What's the correct etiquette when you're unpacking your grocery shopping and the checkout operator starts coughing?

Happened to me today. I asked the operator had she had the cough long? She replied yes, she had a sister that worked in childcare who kept bringing home infections and passing them on.

Do you:

- repack your groceries and find another checkout if one is open?

- hastily don a face mask?

- hand the operator your hand wash gel and ask them to use it before handling your groceries?

- Abandon your weekly shopping?

- Grin and bear it and keep your distance, then wash your hands frequently thereafter?

I did the latter, but what do others with low immunity do?

Most supermarkets locally now provide a self check out option, but I'd prefer to keep people in employment and I enjoy the social interaction. There is also internet shopping/home delivery which I may well use if my immunity drops further. (I also appreciate that you've got no control over who restocks the shelves or handles produce before you do, or if you arrange for home delivery, who packs and delivers your groceries...)

I'd be interested in how others would handle this situation.


Last edited by

7 Replies

  • Evening Neil, and G’Day to the rest of you all.!

    I think you did about the only thing possible, there is no real answer.

    IF, the check-out operator has started checking your groceries, you are locked in.

    IF, however you are in a queue and the check-out operator has not started your own groceries, then perhaps you can wheel your trolley away and ‘ pretend ‘ you had forgotten to buy an item..?

    For myself I always do my own check outs as in England last summer a con job was active whereby the check-out operator took extra money from your credit card. The supermarkets allow a cash back scheme were by you can charge small amounts to the total bill and get this cash back in notes.

    This con job check out operator would ring up you as a cash back customer, and then hand the cash to the next person in the queue, who was in on the fiddle..

    Out of politeness, so that others do not have to wait, and perhaps regrettably, most of us do not check the supermarket receipts right at the check-out. Mostly we wait until we get home, by which time it’s too late to do anything useful…

    But yes, whatever we touch can have been previously touched by someone with a cold/ cough or flu.

    In London about two years ago a group of university researchers took swabs from the hand holds in a London Underground railway station, during the morning rush hour. In almost 75% of the places swabbed they found faecal bacteria..!!

    In another test researchers were looking for bacteria in restaurants and discovered that there were LESS of the bad bacteria in the busiest restaurants. The restaurants with few customers were places where the germs could have time to grow and fester. In a busy restaurant the surfaces were wiped clean more regularly.

    While we cannot really wear gloves year round, I do wear gloves most of the winter and anyway wash hands frequently..


  • I did have a similar experience at the grocery store. My groceries were already on the counter when the cashier coughed and sneezed into her hand. Gross! I opened my purse, got out my hand sanitizer and offered it to her. She gladly wiped her hands before scanning my groceries. No dirty looks, no eye rolling just a pleasant thank you. This was prior to my husbands SSL/CLL diagnosis.

  • Yes, this is something we all have to face unfortunately. I tend to look at the cashier to see if they look healthy!!!! Usually there is a queue and it gives the opportunity to see if they have a cold or cough currently. The trouble is also with other customers in queues. People seem to like to come up really close behind you and when they cough, or worse sneeze, you get the lot!!! For a few years I have avoided any crowded places because with my low immunity I did not want to pick up a virus because I was full time carer to my Mum who was very frail. I did not want to be ill due to my caring responsibilities, and if she was ill it could have finished her off. Sadly, I did lose her last year and since then have been out and about more. As a result, I have had two colds/viruses in two months, September and October, the second really horrid! I do often have my shopping delivered as I think it may cut down the risk of picking something up. But none of us know what viruses and bugs we are loading into our cupboards and fridges with our shopping!!!! Just have to take sensible precautions while still trying to have a life!

    Incidentally, following the recent CLLSA newsletter, I requested and was given the pneumococcal vaccination at my doctor's surgery as I had not had this for 11 years. It was such a useful reminder to know we should update this every five years, which I did not know, and will now keep an eye on. I am not sure what we do about Tetanus vaccine though as I believe this is important for anyone who likes gardening? The nurse at my surgery did not know and I hope she is going to check for me.

  • Hi Holly and friends, totally agree with you, its nigh on impossible to lead a normal life and stay protected from viruses etc. We have 3 grandchildren age 4, 4 months and 3 months. We adore them and realise that they bring their coughs and colds with them as do our 3 children. I may have low immunity but I am the luckiest person to have my family around as I see them most days. Good thinking on the vaccinations - I need to check mine out - thanks for the timely reminder!

  • Holly2,

    You should have a tetanus booster if you haven't had one in the last 10 years:

    From The Australian Immunisation Handbook - Tetanus:

    "All adults who reach the age of 50 years without having received a booster dose of dT in the previous 10 years should receive a further tetanus booster dose. This should be given as dTpa, to also provide protection against pertussis (see 4.12 Pertussis). This stimulates further production of circulating tetanus antibodies at an age when waning of diphtheria and tetanus immunity is commencing in the Australian population.

    Travellers to countries where health services are difficult to access should be adequately protected against tetanus before departure. They should receive a booster dose of dT (or dTpa if not given previously) if more than 10 years have elapsed since the last dose of dT-containing vaccine.

    For persons undertaking high-risk travel, consider giving a booster dose of either dTpa or dT (as appropriate) if more than 5 years have elapsed since the last dose of a dT-containing vaccine."


    dTpa doesn't contain any live bacteria, so there's no risk of an infection. (Those with CLL should not be given live vaccines.)



  • I agree with all the above.

    Now chemotherapy for so many different forms of cancer is very common we are not the only ones at risk. I would suggest it is time that supermarkets, pharmacies etc had simple policies around assistants manning tills at least, eg having tissues available so that any cough or sneeze can be contained (and tissue then disposed of) + use of hand gel afterwards.

    I talked to one of the advisors at yesterday's CLLSA meeting at Barts yesterday (which was the best I'd been to) and they are keen to advocate over any issues that affect those of us with CLL. Is this something to take to them?

    Charlie Girl

  • Hi what happened to coughs and sneezes spread diseases? If people were aware then hopefully they would be more considerate. Its about public health rather than CLL.

You may also like...