Wilmington’s Jeff Curtis Creates ‘Market Basket Rules For Dummies’

WILMINGTON, MA — Looking for a good laugh? Wilmington resident Jeff Curtis recently shared his “Market Basket Rules For Dummies: A Short Version.”

1. Upon arrival don’t look for an open parking space, pick out a good spot and just wait in the middle of a row with your turn signal on until one opens up. Don’t be concerned about those people behind you. They can go around if they have no patience.

2. Don’t take a shopping cart from the parking lot, they have people for that.

3. Aisles 1 and 2 are great places to stretch out. Turn your carts perpendicular to the shelves and take as much room as you need. (Apparently this type of behavior is frowned upon in the other narrower aisles but no less fun.)

4. Deli — there are no rules. Park your cart wherever the hell you want, pick a number and wait. If there are a lot of people waiting it’s likely that some uncommitted shopper has given up and left the area. Wait for second call on a missing number and quickly (now this is the trick) just before the clerk is going to call the next number act like you were inattentive and have it and put your real number, crumpled of course, into the number trash cup. If pulled off, this could save you valuable time.

5. In the narrower aisles there are no rules of the road. American or British rules apply depending on whether your feeling your colonial heritage or not that day. If you meet another cart head on, pretend you’re looking at something on the shelf until they back down and go around you and then continue on your side feeling victorious.

6. Refer to Rule 3 on whether it’s ok to turn your cart sideways in the narrower Aisles.

7. When in the frozen food cases don’t look through the glass doors before choosing the item you desire. Open up the door fully (nice breeze on a hot summer day) and use your cart to prop the door open thereby letting other shoppers know you have staked a claim to that section until the, what will be frosted-over door, is closed and you have relinquished control and possession of the section.

8. After finishing in the produce section (never start there, the reasons why are too voluminous to explain here) the Wild West of the store, park your cart any which way you want and travel in any direction then head to the finish line*.
* If you drop some produce while looking it over just leave it on the ground, they have people for that and besides you wouldn’t want it after it’s been on the ground anyway; and it’s a courtesy to other shoppers; it lets them know that that particular piece of produce has been taken out of circulation.

9. If you’re in a hurry always go to the 12 item or less line regardless of your actual count being over. It’s not like anybody behind you minds and actually counts your items when you put them on the belt….Who does that? … don’t be concerned. It’s also fun to reach for a new personal best in your over-item count.

10. Inevitably it may be crowded with long lines and you’ll just have to pick a line based your experience. Waiting in a particular line is not etched in stone and you are free to swing left or right to the lines next to you so long as someone leaves at least a two cart-length opening for you to quickly maneuver your cart in front of them. Ideally if you can position yourself between two lines and confuse the shoppers behind you as to what line you’re in you can keep your options open between two lines.

11. If you realize you forgot something when waiting in line, don’t fold and get out of the line to go back and get it. Wait until your cart is unloaded on the belt and half of your items are rung up then tell the cashier you’re just going to run back and get it. (Don’t actually run as there is no running in the aisles) Everybody is committed at that point and there’s no turning back so don’t be concerned about people waiting behind you. If you can get the person behind you in line to agree you can run back; that is the best case scenario, as that person by virtue of his/her position speaks for whole line. It doesn’t really matter if you get permission from a fellow shopper, (although it is the polite thing to do) the cashier always folds.

12. Don’t act like you plan on paying for the groceries until all items are rung up and properly bagged. Only then should you go through your wallet or bag and carefully choose your preferred available payment method. Take your time as your decision will be final.

13. When you return to the parking lot either walk down the middle of the row for your safety without regard to vehicles in the row looking for parking spaces or along the edge of the cars (It’s always fun to see the reactions of drivers when they’re backing out and they don’t see you until the last second).

14. Cart return to corral is optional. And in no circumstances should it be expected if you are more then 4 parking spaces away from the nearest corral. Besides they have people for that. It is always fun though to see how far from the corral you can sink one. My best is a 30 yard bank shot off the side. Don’t worry about giving a long shot a try. The carts have rubber bumpers on them and couldn’t possible damage another vehicle on an air ball. Besides who would park next to the corral?…those people are asking for it.

15. If you meet somebody you’ve seen around town before, as you approach them try to remember their name, then stop right next to them with your cart. Don’t worry about completely stopping traffic in an aisle jam. This way you can talk at a conversational level and no one can eavesdrop. Completely run through all their family members, and pets, to get the latest updates. If you run into someone rude and agitated who wants to get by, agree with your Market Basket friend to meet in another less hostile aisle and pick up there where you left off.

Curtis also asked readers to propose additional rules. Some suggestions included:

  • When approaching the end of an aisle, be sure to maintain speed and barge out blindly without first checking for cross traffic. If you have a collision (or even a near miss) be sure to stare down the person who had the right of way; they should have known that you are more important.
  • The appropriate time to speak up about your preferred bagging method – paper bags, boxes, or cloth bags from home – is any time after the cashier has started ringing up your groceries, and extends until she/he is done. The bagger is always happy to re-bag your groceries at any point.
  • Smoking is not permitted inside the store. Extinguish your cigarette as close to the entrance as possible, and exhale your last lungful as you enter the store. Nearly everyone inside is a frustrated smoker and appreciates the little nicotine fix this provides.
  • Make sure you park in the fire lane if you’re just running in to grab food, unlike everyone else there.
  • Don’t just send one family member in the day before a major storm. Bring the whole damn family from great Nana on down!
  • Don’t get too close to the bakery. There are ghosts.

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8 thoughts

  1. One more rule: ONLY the elderly and parents WITH screaming children are allowed inside the facilities! All others will be scowled at by staff, following routine store protocol.

  2. Dear Jeff, absolutely brilliant!!!!
    Although I would like to add another rule for the “Market Basket for Dummies.”
    When you are in line and haven’t begun to put your groceries on the belt & suddenly remember that you forgot something, just leave your carriage in the line, take as much time as you want to look for your item, 2 to 3 minutes and upon returning find that someone else has started to put their items on to be rung up, please feel free to curse them under your breath along with the dirty looks, I mean seriously, how dare another person take your spot!!!!

  3. This article needs advice on which PJ pants to wear to the store.. I keep seeing people wearing Halloween PJ pants around Halloween and Christmas around Christmas..

  4. … and we must add the pangs of those desperate shoppers who have left their plastic / fabric bags in the car…. who must leave their overloaded carts near the courtesy booth to run out to the parking lot…. aka demolition derby to retrieve them…….then must grow wings and fly back into the store to see if their carts are still there….

  5. Addendum to the Smoking comment: Make sure you dispose of your cigarette on the ground, still lit, so as to prolong then enjoyment for all others.

  6. More specific to NH: When purchasing cigarettes for all of your friends south of the boarder, make sure you use the express lane and ask the cashier to split the cost between at least 5 credit cards,

  7. Always ask the cashier to ring in every item you have SEPARATELY so you can use your credit card to pay for each item to increase your points. Ignore everyone behind you.

  8. When you realize after all your items have been scanned that you don’t have enough money to buy all the items by all means have the clerk take out all the items and return them one by one till you get to the price you can afford. It’s acceptable to return then think it over and repurchase multiple items during this process. And by all means give a hopeless look to the customers behind you. One of them might pony up the difference if you delay the process long enough.

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