5 Rules of Convenience Store Etiquette (Everyone Breaks)
Convenience stores are the best damn places. They sell just about everything, and you can usually drive to one and be back on your couch enjoying the fruits of your trip (it's a figure of speech -- I know you wouldn't spend money on fruit) in less than 15 minutes. You can't even get from your car to the front door of most big box department stores that quickly.
It doesn't happen by magic, though. Making sure your local convenience store lives up to the promise of its name is a team effort. Here are a few simple rules you can follow to help make it happen.
Do Not Park at the Gas Pump
Your job when visiting a convenience store, in addition to securing the Styrofoam cooler and hot dog buns that your stupid friend Jeff forgot to bring to the party, is to make sure your presence doesn't infringe upon the other customers' God-given right to convenience. In fact, this entire article could just be one sentence. "Don't make things inconvenient for everyone else." Some might even prefer that this article just be one sentence. Those people are buffoons. This is quality stuff.
The rest of you are just regular folk looking for advice on how to behave at a convenience store, and I've got that for you. The first tip: Don't park at the gas pump.
Of course, I don't mean you should move your car first if you're only running inside to pay for the gas you've just pumped. That's absurd. Hey, you can even pick up a few items while you're in there. Gas prices are out of control, you've earned the right to lollygag a bit.
If you're not conducting gas-related business, though, you don't get to park your car in front of a gas pump. It's just common courtesy. The person arriving behind you who needs to buy gas might not have time to wait for you. If that person runs out of fuel and has to manually push their car around the lot until you finally emerge from your Slim Jim run to remove your vehicle from the gas-pumping area, well, that person is silly. He should have just left his car where it was when it stalled and then pushed it when a spot became available.
All your fault.
Still, that doesn't absolve you of guilt. Gas pumps are like handicapped parking spots for disabled vehicles -- you leave them for those in need. Doing anything else just makes you a selfish jerk.
Do Not Loiter in the Restroom
While paying present-day-economy prices for fuel might buy you the freedom to leave your car at a gas pump as you browse the convenience store aisles for the perfect combination of cough medicine and candy to start your weekend party (provided you're sick, otherwise just get candy), nothing gives you the right to take up residence in the convenience store restroom for anything more than a length of time that reasonable people would consider "standard." For the record, that's like three and a half to five minutes, tops. People who think they deserve more time on a public restroom shot clock simply have no regard for their fellow humans.
This transgression is especially heinous at a convenience store bathroom, because it's so often the single-person kind that requires a key at worst or an awkward wait outside the door while hoping the person on the other side isn't leaving behind a crime scene at best before it can be used.
This kind of crime scene.
That means every minute you spend primping in the mirror or taking a hobo shower is another minute that some poor soul is unable to tend to his personal business.
And make no mistake, this is a high-traffic restroom. A convenience store is one of those rare places where nobody bats an eyelash if you come in to use the bathroom and leave without making a purchase. I wouldn't be surprised if 75 percent of all their purchases are the result of people looking for a tiny way to celebrate the fact that they made it to a bathroom in time.
Why do you want to stand in the way of that? Take your unnecessary tasks to the parking lot where they belong and keep your stay in a convenience store restroom brief. You'll be thankful when someone else's mindfulness of this basic rule of etiquette saves you from having an unfortunate story to share with your closest and least trustworthy friend some night when your decision making is particularly prone to lapses.
Your Mom Does Not Work at the Soda Fountain
I have a theory about why people so regularly leave the communal soda fountains of the world in such utter disarray. It goes something like this: People are slobs. Just a bunch of filthy, nasty, careless slobs.
If I had to explain it further, which I totally do, because I've got like 1,500 more words to kill, I'd theorize that it must be something about actually having to exert some real effort while assembling your icy beverage that leads a person to believe they've earned the right to leave the (usually more labor intensive) cleanup work to the "professionals."
Like this guy!
And you know what? That makes some sense, I suppose. Having to put your own soda together is kind of like bagging your own groceries, and nobody wants buying stuff to turn into a second job. When you're done sweating it out pouring 56 ounces of ice and soda into a cup the size of your head, still having the extra effort of a massive cleanup project to sop up the additional 37 ounces of beverage you've inexplicably left on the counter standing between you and some much-needed refreshment can be overwhelming. It's no wonder most people opt to do nothing instead.
Just understand that, while doing nothing is certainly within your rights, judging you harshly for doing nothing is well within the rights of everyone else. And judge harshly they will. The person who leaves a mess at the soda fountain is just one step below the person who refuses to participate in making coffee at the office even when they're the person who drank the last of the coffee. Yes, we get it, there is a person there who actually has "make coffee" in their job description, and that person is not you. But there's also a person in this world with "occasionally save child from burning building" in their job description. Does that mean you would let the terrified pleas of a youngster go unanswered if you knew you could help simply because you're not paid to do that kind of thing?
Reminder: This house.
Wow, you said yes, didn't you? No one should be surprised, even if starting the previous sentence with the word "wow" is a total contradiction of that statement. Shirking responsibility for your crimes is one of the lowest forms of human behavior. You're probably also the type who walks into a convenience store to buy a delicious fountain soda only to leave in useless silence after discovering that the syrup necessary to produce your favorite drink has run dry. This is unacceptable as well. A dearth of necessary supplies is a humanitarian disaster at a convenience store. There's nothing convenient about not being able to purchase the items you desire in a timely manner. It's going to happen from time to time, though, especially at the soda fountain. There is no getting around that. What we still have control over is how widespread the damage will be when a supply shortage arises.
Be a hero and let somebody know when there's a problem at the soda pump. Also, clean up after yourself before you leave. Doing anything less is a slap to the face of all the decent, hardworking people who help keep the soda fountains of the world in working order, even if they aren't being paid.
Do Not Gamble With Your Fellow Shoppers' Time
There are only a precious few places on Earth where you can buy scratch-off lottery tickets. They are definitely an acquired taste, but there's no shame in buying them. We all like to unwind from time to time. If you choose to do it by carelessly throwing extra tax money at the government in return for a lightning strike's chance at turning a profit, by all means, have at it. There are probably underfunded schools that are depending on you doing just that.
And with the non-gambling community's approval now secured by way of the above paragraph, let's talk about where you can do your lottery playing. The short answer is "anywhere except while standing in line with increasingly agitated customers waiting behind you." That's also the long answer, in case you're curious. No matter how quickly you've learned to remove that unsettling layer of silver sludge to reveal the prizes (or lack thereof) underneath, it's not fast enough to keep the people behind you in line from flying into a quiet rage when they watch you do it as they wait to pay for the bag of ice that's currently leaving freezer-burn marks on their forearm.
Again, all your fault.
You've given your dollar, you've received your ticket; it's time to kick rocks, as the kids who aren't old enough to buy lottery tickets liked to say the last time I cared to pay attention to what the youth of America have to say, which was sometime around 2009, I believe. Whatever the case, the expression fits: If you've paid for your stuff, any stuff, you must get lost. People are trying to carry on with their lives. You're just ruining that by hanging around after you've completed your transaction.
That's especially true if you're hanging around to scratch a lottery ticket, because the implication is that you're going to purchase more lottery tickets should it come to pass that you win. And then what? Do you just stand there endlessly buying and cashing in tickets until your luck runs out like some kind of low-budget game show contestant? You'd better not, because that means multiple transactions, which, in the strictest of terms, amounts to cutting the line. I don't even need to tell you how important it is to not cut people in line. That's practically Ten Commandments-type material, right up there with "don't murder" and "don't drive under the speed limit in the left lane" on the list of offenses that should be punishable by eternal damnation to the unfortunate afterlife of your choosing.
Sure, the cashier should be the one to put a stop to this kind of thing, but misbehaving customers are a team responsibility. Sometimes that cashier is going to be a barely out of high school kid who doesn't know any better than to obey the terrifying older person in front of them demanding multiple transactions to see their big money scheme through to either fruition or failure (almost definitely failure). If that happens, you, the public, must intervene. Take a stand against those who waste our time in line.
Oh, and stop writing checks. Everyone. Right now. Hey, speaking of that ...
Do Learn Your Way Around the Credit Card Machine
Listen, it's 2013, you don't have to hand your credit or debit card to the cashier anymore. You don't have to hand it to anyone. You barely have to carry those things at all these days. You can just wave your phone at stuff you want to pay for. Checks and cash are for people who can't adapt to change, and I mean "change" in the "try new things" way, not in the "worst possible way to be paid a large sum of money" way. Obviously those people can adapt to having coins in their pocket -- they probably even enjoy it, which is terrifying when you consider how many hands the average coin comes into contact with before it reaches you.
Pictured: The common cold.
Normal people don't enjoy change, though, and I mean "change" in the ... never mind. You get it. Logical people dislike coins, so they use credit or debit cards. If you're going to be one of these "forward thinking" types who eschew apocalyptic concerns for the relative ease of paying for stuff by swiping a card, however, you're also responsible for keeping up-to-date on how to properly execute the hardware half of a bank card transaction. It used to be enough to just hand your card to the cashier, at which point he would swipe the card through a machine he operated or, depending on your age or the Third Worldness of the country you live in, run it under one of those huge plastic contraptions that use carbon paper and are a fairly decent indicator that you're somewhere you should not be whipping out your credit card.
We've moved on from that, though. And a lot of you people don't seem to realize it. Just as self-checkout lanes at grocery stores and self-service kiosks at the post office continue to baffle countless shoppers each day, so too do the intricacies of using a credit card machine.
It should be simple. In fact, it is simple. You just swipe your card, enter a pin number if you still haven't realized you can simply hit "credit" to bypass that, and then sign your name. Sometimes you don't even need to do that if the purchase is small enough. You can just grab your stuff and go.
So why do we constantly find ourselves sighing passive-aggressively at that one idiot who somehow manages to make swiping a credit card seem like a Mensa quiz? It happens all the time, usually in steps:
1. The customers realize that they haven't even removed their card from their wallet or purse. This is an early warning sign that trouble is afoot.
2. They try to hand the card to the cashier. That card reader could not possibly be more prominently placed in front of them, but they're going to give it a try. It's instinct.
This picture might as well be the 1970s.
3. They will express momentary surprise over this machine's existence. It's the same as saying "ouch" when you bump your foot on something without really hurting it. You expected it was going to hurt, and your body naturally expressed that. Except in this case, you were apparently expecting to see a flux capacitor or something instead of the same credit card machine we've all been using forever now.
4. They will swipe the card with the magnetic strip facing the wrong way, but only after thinking about it for 34 seconds.
5. They will enter the wrong pin or wrong zip code, because at this point the pressure of having to adapt to our ever-changing world has broken them, even if just temporarily.
If this sounds like you, I don't know, maybe see if your local convenience store will let you log some training hours on their credit card machine when business is slow. Maybe you should go make hundreds of $1 purchases to get your technique down. Again, I don't know, I just want you to learn how to swipe a credit card. And if you're holding up the line at a convenience store because that's something you haven't bothered to learn yet, everyone else wants you to figure it out, too. Right there on the spot, preferably.
Learn to properly use the credit card machine at a convenience store and you'll quickly learn how to make temporary friends out of the people in line behind you. But mess it up and you might as well be the dumbest person in the building. The choice is yours.
For some convenient knowledge, visit Cracked's Food for Thought, where you can grab these fresh bites of funny: When Lobster Was Spam: 5 Gourmet Foods That Used to be Cheap, 4 Foods Renamed So That You Might Actually Eat Them, and 5 Awful Life Lessons Learned During a Spicy Food Challenge.