Holding up Lines – Is it Acceptable when Manufacturing Spend & How Should You Behave?

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holding up lines
Have you ever held up a line while loading REDbird at Target? Photo by Patrick Hoesley.

Saturday Discussions – Holding up Lines

Last weekend I was at Sears buying my son a suit for his first mock trial in magnet law class. (#proudfather) Anyway, at checkout I was trying to use a few thousand Shop Your Way Rewards points, a SYWR coupon and a Sears gift card to pay. (You know, typical stuff!)

For some reason the cashier applied the gift card first, which caused the Sears system not to allow the points. So she then had to go back and void the entire transaction and start over. In the mean time, the two older ladies behind me in line were getting inpatient.

After a couple of minutes of them inching closer and closer, one of them said to the other under her breath (but loud enough for me to hear), “Why doesn’t he just pay cash?” Keep in mind I wasn’t MSing, I was just buying a suit! Her comment really upset me and for the first time ever in a situation like this I decided to respond. I said, “There are a lot of other registers. You don’t have to be rude.”

I’m not sure if my reaction was appropriate, but I know hers certainly wasn’t. While it doesn’t really matter, her reaction got me thinking of all of the times I could feel the angry stares of people behind me in line when doing multiple/complicated transactions.

The Angry Mob

During the recent Smart & Final deal, I heard those “under the breath” comments often from people behind me in line. The thing is I would limit my transactions to a total of 4, which took a lot less time than their cart full of groceries. Of course that is obviously not something they cared about.

I also remember countless visits to Smith’s (Kroger) or Staples where my transaction required a manager override. Make people wait an extra 30 seconds minutes and they will turn on you. Sometimes I am shocked at how rude people can be. I have been behind “complicated” people in line and sure I have rude thoughts, but I would never say them out loud.

Which brings me to the topic of this week’s Saturday discussion. I am all about respecting the time of others, but sometimes holding up the line is unavoidable. In this hobby we often are working on the fringes of the system. What I mean by that is that we are taking advantage of transactions and deals in a different way than a lot of other customers. Sometimes this causes issues.

My Rules

I generally always try to limit the number of transactions I am doing to four or less. In cases where each transaction takes a long time, sometimes I will only do one at a time. With that said, I am a customer too and have the same rights as others to complete my business, as long as I am not complicating things myself. (i.e. arguing, etc.)

In the Sears example I was simply trying to checkout. Just because I was using a coupon, points and a gift card doesn’t mean I didn’t have the right to my transaction. The holdup in that example was the Sears register and not me. I did nothing wrong and in my view the lady behind me was out of line.

Today’s Discussion

holding up lines

So I would love feedback on the following:

  • Is it ok to hold up a line while manufacturing spend? How many transactions are alright before you should go to the back of the line?
  • On the flip side, is it ok to be rude to that “complicated” person in front of you in line?
  • Finally, feel free to share your most memorable experiences of either holding up a line or being in a line that was held up by someone else!

Have a great Saturday!


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12 COMMENTS

  1. It all depends on where you draw your line. In the coupon case, I am with you. Even if there are no registers, if the cashier needed more time it is what it is. When I am doing MS with multiple Visa cards etc, if people are coming with carts, I tell them “I am loading money and it may take tim, just so you know.” Some people don’t car, some chose another reg, some leave with gasps. On the other hand if the lines get longer, I will break my activity tell the cashier and go back in line. That is where I draw my line. I had not-so-good experiences but never horrible ones.

  2. this is the problem with society, everybody thinks it’s about them. In this case, it seems the ladies felt their time was more important than you saving money. Forget them. I hate going to Walmart because even when it isn’t busy, they never have enough registers open and it takes forever. Do I get mad at the person in front of me that decided to do their monthly grocery shopping and has one overflowing cart? No, it’s not their problem, they have every right to buy as much as they want. They got in line first, and while it is polite, they certainly don’t need to let me cut because I have fewer items. People need to get over themselves. I get frustrated with people that still write checks and use coupons at the register because they take forever, but I don’t say anything (like use a credit card, you can earn points). It is their right. I’m glad you responded that way, I would have done the same.

  3. My rule is to try to figure out the time that an average transaction takes and limit my time to that. If it is a grocery store where people normally buy 20 items and it takes a few minutes, I would limit myself to that.

  4. I used to be an extreme couponer and tried to be sensitive to that. Usually when people got behind me I would tell them that I was going to take a long time. Usually they’d say “oh that’s okay” but then after they saw what I was doing, usually they’d just go find another line 🙂

  5. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But I never like to spend more time doing a transaction than is “normal” – maybe 5 minutes is tops at WM (where sending a Moneygram can take 10 mins or longer). Most of the time it is the cashier’s attitude/expression that let’s me know when to stop – the cashiers are the one’s facing the line and can see how restless and how long the line of waiting customers are. I’m particularly sensitive when it’s just one cashier as any delay caused by me can make the rest of the customers testy – and that then makes me a “problem ” customer who can’t expect great treatment the next time I visit.

    For S&F, try to flag down a manager and ask them to do your Amex purchases with them, to avoid holding up the line, especially if you have a lot of cards…

  6. I love that you posted this today, as I was finishing up the Smart & Final deal earlier today and it got me thinking about this very topic. I ended up spending $1,200 during the S&F deal, but I made sure to do it over multiple trips. The largest of the trips involved three cards, and every time I wondered about the person behind me. One of the times I let someone go in front of me because they only had a couple items, but the other times someone was usually behind me.

    My thoughts are to keep it small and simple. I will let someone go in front of me if they only have a couple items, but if their transaction looks equal to mine then they get to wait. I think the biggest issue, and I was telling me wife this earlier today, is that people see you with little to nothing and think you will be a quick transaction. They are now creating an expectation that will not necessarily be met because they want to see a couple swipes and you’re gone. When the teller has to keep ringing you up for such a small amount of items that expectation is out the window and I think that creates more disdain from their standpoint.

    I have never had anyone say anything to me, but I would just laugh it off if they did. I am getting a good deal, and they are clearly unaware of what they have missed. If they knew the deal, they would not be commenting because they would be worrying about the person behind them.

  7. I was just thinking this same thing today. I was just at Walmart attempting to get my last few transactions for my EDP. I had 5 items and was in self checkout with no one behind me. After I finished the first one people started lining up and one customer was having a credit card issue. This Walmart also enabled the chip on the reader so I had to insert instead of swipe so I think that’s what was messing up the other guy. Anyway, I tried to go fast but more people got in line so I ended up with 4 transactions and got out of there. I was there maybe 3 or 4 minutes but that line piled up quick. So I’ll stick with you Shawn on the 4 transaction limit.

  8. Ha ha ha on rude thoughts…if they could kill, I’ll be behind bars for life with no chance of parole 😛

    I can honestly say that I don’t deliberately intend to hold the line. If I’m loading Serve with cashier, soon as someone comes in line, I finish that load and go to the end of the line or find another register. The cashiers appreciate this gesture at my go-to WM, they know I don’t hog the register just to “serve”.

    There were instances where the cashier couldn’t load a VGC and there was a queue forming. This is beyond my control if it was taking a long time for the CSM to fix the problem. I maintain a cool attitude, I don’t roll my eyes on cashier or tap my feet in disgust. I just smile and say, you’re okay. If others behind me get annoyed, it’s their problem, they can always go to SCO or find another lane which is what I’d do in the same situation. I value their time as much as I value mine but being rude doesn’t solve issues, negativity breeds contempt.

    I don’t let negative people affect me; as much as I refuse to inconvinience others, stuff happens and if it’s beyond my control, sorry to say, they just have to deal with it.

  9. Whenever I’m doing a transaction that may be a bit more “difficult” I always try to go early in the morning, shortly after the store opens, especially if going on a weekend. This way I’m hedging my bets when trying not to disrupt other people.

    I do work at home, so I’ll typically be able to do those types of transactions on a weekday and very rarely have a problem.

    Of course, the other issue is stores not having enough staff on hand and having minimal registers open. But that’s hardly my fault. =)

  10. How about a quick apology? If my transaction is taking more time than expected, I always turn and look at the person behind me with a plaintive, “I’m so sorry!” Invariably their response is “that’s ok” (even if it’s not)

    I also limit myself to 2 transactions, then get into another line. This is especially true if I’m alone loading BB/Serve @ WMT – I have to be careful when walking to the parking lot after having loaded $1000 to $2000 – regardless of the neighborhood. I may think this is not much money, but those around me may disagree.

    Shawn – regarding the older woman behind you – keep your cool! Just remember you know how to travel and make a good living ! Too bad she couldn’t appreciate your son’s achievement – just know that all your readers do!!

  11. I usually only do two transactions at a time. But I also feel that it is fair to take about as long as an average transaction would take. I will sometimes warn people that I may take some time and they might want to choose another checkout.
    I basically think that people are too critical and irritable. Nowadays, if someone in front of me is taking a long time, I do my very best to convey with my body language or verbally, if appropriate, that they should not feel bad for using coupons or whatever it is that’s making their transaction take a little longer. And that I am happy to patiently wait my turn.
    At WM, at the CS desk, I once asked something like, “would it be okay if I also load my bluebird after buying this money order?” and she said, “honey, when you are at the front of the line, you are my customer. We can do whatever you need to do.”.
    It’s a grey area and requires courtesy, but also a bit of a thick skin. Just because we are doing something that most customers are not doing, does not mean that we are not customers too.

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