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A gentleman’s guide to grocery store etiquette

October 28, 2012
By KELLY VAN DE WALLE ( , Times-Republican

Today's question comes from frequent reader Jeremy Kluke from Madison, Wis. He writes:

"Kelly, you're clearly one of today's most renown gentlemen. What advice can you offer those that weren't blessed with your Don Draper-like skills? I always have a problem with things like proper chewing techniques and the grocery store. Help!"

Don Draper? Please. In comparison Don Draper is a knuckle-dragging hillbilly troll with leprosy. And not even a classy troll. One that all the other trolls would put in a corner and throw mushrooms at in disgust. But a gentleman always responds to his fans. So, Jeremy, here are the secrets to being a gentleman at the grocery store.

When first entering the first set of automated doors, a familiar situation sometimes presents itself: two or more people are gathered around blocking the main entrance. It's not gentlemanly to walk up and shout "Move!" so it's recommended you pick the cutest person and start grinding on them like you're all at a Beyonc concert (it's widely known that people that attend Beyonc concerts dance with each other inappropriately). Not only is this a gentler way of expressing yourself, it shows to the stranger that you're friendly and fun and are available to hang out at classy parties. Be sure whilst grinding to refer to the person as "sir" or "lady" so you maintain your chivalrous exterior.

After "getting low" and doing some gentlemanly "booty slaps" you must choose between a basket or cart. First you have to ask yourself how much is on your list? While contemplating this, find the person you grinded against before and do the same to their friend so they don't feel left out. A gentleman is like a fancy cruise: non-discriminating, all-inclusive and extremely buoyant.

Choose a basket for its mobility, a cart for its storage capacity or you can do what I do, put the basket into the cart to create a magnificent SuperCart. Do NOT attempt to do this in reverse, however. SuperCart has several distinct advantages: 1) Other shoppers will be envious of your ingenuity and toss you items out of their cart 2) should you need to eject ? say, if you spy a former female suitor whose number you've misplaced ? you can do so immediately by grabbing the basket and proceeding to the nearest checkout counter. Essentially the SuperCart is the Batmobile of grocery store convoys.

Often the carts become stuck together. Instead of becoming frustrated and struggling to pry them apart, simply take all four, placing all your items on top of the group. If an employee approaches you asking if they can be of assistance, tell them, "I got this, Charlie." Gentlemen are always self-reliant and never show weakness.

If you're in a time-crunch it's suggested by experts to find a cart already full of items and make it yours. Essentially you'll be reenacting the iconic scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc where Indiana Jones attempts to switch the golden idol for a bag of sand. Only in this case you find a shopping cart full of stuff you probably need. First you must create a distraction so the owner of your cart will leave. For example, point and shout, "Hey, is that Rupert Murdoch?" Whilst distracted, place an empty cart where theirs was and quickly find a checkout counter.

The gentleman shopper will spontaneously pay for one item out of another shopper's purchases and tip his cap or, in the case of a lady, wink. Be sure to select carefully or else risk sending a very un-gentlemanly signal. For example: fresh tilapia (good choice), feminine hygiene product (bad choice, especially if you add the wink).

For many, the entire grocery store process can be tedious and boring, which is why when my wife ventures alone I like to switch her list out at the last minute for one with a bit more whimsy. Without fail she'll call to express her love for my playful ways using her anger words (it's adorable).

Below is a sample list from my wife's most recent trip.

That one spice for the dish we like

Half a spatula

Orange things

Pyramid crackers

Starfish (live)

Fishstar (dead)

Fizzy Lifting Drink

All the dairy


Fresh pumpkin seeds (use enclosed knife on outdoor display pumpkins)

Something with chemicals

Are you even reading this?

You are? Good for you!

While you're out I'm painting tiny mustaches on all your creepy faceless angel figurines.

1 package 1986 Topps baseball cards

Drinky liquids

A slice of whole wheat TOAST

One of the giant letters from the outside of the building

Owl pellets (I'm getting an owl while you're out. Surprise!)

6 ice cubes



A basket?

Good-tasting other things (like tangerines?)

The economic gentleman will find refuge at the deli counter. Ask the butcher for a favorite cut of meat. After being presented with your selection, ask for something unique that may be in the freezer. Take this opportunity to rapidly devour the first meat. Be prepared to answer questions. Respond thusly.

Butcher: "Did you just eat that entire pound of beef stew meat?"

You: "I don't believe so."

Butcher: "There's blood running down your lips."

You: "I have a condition. Please. It's a very sensitive issue."

The customer is always right.

So, Jeremy, I hope this helped answer your question. Follow this advice and you'll be a gentleman in no time.

Oh, and to your first query, a gentleman always has someone else do the chewing for him to avoid the potential embarrassment of the dreaded food sneeze.


Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via messages shaved into panda bears. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny or he will cover a squirrel with jam.



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