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Mar 10, 2014 12:18 AM

The Chatty Bagger at the Grocery Store

I frequent a "high-end" grocery store in my area with high quality produce and meat, amazing flowers, and floors so clean you could eat off of them. I don't mind paying a little extra for all of the above, as well as amazing customer service (sample anything before you buy, special orders just for you, and they urge you to return bad produce).

Part of this customer service is expedited checkouts and young men who walk your groceries to your car (if you'd like them to). Each checkout stand has one person ringing up your food, one person bagging, and one person at-the-ready with an extra shopping cart in case you've picked up a few too many items or have wobbly wheels or need a hand to your car.

It might sound very bourgeois, but it really expedites your trip and makes last-minute runs to the store (in L.A.) much quicker.

I often do head there around 5:30 or 6 PM and just need one or two things--a steak, a few 'taters, etc. and I go to the 10 Items or Less lane since the store's always packed around that time.

Lately there has been a 50-something YO woman bagging in that lane who talks incessantly to every single customer about every single thing they're purchasing, the weather, their clothing, their kids, the news, the Oscars, newly released movies, etc.

I'm not a grump and I enjoy pleasantries as much as anyone else, but this woman yammers on to the point that the line gets held up, people are frustrated and literally dropping their groceries on the floor and leaving empty-handed. This woman is so happy and smiley that it's impossible to be rude. She will bag your groceries and hold them back behind the counter--out of reach--until she's done talking/playing 20 Questions.

First world problem, I know, but what would you do in a situation like this? If I wasn't in a hurry and was the only one in line, I'd happily indulge her. But after my last trip on Friday evening--where my bf was waiting for the meat with a hot grill at home, and there were 6 people in line behind me--I've just had it with this lady. I purposely got out my cell phone and called my dear mother during checkout (which I know is RUDE but I was trying to avoid the chatty bagger) and she STILL started asking me all of these questions. Including but not limited to what the "thing is" hanging out of my arm (I have a PICC line for IV medication).

I can't take this lady anymore. Someone help! I don't want to get her in trouble, but she needs to just keep it to "Oh I love your dress" or "This is great chocolate" or a simple "Have a great day."

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  1. It's sweet that you don't want to get her in trouble. By the sounds of things I imagine if you leave it long enough, someone else is bound to complain, if they haven't already.

    1. how about going to any one of the "regular" check out lines?
      in most upscale stores all the lines move along pretty well (i live in LA too).

      in my experience there is no percentage in assigning yourself to the position of sheriff in this sort of situation unless you get off on that sort of thing. . ..

      1. I had a thought - maybe you could suggest she be moved to a non-express lane? Then she will have more time for chattiness since there are more things to ring up. You could couch it in terms of: you're sure her friendliness is an asset to the store but maybe putting her on the 10-items-or-less checkout is not the most strategic placement.

        I'm sure there are some people who might be lonely or are not in a hurry who would appreciate her.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ursy_ten

          That is an excellent suggestion. I don't want to be the one to have her moved from her post, but it seems like the perfect solution. I guess it's kind of ironic that she's been placed in that particular checkout.

          1. re: ursy_ten

            I am sure they moved her from regular line to she only has 10 items to talk about per customer vs 30 different subjects.

          2. "This woman is so happy and smiley that it's impossible to be rude"

            The nerve of her!!! I think as you stated a few times in your OP, the problem seems to be more with you than her. You are in a rush, you keep picking her lane, you choose this store and all it's amenities. You are complaining about a woman going overboard with trying to be nice!?!?! Personally I would love to have more people surrounding me in the world who's biggest fault is trying to be too nice.

            My advice, slow down a little in life, if you can afford to pay the premium of shopping there, a little extra gas for the grill won't break your budget. Slow down, smell the roses, enjoy a persons attempt at trying to be nice.

            If not try slipping her a $20. And tell her it's hush money for the next time you come in!

            11 Replies
            1. re: jrvedivici

              I can appreciate that the woman has the ability to chat with strangers. I actually enjoy friendly people, especially in Los Angeles, because they can be a rarity.

              TBH I'm not able to stand for very long, and have had an extended period of time where I wasn't able to do my own grocery shopping due to my poor health. I'm just now returning to getting my own groceries for the first time in about 6 months.

              So every trip to the grocery store is a big deal. I only have so much energy and strength to grab a few items and head to the checkout. I have had to get down on the ground to give my ticker a rest several times while waiting for chatty Kathy to finish her spiel. I've tried the other lanes but I can't stand long enough for an entire cart of groceries to be scanned and bagged.

              I wish I were able to "stop and smell the roses" but time on my feet is precious. There is one other employee there who talks a lot, one of the produce guys. If I am browsing the produce or stop to look around, he comes over and starts telling me about what's in, cuts up fresh fruit to give me samples, etc. I like him and find him extraordinarily friendly and endearing. In the past, I'll just kind of end up hanging out with him for a good 15-20 minutes. He likes hearing about all the things I make with his produce. But I think there's a time and a place for this--I'm in the middle of my shopping, looking at foods in his "section", so he offers suggestions and advice on what's good right now. If I'm in a rush, just grabbing some parsley on my way out, he can tell, and he just says "Hey, nice to see you!" and keeps it short. He's not standing by the door when you're ready to leave, stalling you for 5-10 minutes and holding up a line of people.

              I've worked in retail, food service, and my first ever job was as a barista. I'm friendlier than most in this city. But I do realize that when someone is in the middle of a meal, they don't want me hovering over them asking about their necklace. Or when someone comes in for their morning coffee, for instance, that they're usually on their way someplace. It's not rude of them to not want to engage in a 10 minute conversation while I hijack their latte... they're on their way to work or are just pissy without their morning caffeine. I don't take it personally, and I never thought it was my job to chat them up. Similarly, at the coffee shop, people would get to the register in the middle of "rush hour" and only then decide to start browsing the menu and pastry case, start asking all sorts of inane questions, holding up a line full of disgruntled Angelenos who still need to fight traffic to get to work. I think things like this are very self-centered, but that's just my opinion. People don't go to Starbucks at 7:30 AM to stand and chat. And people don't go to the "Express" checkout at a grocery store to dilly dally. IMO if people aren't in a rush, THEY can go to the other lanes and take their time.

              I know this all makes me sound like a real scrooge, and I'm really not. I just truly think that if you work in customer service, part of your job is also making good use of your customer's time and being quick but friendly. Maybe L.A. has more of a premium on time than other cities. I've lived here all my life and in all my various jobs, customers and clients are always happiest with polite but expeditious service.

              1. re: nothingswrong

                You are no scrooge!
                I'd say something. You will probably be helping untold shoppers.
                And not for nothing, but grocery shopping IS rather physical. Low back pain had me dreading emptying my cart onto the belt many times!

                1. re: nothingswrong

                  " I have had to get down on the ground to give my ticker a rest several times while waiting for chatty Kathy to finish her spiel."

                  If that is the case, then you just tell her "I"m sorry - I'm not feeling well, and I really need to leave. May I please have my groceries?"

                  I guess I'm not sure why NO other C/S person (checkout or bagger) or customer didn't notice that you were sitting on the ground while waiting for her to finish talking to you.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I was actually on the ground while she chatted up the 2 people in front of me. This was 2 trips ago--I have something called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which essentially can cause a severe drop in blood pressure and skyrocketing heart rate when standing for too long. So I will start feeling my pulse rise fairly quickly and simultaneously start to pass out. I have to get down on the ground--both to prevent fainting (and hitting my head!) and also to try and get my BP back down and pulse to slow. Usually if I just sit or lie down for 5-10 minutes, it will pass.

                    The checkout lady did seem to notice me get on the ground. The bagger lady just kept yammering at the customer she was helping.

                    I've had POTS in varying "strengths" for about 4 years now, secondary to my gastrointestinal disorder, dehydration, malnutrition, etc. I have fainted countless times in retail stores, and the grocery store is the main culprit. I had to stop grocery shopping because I'd invariably end up having to lay down in the aisle someplace until the episode passed and I could safely get back to my car to sit for a bit. Interestingly enough, unless I faint completely (i.e. totally out cold), nobody seems to care or ask if you're okay.

                    With this most recent episode, while kneeling in front of the checkout, the only person to stop was a little boy, maybe 6 years old, who came over and put his hand on my shoulder and said "Are you okay, lady?" So cute.

                    This is why I said every trip out of the house is precious for me. I can conk out at any given time. So the extra few minutes it tacks on with this bagger lady means a potential fainting in the checkout line, and subsequently not getting the food I needed for that night.

                    1. re: nothingswrong

                      I'm so sorry to hear about your health condition.

                      A call to the store might be in order. I'd start off with the things you appreciate: "I love the quality of your produce, it's such a clean store, blah blah blah. While I appreciate the friendliness of a certain bagger I can't help but notice people becoming frustrated as she holds up the line with her excessive chatter. I myself often don't have time to stand and chat for 4 extra minutes". You can mention your health condition if you want.

                      That's how I'd handle it. Best of luck to you. :-)

                      1. re: UTgal

                        Thank you. I don't mean to troll for sympathy, it just is a fact of life that not everyone has the luxury of engaging in chit chat, for a variety of reasons. I would if I could!

                        I think I'll give them a call and mention it. I really do appreciate that this woman always presents herself with a positive and cheerful attitude at work, and I'd hate to "crush her spirit." If she just shortened it up a bit like someone mentioned elsewhere--timing it with the checkout--all would be well.

                        1. re: nothingswrong

                          And who knows, maybe she'll take the constructive feedback and curtail the chit chat to an appropriate level.

                          1. re: nothingswrong

                            Oh I know you aren't trolling for sympathy...I didn't get that impression at all. It's an important component of your story. Like you said, not everyone can stand around and chat for a variety of reasons. Health related, kid related, "I'm so hungry I could eat my hat" related.... ;-)

                            1. re: UTgal

                              I can tell you that there are many people with painful disabilities that you'd never know because they look "normal".
                              Again, food shopping is quite challenging to many, so efficiency is important.

                    2. re: nothingswrong

                      I'm truly sorry to hear of your health problems, and it seems now the tone of your story has changed a little bit.

                      I can't believe if;
                      " people are frustrated and literally dropping their groceries on the floor and leaving empty-handed " that management isn't already aware of her.

                      You certainly seem to think she is a detriment to the store, so if you do then go ahead and report your displeasure.

                      1. re: nothingswrong

                        Funny, but I find that kind of chattiness to be a sort of American trait. In Chile, or Uruguay, or Germany, or Poland--it's pretty uncommon to find people in commercial situations (shops) chatting with you as people are generally much more guarded and circumspect. I've had friends from other countries notice that Americans seem really chatty--they were generally pleasantly surprised.

                    3. I probably would have lost it on her when she asked about the PICC line. "Needed for medication because I am chronically ill" and "Not that it's any of your damned business" would have just been the start.

                      But if you're trying not to be rude, you can still go to a manager. Just tell them you don't want to get her in trouble, and that she seems like such a nice woman, but that she really does seem to be holding up the express lane, perhaps she could be assigned to a regular lane instead? If they're not aware of the issue, they can't do anything to remedy it.