The Overly Familiar Check-Out Person Conundrum


“Have any plans for the weekend?”

No, this wasn’t a friend, neighbor, co-worker or even Mom asking this seemingly personal question. It was the check-out person at a local grocery store, where they seem to be required to ask every customer this question every Friday. On Mondays, do they always ask: “How was your weekend?” I’ll have to check on a Monday.

I was tempted, so very, very tempted to go into full Larry-David mode on the check-out person. I’ve been watching a lot of Curbs lately, and, sometimes, dammit, Larry makes a good point about social interactions and the rules that govern society. Like when Christian Slater ate way too much caviar or the guy took two parking spaces. Larry just takes it too far.

Here’s how Larry-David mode would have gone in my mind…

Check-out person: “Have any plans for the weekend?”

Me: “Yes.”

Check-out person: “Oh, what are they? Something fun?”

Me: “We don’t know each other, and that seems overly familiar and way too personal. I’m not comfortable detailing my weekend plans to you.”

Check-out person: “I was just being polite. I’m sorry sir, have a nice one.”

Me: “A nice one? What does that even mean. A nice what?”

In real life, here’s how it went…

Check-out person: “Have any plans for the weekend?”

Me: “No, not really.”

Check-out person: “Well, the weather’s supposed to be nice, maybe you can do something outside.”

Me: “Maybe.”

Perhaps it’s me. I grew up in Philadelphia, where the most interaction we have at check-out counters is a gentle nod and maybe a low-key “yo” if we’re feeling especially chatty and have known the check-out person for years and perhaps went to grade school with them. But here, in Columbus (Ohio), complete strangers and check-out people, people I’ve never met, seem eager to engage me in conversation. And they seem to really care what I plan to do this coming weekend. I think they’re rooting for me to have a fun weekend.

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on

And then, yesterday, I was at a different supermarket, and the check-out person said this…

Check-out person: “What are you up to today?”

Huh? What am I up to today? That seems even more personal and intrusive than “Any plans for the weekend?”

And here’s the thing: I was up to something really cool. From the supermarket, I was headed to a nearby axe-throwing place, where I was gonna throw some axes with a local woman who’s one of the top axe throwers in central Ohio. For an article I’m writing for Columbus Monthly.

But come on … how much work would that have been to explain all this to the check-out person. A lot. Way too much. And then, answering all the axe-related, follow-up questions. It could have gone on forever. I was exhausted just thinking about it.

So, instead…

Me: “Just come chores.”

What do you think? How do you respond when the check-out person asks you for your weekend plans or daily itinerary? I’m curious. Perhaps I have it all wrong and my attitude is preventing me from meaningful social interactions that will expand my horizons, better connect me with my fellow human beings and lead to a happier, healthier and more-fulfilling  life. And maybe, just maybe, in the Age of Trump, this is more important than ever.

And don’t get me started on those people who leave their shopping carts in the middle of a space in the middle of the parking lot. What would Larry say to someone he saw doing this?

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