Cutting Customers: When you should've been next in line

by EPI Staff on August 25, 2010

Q: I was next in line at a counter where service was slow as molasses. Finally a new line opened up, but the person behind me rushed to get there first. I was so frustrated! Should I have said something?

A: In this situation, you could have said something like, “I’m sorry, but I was ahead of you in line. I believe I’m next.” If the person doesn’t retreat, don’t push the issue further with him or her. Speak to the manager instead, and suggest that when a cashier opens a new register, she should say, “May I help the next person in line?”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jody August 25, 2010 at 3:05 am

I agree with this advice. Such things have happened to me, usually at a grocery store. The cashier normally comes over and speaks directly to the next person in line saying “I’ll help you over here.” On the occasions where a line-cutter jumps in front of me, a polite but firm “excuse me, but I was next” usually works.

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Julie August 25, 2010 at 6:17 am

This JUST happened to me last week. I had been waiting for about 5 minutes, a woman came behind me, waited approx. 30 seconds, a new line opened up and she ran to it. I then followed her and said to the cashier “you should make sure that you really have the next person” (the cashier was about 16 and just stared at me). The woman who cut me then said “you’re not that far behind” to which I replied “it’s called common courtesy.” That was all. I wish I had said “Well I know I wasn’t behind you!”

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Jason August 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I figure that it would take more effort and time to sort out any sort of “scuffle” that may occur in this situation. In this situation, you still get to the till just as fast if the “Extra till” didn’t open in the first place.

It’s hard to swallow our pride sometimes and horrible people exist out there, but what’s another minute or two to keep the peace?

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V.T. Reynolds August 25, 2010 at 4:26 pm

This situation happens to me at least a couple of times a month. I think I just have that kind of luck with lines. I agree with Jason. You come across as even ruder than the line cutter if you say something, and you face several potential long-term side effects:

1. The clerks at your regular store will definitely remember you as “that person” and may continue their behavior, just to bug you, especially if you direct your statement at the clerk and not the customer, who is really the person at fault.

2. The person whom you corrected may turn out to be someone important in your future, such as a hiring manager or colleague (this is especially a risk in a small city)

3. Someone else you already know may watch you do this as it happens – it will never come across as polite or appropriate, especially if the clerk initiated the line cut and not the customer, which gives the customer an “I was invited, it’s not my fault” out.

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Vanna Keiler August 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I sympathize with those who wait patiently in line, like good citizens, only to be blind-sided by the rude and selfish. No one likes to create a scene in public, nor be in an awkward position after of feeling like the “bad guy” for speaking out, but unfortunately no one has apparently stepped up and trained these individuals as children how to behave in public. It is more than just common courtesy to wait your turn: the person in front of you has been standing longer than you have and is probably more tired/anxious than you are, but is simply showing excellent manners in remaining stoic and waiting his/her turn.

I always get this sheepish look from the perpetrator when I call them on it, and they usually make a grandiose gesture of allowing me to go ahead of them, to which I do, not saying thank you and barely looking in their direction. They have not done me any favors by allowing me in, and have made me irritated enough to speak to them publicly, and in front of others. But I do think, uncomfortable as the act is, that it is our duty, on behalf of future line-takers, to correct these individuals at every occasion we encounter them. Silence is approval.

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Graceandhonor August 26, 2010 at 3:59 am

Brava, Vanna!

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Stop the line cutter May 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm

This just happened to me yesterday. We waited a long time in line and someone on crutches (with no cast on) just went to the head of the line. I had assumed that it was a to-go order. People with to-go orders do not need to wait in line at this establishment (as signs are clearly displayed indicating this). Much to my surprise the 20+ year old indicated that his order was “for here”. You can bet that my dander was up at this point. I didn’t say anything only because I too have been injured with a cast placed on my leg, and I still waited in lines and didn’t believe that I was afforded any special privilges. Thanks Vanna for speaking up.

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Camille August 26, 2010 at 7:46 am

I think it is the responsibility of the cashier to know who is next. Most grocery stores train employees to physically go and get the person that is next in line and take them to thier station. One day, I was at a very busy store with not a lot of checkers open and most patrons had fairly full carts. I had been standing in line well over 15 minutes. The person in front of me had the cashier checking every price and things were going wrong and taking a long time. I had one person who had just walked up behind me and a few moments later a new casher came and opened the next station over. He looked directly at me and I began moving my cart to the his station. The person behind me bolted infront of me an a very arrogant manner. The way she looked at me was priceless……her expression was very smug and gleeful. I didn’t say anything directly to the person, but I did go up to the cashier and in a very nice way told him that I was next. He just looked at me and shrugged. I told him that I had been waiting a very long time and by allowing the person behind me go first was rude. I don’t do confrontation well, but at least I had the courage to say something even if it did no good at all.

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Lana February 5, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I’ve worked in retail and when a new line opens I always mention to the cashier that they should have asked for the next person in line. I don’t think it gives a bad impression of me.

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mary October 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Need advise — I am attending a celebrity dinner – $75.00 a plate. Do I tip the celebrity. Thank you for your comments. Mary

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Graceandhonor October 29, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Mary, you don’t indicate if this celebrity is guest of honor or waiter or featured entertainment…Since banquet type of dinners are usually paid in one lump sum by the hosting party, and that party takes care of the total bill, I’d say any gratuities are taken care of in your plate price.

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