I have just returned from the grocery store, and I need to get something off my chest. When did “Got any big plans for the rest of the day?” become the default small talk prompt from checkout cashiers?

I’m just saying, of all the bored commentary issued in a robotic tone by clock-watching millennials when you’re waiting for the chip card thing to make that obnoxious error-sounding beep, this is the worst. First of all, the entire tone of the question is more than a little condescending. Like, “Did you use the potty like a big girl?”

Secondly, no, I do not in fact have big plans for the rest of the day. Jesus. Do I look like I have big plans? I’m wearing ratty workout pants and I’m buying fruit snacks, toilet paper, frozen pizza bagels, Diet Coke, and cat food. This is it, Junior. You’re looking at my entire life here.

Finally, can we not create a situation in which I instantly become an awkward conversational dead end when I didn’t even want to have a conversation in the first place? If I answer truthfully, it goes like this:

Cashier: Got any big plans for the rest of the day?
Me: *flatly* No.

Or if I try and muster up the energy to engage in light banter:

Cashier: Got any big plans for the rest of the day?
Me: I guess that depends on how exciting four loads of laundry sounds to you! Ha ha!

The thing is, if by some weird happenstance I did actually have big plans and I was really super excited to be asked and began describing my agenda in great detail while the line piled up behind me, you know the cashier would be like:

There’s no way out of this that doesn’t suck, and as a “make a human connection that is pleasant for both participants but extremely brief” strategy it fails on all fronts. In conclusion: STAAHHHHHHHHP.

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Margaret
Margaret
5 years ago

Yes, please and thank you. I’m socially awkward on a good day, and the “Do you have any plans?” question always makes me feel both pressured and lame because the answer is almost always “Not really.” *fidget*

Kathy
Kathy
5 years ago

The person shampooing my hair at the hair salon asks me that every. single. time.
Can we just not?

Amy
Amy
5 years ago

Hi! I think I’ve been reading off and on and… more on since ’09ish? I remember I was so mad at you for being irritated with an autistic child on the school-yard once-upon-a-time. Because, I had a 4 or 5 year old autistic child. As much as I tried to parent her, I couldn’t ” control” her and it broke my heart that kids like this were irritants in your column. Ah. You were so easy, unknown literary voice, to be the vessel of my lack of control, rage…sadness.
But. I stayed on because whether I liked it or not, I always knew that you were telling the truth as you saw it. That was something valuable-in the land of LA B.S. You have been in my thoughts so many times since your reveal of being an addict and your truth telling once again as you found an anchor with sobriety. You deserve your clear, compassionate, truthful self. You deserve that friend you have in you. I say this as a long time reader. The sense of you I have deserves a life with great passed canapés ( fancy!) and short on bullshit, intrusive, corner finding-small talk. ” I’m going to the dry-cleaner! And, it’s a gonna rock like a mofo! Thanks!” That’s my fantasy response for you. Linda, your words and your way with them has been an oddly sewn (in the best way) quilt for me. Finally, thank you!

Donna Brubach
Donna Brubach
5 years ago

Yes. But I always make up shit. Why yes, I’m going parachuting later and need this toilet tissue to stuff in my underwear. One if I shit myself cleanup is so much easier and two if I use enough it’s like padding when I land. Win win.

Kim
Kim
5 years ago

I was never a fan of small talk but have become even less so as I get older. I actively search out certain cashiers that I know don’t ever talk beyond the How you doing today variety. I have started to also do like the kids and let my ear buds show whether I’m listening to a podcast or not, and that tends to deter conversation a little. On another note, our boss likes to ask the room on Fridays what our exciting plans are for the weekend and she hasn’t caught on yet that my one-word answer is always the same: “Netflix.”

Amy ritchie
Amy ritchie
5 years ago

They always ask us this at the Starbucks drive thru and Jason and I have the perfect response down. Starbucks cashier: “SOooo, do you have any big plans for the day?” J (flatly): “You’re looking at it.” Me (soulless): “Living the dream.” Sometimes I yell at one of the kids after, just to mix it up a bit.

anne nahm
5 years ago

Came to comment, but LOL all these people in comments already living my exact life.

jill
jill
5 years ago

Me: “Why do you ask?”

Maggie
Maggie
5 years ago

So fitting!!! Just got back from Target and the cashier asked that dredded question. I responded the same as you, not much really. Cashier proceeded to tell me all about her day off plans. It stressed me out, especially because a line was forming behind me. I don’t mind idle chit chat, but it’s getting out of hand, jeez!!

Mary Clare
Mary Clare
5 years ago

I’m fairly socially awkward and grasp for things to talk about with the high school-aged cashiers at the grocery store. It takes so dang long to check out. Usually I go with the “Cool blue hair. I used Manic Panic once” type of comments that make me seem really middle aged and out of touch.

Alison
Alison
5 years ago

God yes. This seems to be one of the stock phrases for the toddler cashiers at the supermarket near our house. I mean I’m frantically jiggling a cranky baby on my hip. Please, ask me anything else. Or just nothing at all. It’s cool.

I went through a drive through recently where they have extra people outside working the lunch rush. My order was delayed and I was stuck at the window with TWO of them rapid firing cheerful questions at me and it was all I could do not to drive away without my food.

Lucy Fisher
Lucy Fisher
5 years ago

I always find myself excitedly replying ‘No, how ’bout you!?’… to a person whose plans for the day clearly involve… working at a checkout line at a grocery store. *sigh*

It’s the equivalent of the dreaded:
Have a great flight!
YOU TOO!!

*facepalm*

Lucy Fisher
Lucy Fisher
5 years ago

I always find myself excitedly replying ‘No, how ’bout you!?’… to a person whose plans for the day clearly involve… working at a checkout line at a grocery store. *sigh*

It’s the equivalent of the dreaded:
Have a great flight!
YOU TOO!!

*facepalm*

Jen
Jen
5 years ago

All the LOLZ at “why do you ask?” above. If things weren’t awkward before that, they surely would become so!

Laura
Laura
5 years ago

Totally agree! I go to the same grocery store most of the time, and I try to check out with the cashier that I know won’t try to talk too much, other than perhaps commenting on how delicious “Item A” is, every single time. i can handle that. Not personal questions about my plans for the day.

Becca
Becca
5 years ago

The error sound that the chip reader makes when it’s time to remove the card is so stress inducing. I really need it to stop making me feel like my card is being declined!

Katie
Katie
5 years ago

You know, as a stay at home mom for 20 years to raise my kids, and now a full time teacher. I totally can relate to your struggles, but with hope of not sounding like a know it all, I

nonsoccermom
5 years ago

You’re right! It hadn’t even occurred to me until you mentioned it, but at some point in the fairly recent past all of the cashiers seem to have made this (annoying) shift. WHY? I’m a social person and have my grandmother’s “never met a stranger” mentality in most scenarios but even I don’t need to have a conversation while trying to pay for groceries. There’s one cashier at my local Safeway that I actively avoid for this reason. It feels like the Spanish Inquisition while I’m trying to buy bread.

Abby
Abby
5 years ago

OH GOD YES. This needs to stop. Immediately. It catches me off guard 100% of the time, and I usually end up muttering “nothing” or “oh ha ha ha clean my house”

Joanne
5 years ago

THIS is exactly why I prefer the land of my birth, New Jersey, and go insane in the land of my now, Indiana.

smarty pants
smarty pants
5 years ago

“The person shampooing my hair at the hair salon asks me that every. single. time.”

ME TOO! And my salon appointments always occur at the end of a crushing work day when all I want to do is sleep while they wash my hair.

No small talk please.

Betsy
Betsy
5 years ago

I really wonder if this is now included in some basic customer service training, because I’ve gotten this exact question at the groc several times. Another one is “Enjoy the rest of your day!” It’s fine, it’s nice, but since so many of them say it I know it’s probably just part of their training, so then it just feels insincere.