looking at, or trying on clothes, always treat the merchandise with care. Pick an item up off the floor if it falls off a hanger and leave the dressing rooms as orderly as possible. It only takes a minute to clean up.

No matter how tempting a sale table looks, hold back your native impulses from grabbing things out of people’s hands or stepping on their toes, at least without making a sincere apology. This could also be a good time to introduce humor into your situation.

It doesn’t take much energy to be cheerful to the cashiers, retail clerks and floor employees, as they may not get much positive feedback in a day. Find a kind or fun comment to make and top it off with a warm smile. Everyone can use that kind of a lift in a hectic workday. If you feel that someone has made shopping extra pleasant for you, then note his or her name and give him or her some credit in the visitor’s surveys. You never know, you might be unknowingly responsible for that person getting a raise. That person may remember you and give you a warmer reception the next time you visit the store.

No one likes to wait in line. There is a distinct advantage when stores set up a queue for their customers. Support this system by being prepared with your method of payment and keep things moving at a fast clip. If you’re out of cash, don’t have the right credit card handy or lost your checkbook at the bottom of your bag — you’re adding to someone else’s wait. Try to plan ahead for a smooth transaction once it’s your turn at the counter.

If you  need to take a break, place your shopping bags in an out-of-the-way spot, without filling all of the free chairs you find in the lounge area of malls.

Also, remember to be cell-phone savvy in public places. Common courtesy suggests you be sensitive to others around you when using your phone. If you must use it in public, don’t cell-yell or share your conversation with the world.

Not everyone wants to hear, and it may disturb other activities you’re unaware of. At the register, the associate needs your undivided attention during your transaction.

Louise Elerding, is a manners, etiquette and personal appearance coach and the author of “You’ve Got Manners!” an illustrated series of children’s books. For information on table manners classes held at Valencia’s Salt Creek Grille or to submit questions for the “Ask Louise” column, call 1 (818) 259-3961 or visit


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