This is similar to the question here: When in queue at the supermarket, how do I get my personal space? However this question is mainly focussed on somebody being in an area they should not be in the first place rather than standing too close in a queue. The person's rude/impatient behaviour is also a key feature.

I was recently in the supermarket, using the self-service checkout. I only had 2 items and was moving at a relatively quick pace (I would have been at the checkout for a maximum of 3 minutes).

There is a generally accepted 'queue area' at one end of the checkouts where but their arrangement doesn't make this immediately apparent and there was no other queue at the time.

A gentlemen made his way to the middle of the checkout area and stood very close to me as I was using the checkout. He only had one item but he occasionally made a 'huff' sound and seemed quite impatient. At one point he purposefully placed his item on the shelf of the checkout I was using - he did this very quickly, almost throwing it down. Very soon after the checkout next to me became available and he went over to that one, whipping his item with him and almost bumping into the lady who was leaving. Neither of us had said anything. I understand he was in a hurry but his behaviour was incredibly rude and fairly intimidating. He was very close to me and I felt quite uncomfortable when entering my pin number. (There's only so much shielding you can do when somebody is less than a metre away!)

My question is, is there anything at all I could have said to him to improve this situation and maybe point out that there is a usual queueing area.

  • 3
    Possible duplicate of When in queue at the supermarket, how do I get my personal space?
    – JAD
    Nov 14, 2017 at 14:30
  • I agree the questions are similar, but this one is different in that the people involved are not in a queue at the time (where there isnt really anywhere else they can go) but one person is using a piece of equipment and the other is choosing to stand very close to them in an area they should not be in the first place (as there is an area they should be using to queue)
    – Anya Hope
    Nov 14, 2017 at 14:39
  • 1
    I hate it already when people are starting to put their own goods on the machine while i am removing my own when they should be at the single queue spot so I can only imagine how you felt. And I agree this is a different situation from the supermarket "traditional" queue question. Nov 14, 2017 at 15:54
  • 2
    I agree that this question is different, since it is about a) someone being where they are not allowed to be b) this leads to security risks (OP enters their PIN). Both questions concern a supermarket, but this one could also be situated in a bank or somewhere else where someone has to say/enter sensitive information, while the other one could have been situated in an elevator for example, too (the OP there felt crowded by them). This changes the scope of the question and also how to approach such a person. Nov 14, 2017 at 16:00
  • 1
    Devil's advocate here: I had a stomach bug two weeks ago. While I was in the shop, I had an onset of gut cramps (and I knew what was coming), so I left as quickly as possible and I was doing the same as you described about the guy (huffing, snappy movement, rushed behavior, tapping my foot). I also avoided interactions because I couldn't really speak and part of me was very embarassed. People can act this way without feeling upset at the person in front of them. They may have been too distracted by personal issues, that caused both their urgency and lack of situational awareness (proximity)
    – Flater
    Nov 17, 2017 at 11:25

2 Answers 2


Try a polite "excuse me, but you are standing a little close for comfort, would you mind giving me a little more space?" Say it calmly but clearly.

Most people will get the hint at that stage, but if not try following it up with "excuse me, but I really must ask you to back up. Being so close will not make me finish any faster, and you are making me extremely uncomfortable." Say it slightly louder so that others nearby can hear, and will direct their attention towards this guy, applying social pressure to behave better.


There likely isn't a good way to get the person to back off without escalating the situation... At least not a direct way.

What I would recommend is very similar to what I do when people needlessly tailgate when they have an open lane to pass in. Just slow down till their impatience leads them to move along.

It may be somewhat passive aggressive, but it's effective. Just start fumbling with your wallet or purse or ask the attendant for help with something.

Chances are pretty good that the moment you motion for the attendant the impatient person will leave in a huff for another self-checkout machine assuming that you're now the slowest option. When the attendant arrives you can joke that you just wanted the impatient person to back off and they'll probably get a laugh out of it.

  • 1
    This answer depends on if you mind confrontation and discomfort or not. If you don't, or if you actively like putting someone in their place, this is fine. If you're conflict averse or shy, this may well just make things worse. Nov 14, 2017 at 17:19
  • @anongoodnurse I suppose that's fair.
    – apaul
    Nov 14, 2017 at 17:21
  • 1
    @anongoodnurse Probably a bit easier than directly addressing the impatient person though...
    – apaul
    Nov 14, 2017 at 17:31

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