/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Supermarket shopping: what gets on your nerves?

supermarket trolley

Long queues, confusing store layouts, ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’… shopping for groceries can really be a chore at times. What irritates you the most about supermarket shopping?

For me, just making sure I’ve bought everything I need and navigating the minefield of special offers means grocery shopping is already taxing enough, even if the shop is relatively deserted. Unfortunately, my local supermarket rarely is…

Most of north London seems to be doing its shopping whenever I go in, and the blocked-up aisles keep you crawling around at a snail’s pace. I’ve now started buying more and more groceries online so that I don’t have to deal with the stress that comes from shopping in a packed-out store. Though you do run the risk of receiving some bizarre substitutions when products are out of stock.

Queues are number one irritation

It seems that what irritates shoppers more than anything is waiting in line for ages. Long queues were named by 35% of shoppers as one of their biggest supermarket bugbears in our survey. One shopper told us:

‘The queues at my local supermarket can sometimes stretch into the aisles, making it difficult to open the freezers.’

While another shopper said:

‘They don’t have a “small basket” check out for a few items, so I go in for a pint of milk and have to queue behind people who have huge trolleys full of food.’

Obstructions in aisles was the next most common irritation, cited by 24% of shoppers. I wonder if that includes the other shoppers in my local store?

There were also a number of people frustrated by not being able to buy what they want – 22% mentioned items on offer being out of stock as a bugbear, while 18% cited shelves that aren’t kept well-stocked.

Have we mentioned your biggest supermarket bugbears? Or is there something else that really gets your goat?


Self-service checkouts and long queues at those that are staffed are the most annoying feature of supermarkets for me.

The lack of unit prices on promotions such as ‘three for the price of two’ is annoying, since that is clearly done to make it difficult for customers to compare products. I can do mental arithmetic and get plenty of practice, but it should be illegal not to give unit prices on special offers.

Multi-buys on fresh produce irritate me and are unhelpful for single people. They encourage waste of food and increase the chance that food could be consumed beyond the ‘use by’ date. Some of the examples are ridiculous – in my local supermarket, cucumbers were 90p each or two for £1. I would like to see multi-buys banned on fresh food.

Being subjected to music, whether piped music or demonstration TVs, stereo systems etc. is a nuisance.


Multi-buys on products with a short life are unfair and wasteful.

Products on offer are a good opportunity to try something different, but you are not going to try 2 or 3 of them.

Fi Brown says:
21 February 2015

I understand that multibuy offers on fresh produce may not be suitable for everyone but then no offers encompass all shoppers. Personally it’s not difficult for my family to use 2 cucumbers a week or more. Granted, there are 4 of us but that’s not an unusual household make up. There’s nothing stopping you only buying what you need and ignoring the multibuy.


Fi, exactly. No one forces you to buy a special offer. If it benefits you, fine. If not, then don’t buy it.


There is going to be increasing pressure on supermarkets to stop multi-buy offers on fresh food: bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26908613

There is no problem with special offers on non-perishable goods.

katbir says:
1 June 2015

That’s fine if there is an alternative. My local Asda has long since stopped selling loose courgettes: they only stock packs of three. No good when I only need one. Also baking apples have gone the same way. When I enquired where the loose ones were I was told that they were only available in multi packs.


Having dietary requirements, my biggest bugbear is supermarkets that stop selling products that we rely on usually made by smallish manufacturers.

I used to drink So-Good Oat Milk. Supermarkets did not keep enough on the shelves so that every time there was a delivery, it went very quickly and the shelf would be empty for the next week so I would buy as much as I could when it was available. Because the supermarkets did not keep their shelves regularly stocked, they claimed they did not sell enough to make it worth them selling it, and So-Good bit the dust in 2011.

As I can’t drink soya, I struggled for a couple of years to find a milk substitute the consistency of semi-skimmed milk until Koko (originally Kara) Coconut milk appeared.

Now it looks like Koko is going down the same road as So-Good.

I have been struggling to buy Koko. Only Tesco and Ocado now stock the fresh version. Alpro (Dean Foods) seem to have muscled their way into the supermarkets and Koko are being pushed out. The Alpro coconut milk is nowhere near as good as Koko.

So please supermarkets, put Fresh Koko Coconut Milk back on the shelves. You have the power to keep a much-needed company in business.

Lady London says:
28 March 2015

Asian food shops may well offer coconut milk in various forms. If you have one accessible to you perhaps you could avoid looking for this product in a supermarket altogether. Are you online? Wondering can it be ordered from a specialist food site or even a major general shopping site (you know which one) online.


Yes – there are plenty of coconut milk products along the Amazon, including KoKo.

SeaQuin says:
19 February 2015

Generally my complaint is shortage of open checkouts. We are expected to use self service tills which are useless when I have a relatively large basket or trolley.

The supermarkets are, in my opinion, deliberately understaffed. Where once the shelves were filled at night now, sometimes, we have wait while the shelves are stocked whilst we wait, during the day !


Self service checkouts, the next one to work for me without some anomaly will be the first.
Lot’s of unmanned normal checkouts when the store is obviously busy.
Confusing and unnecessary price offers. rather than “two for one” just drop the price you’ll sell more probably, certainly to people who didn’t need or want two in the first place.
The term “associates” for people who work there, if you want to make them feel better about their job pay them a decent wage rather than give them a fancy meaningless title.
The screens at the tobacco counter, pointless. I don’t even smoke but the delays these things cause to both those buying tobacco and the people waiting in line behind is totally unnecessary. It achieves nothing.

In the future the demise of, or charging for, the plastic carrier bag will annoy me. They are very useful and have many secondary uses. Never ever has one of mine added to general litter or killed a Dolphin. Rather than getting rid of something useful like a carrier bag do something about all the unnecessary packaging enveloping so much of what we buy, a far more significant problem.

Lessismore says:
21 February 2015

If you are unhappy about the amount of packaging then please complain about it. Not doing so becomes not only a tacit agreement to it but an encouragement for even more. You can always leave the packaging at the till. Remember the Minister told us to do this several years ago? (Google it if you don’t!)

We need to keep the pressure up so that packaging keeps on evolving and improving – well that is if it IS necessary). Alternatively buy naked!


It is now apparent that waste plastics are more of an environmental hazard than previously thought because of microplastic particles: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/microplastic-waste-this-massive-tiny-threat-to-sea-life-is-now-in-every-ocean-9602430.html

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have introduced charges for single-use plastic bags and some supermarkets in England have, but it may not be long until the other supermarkets do the same.

I hope Lessismore is drawing attention to the benefits of unpackaged produce because the alternative is likely to attract too much attention. 🙂