On over 3 occasions at different supermarkets in the same neighbourhood, I've bumped into the same person asking to cut in line. He usually says:

Sorry. Can I please go in front? I'm in a big hurry. I have only 2 small items [a beverage and container from the prepared foods bar]. I'll be quick!

If I don't believe him, how can I refuse his request without offending him?

  • 1
    Are you asking how to never let anyone cut in line ever again or how to deal with this person's requests in specific?
    – MonkeyZeus
    May 10, 2018 at 17:26
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    You don't believe what exactly? That he is in a hurry or that he only has two items? May 13, 2018 at 15:36
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    What have you tried already? What makes you think 'no sorry' isn't 'tactful'? What is the interpersonal skill you're actually struggling with? Phrasing requests are off-topic...
    – Tinkeringbell
    May 14, 2018 at 7:44
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's essentially a phrasing request with no further context.
    – Magisch
    May 14, 2018 at 7:55
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    I've closed this as off-topic/phrasing request yet again. If you want it reopened, please edit it to make sure you're asking about an actual Interpersonal Skill and provide enough details on the situation (there's plenty of requests for clarification above).
    – Tinkeringbell
    May 15, 2018 at 7:17

8 Answers 8


Just in case this person is really in a hurry every time (1), I would not give any reason/excuse, because that may backfire with any possible fake / true counter-argument.

I would just let them know that "my time is as valuable as theirs" (in spirit, not with words, as this is most probably seen as aggressive).

It means that I don't see any reason why I would let them be/feel more important than me, or why I would be the one being nice, or even be the one that makes the effort. We both have reasons, personal ones. As sad as it can be: 1st on line, 1st to go.

Sorry, but I am in a hurry too.

Not more, not less. Door's closed. No need to explain, no need to argue. You say no, set boundaries, and avoid conflict most of the time by being straight to the point.

Basically, @Hanky-Panky's 1st paragraph (2) points out a very good point, and I agree. I would just avoid the (white) lie, and/or give any reason.

1. A friend of mine was switching jobs (2 different companies) every evening: finish at 06:00 PM, start at 06:30 PM (30mn to stop, grab a sandwich and a bottle of water form the small grocery store, eat it and back to work. Always in a hurry, always looking for the smallest line. Sometimes, had to let the food and move without buying because of the time running. She would not clock in late, so she'd rather not eat.

2. (from Hanky-Panky's answer) Since the person who asked you for a place used urgency as an excuse, he/she would not be able to argue if the same reason is presented to them in return. And by keeping it short and to the point, you take away any chance of a counter argument.

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    I like your answer, but you say: I would just avoid the (white) lie, and/or give any reason. But you are giving a reason. That you are in a hurry. What if you are not? What if, after paying you stop to read an ad, casually check your phone or something else that signals that you are not in a hurry? Couldn't then that person call you out? Or at least, think that you lied to them? I'd rather just say "no, sorry", "my time is as valuable as yours" (what you want to imply) or "I want to finish the shopping as soon as possible". That way they cannot possibly think you are lying to them.
    – xDaizu
    May 10, 2018 at 15:31
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    @xDaizu 'hurry' is a very subjective term that is very hard to 'lie' about. Yes, perhaps I am in a 'hurry' to go read that ad and casually check my phone. However, adding a qualifier now makes the phrase objective and being 'in a hurry to catch a bus and I'm running late' can be objectively false. May 10, 2018 at 16:18
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    I don't get why this guy and your friend do not think of getting the food beforehand...
    – Bakuriu
    May 10, 2018 at 21:14
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    @Bakuriu : in my friend's case, 1. she had no place to keep food all day long at her 1st workplace, and 2. she'd rather grab some freshly made/cooked item and not buy a plastic-wrapped sandwich for instance. Plus: you never know if you'll enjoy chicken or beef or veggies or sushis when eating time comes, better wait til the end IMO (as I do the same)
    – OldPadawan
    May 11, 2018 at 9:22
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    @xDaizu I could be in a hurry to have time to read and answer messages from my sick boyfriend. I could have a backache and really need to sit down. "A hurry" is a reasonable description of both without giving my emotional state or medical history away to a stranger. The person in question did not explain their "hurry" either.
    – skymningen
    May 14, 2018 at 9:40

"Sorry, not today."

While similar to many of the other responses, I think this particular turn of phrase may be of help in your particular situation where it happens so often that you recognize the person. The "not today" part reminds him that you HAVE let him cut in front of you in the past, and MAY choose to do so in the future.

Of course, this phrase won't work every time. But, by mentioning that you have done this for him the past, his failure to remember his benefactor (you) will probably be slightly embarrassing. While this embarrassment is not your goal, it WILL make him more likely to remember YOU next time, and hopefully, hesitate to inconvenience you AGAIN.

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    Why will it not work every time? May 11, 2018 at 5:14
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    It will not work every time because "Not today" implies "Yes, on another day".
    – Glurth
    May 11, 2018 at 13:52
  • This implies that you're going to let him cut in tomorrow, or another day. Assuming the OP wants this behavior to stop, a direct and definitive answer is required.
    – Korthalion
    May 15, 2018 at 14:04

Say "No, sorry."

You don't need to give a reason, he's asking you for a favour. This is a good idea as it doesn't give him any scope to discuss this with you - you have given him a direct answer.

For example, giving an excuse allows him to think that the excuse is the only reason you aren't allowing his behaviour. Saying "No, sorry." is polite, direct, and doesn't validate his behaviour.

  • 5
    Hi! Could you please edit for explaining why you think this is a good idea? On IPS, we expect answers to explain the gains that can be done by taking such and such approach. Thanks for your (quite well-received, actually) answer!
    – avazula
    May 14, 2018 at 8:35
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    We expect answers to be more substantial than just saying "do this". Answers that fail to meet this standard are in risk of getting deleted. Can you edit your answer to provide some supporting statements for how this will work as a tactful way to refuse a request for someone to cut in line?
    – sphennings
    May 14, 2018 at 20:35
  • I've added more info, apologies I was in a rush before and then forgot about it!
    – Korthalion
    May 15, 2018 at 10:17

If the question is about this specific person, I'd simply ask


I suspect he does this systematically and doesn't realize it's you again, and he'll probably feel shame at that realization. He'll probably expand on the reason for being in a hurry and you won't have any way of knowing whether that's true or not, but even if you'll let him in after that, he probably won't do that to you again.

Also, in case those supermarkets have an express lane for X itmes or less, then you could recommend him to use it. They are ubiquitous where I live. Unless you're in that lane already.

This is especially egregious if there are other people behind you that presumably didn't consent to being pushed back in the queue, but engaging in that line of argument would be hard not to make it more antagonistic than what I think you're hoping for.

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    how does this satisfy "without offending him"? May 10, 2018 at 21:55
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    I believe any rejection of that request has a certain potential of offending him, so it's more a matter of degree. Nonetheless, I don't think he would feel particularly offended, but rather ashamed, since it would be harder to justify the request in a reasonable way.
    – Smig
    May 12, 2018 at 1:51


This tells them that they can't walk all over you. Any hostile faces or words directed at you are reflective of the other person, not you.

Somewhat off-topic, but the above answer could be a solid answer to half of these "conflict-aversion" tagged questions.

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    Hi, Adam, welcome to IPS! We like answers to justify themselves a bit, to explain why the suggestion or advice is good to take. Can you expand on this a little?
    – HDE 226868
    May 11, 2018 at 14:57
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    Generally, "No" has already occurred to the person before they ask. For some reason, they don't think it's an option. Perhaps they are afraid of the response, or don't want to be seen as rude, or many other things. You can ask yourself (by re-reading the question) or the OP (by commenting) why just plain no either didn't work or hasn't been tried. Telling people to Just Say No with no explanation, encouragement, or even acknowledgement that they are also capable of thinking of that (it's not exactly hard) but for some reason won't say it -- well, it doesn't make your answer very helpful. May 11, 2018 at 15:00
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    The type of people who ask these questions just need to be reassured that it is okay to say "No", or otherwise stand up for themselves... I wish them the best.
    – Adam S.
    May 11, 2018 at 15:03
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    @AdamS. If the OP didn't want to stand up for himself he wouldn't be asking for a polite way to say no. I think you're mistaking manners for weakness, a common problem.
    – barbecue
    May 11, 2018 at 22:13
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    This should be taken with a huge cultural grain of salt. Simply saying “No.” can, depending on culture, be anywhere from a mild rejection to the equivalent of saying “F**k off”. There is a significant difference between standing up for oneself and being unnecessarily aggressive and confrontational, and a simple “No” is likely to be the latter in some places. Even in most places where it’s actually aggressive, it would hardly be considered tactful either, which is what the question is asking for. May 12, 2018 at 12:40

As addition to the other answers:

The first action you should do is looking if some people behind you were skipped and if yes, ask "Are you ok with that?". If not, I never let them in and cut them short if they try to argue with: " Sorry, I cannot let you in, please ask person who objected".

Clarification: I didn't say I ask the next person behind me, I ask all persons behind me which means that if there are equal or more than 3 persons, it is almost sure that someone will object. Those who objected have seen how it works, so the skipper will be send further back. As Germany has quite a direct culture and is very intolerant of skippers, it inevitably means that the person is sent back to the end of the queue.

The reason is that it works is that most skippers simply ignore the other persons waiting in line as if they don't matter at all. This is very aggravating to the other people, so I never actually experienced that another person allow the skipper to get forward. People don't feel it that I put "a burden of decision" on them, it feels more that they are pleased that I acknowledge them (Much communication is nonverbal). It may not work if the culture is too polite or reluctant. In the 5-6 times I had the pleasure of meeting such a skipper, they were never let in.

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    If the person behind you agrees with the guy cuting them, won't you be already half-committed into letting him pass too, because you tried to pass the burden ofdecision on someone else ?
    – Evargalo
    May 11, 2018 at 8:15
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    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that.
    – Mithical
    May 14, 2018 at 8:09

"I'm in a hurry too. Could you ask if another line could be opened?"

If the problem is the queue is too long, then a better solution for everyone might be another line being opened. Having him do it is good for everyone. If it is not that important, then it is just back in the line for him.


He's not only delaying you, but also everyone in line behind you. If you let him cut in front of you then you are causing an inconvenience for those behind you. He really ought to ask everyone in line, starting from the very back, and as soon as someone says "no" he has to get in line behind that person.

You should inform him of this; that he would be causing an inconvenience for everyone in the line and not just you and it's not up to you alone to let him cut in line. Consider how you would feel if he instead had asked the person in front of you and that person let him cut in line without asking you.

It's frankly your responsibility to not let him cut in line without the okay from everyone in line behind you!