Finger Lickers!

I suppose I should mention right up front that I’ve got OCD and am quite germ-phobic.

So, maybe I’m a bit hypersensitive to such things, but I can’t help but notice a trend at the grocery store I go to.

It seems that the cashiers enjoy spreading germs all over everything I buy.

OK, maybe they don’t enjoy it, hell, they probably hardly even notice what they’re doing.

But I can’t help but notice that some of the cashiers have this DISGUSTING FUCKING HABIT of licking their fingers before pulling a plastic bag open.


And as their disgusting, germ-laden tongues coat their digits, and then move down to grab every item I purchased, including food I bought for my family, I’m picturing CSI-type zoom-ins of bacteria racing all over my stuff.

photo courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons. Click link to visit photographer’s page.

Bacteria that causes everything from the common cold to the next big plague!

What the hell?

And here’s the worst part, I never know what to do when a cashier does this.

I mean, the damage is done. They’ve already started ringing up my stuff. It’s not like I can call a manager over and say, “Hey, someone else ring my shit up!”

Can I?

So I started profiling cashiers, trying to figure out which among them were finger lickers.

As it turned out, it’s almost always women who do this. And it’s almost always older women. I don’t know why, or if it’s just a law of averages since most of the cashiers at the store are older women.

So, I started actively seeking out lines with either male cashiers or young female cashiers. Even if that line has 20 people in it, and the other line has two.

A few times, the front-end manager on duty has tried to get me to go to another line, and I said, “No thanks, I’m good here. I like waiting.”

One night I sidled up to the front end manager on duty, a cashier I like and talk to all the time when my son is with me, and who, I might add, never licks her fingers.

So I told her about the whole finger licking thing. It was stressing me out!

As I was speaking, I felt certain that she was going to think I was some nut job who has way too much free time. But instead, her eyes widened, and she said, “Oh my God, Corporate actually passed around a memo about that very thing. The cashiers know better.”

Then she explained that the reason the cashiers were licking their fingers was  because the bags were difficult for some people to open without wetting their hands. They USED TO have sponges at each register, but someone (probably corporate) decided to take the sponges away.

She also agreed that all the guilty finger lickers she’d noticed were the older female cashiers.

So I asked, “What do I do? I really don’t want to get anyone fired by complaining.”

She said I ought to complain, anyway.

So I said, OK, I will. Next time.


I’ve always liked older people. I often feel like I was born a generation too late, and enjoy talking with people who have totally different life experiences than I have. I know some old folks get a reputation for being cranky, but that’s not been my experience. In fact, most have been pretty nice to me, and are especially kind to my son (who is like a grandma/grandpa magnet!)

So I especially don’t want to get an older person in trouble by complaining to management.

I wound up in this cashier’s line, an older woman with a kindly smile who was probably somebody’s kindly grandmother, “How are you, today?” she asked with a smile so genuine and sweet, you’d think I was her son.

And then she stuck her fingers into her mouth, and the licking began.

FUCK! What do I do now?

I’m not going to complain and get some nice older lady fired! But what else can I do? I start rationalizing. She seems nice, she probably doesn’t have too many germs.

But I can’t help seeing the whole CSI close-up montage running through my mind.

I looked around for an answer, but no answer was to be found. All the other lines were full, and the front-end manager on duty was nowhere to be found, even if I wanted to complain. Then I watched as her germ-filled hand reached for my food.

She placed item after item into the bag as I pictured myself having to take everything out of the bags when I got home and wiping them down. Then, bag full, she went to lick her hands before getting another bag.

And then I did it…

I said, “Please don’t lick your fingers.”

She looked at me as if I’d just said, “I have a gun and give me all your money.”

The kind smile was replaced with a dour glare.

I then felt compelled to explain, “My son is sick (which was true) and I’m germ-phobic, and I don’t want germs all over our stuff.”

I may as well have just said, “No, really, it’s my fault, not yours. I’m an annoying Obsessive-Compulsive asshole.”

She proceeded to check my stuff out, without licking her fingers again (though the damage was done — God knows how many germs she had on her fingers from a full day of licking, licking and touching other people’s disgusting money, no less — it’s like a stew of sickness!)

And then I paid and left, feeling like the world’s biggest jerk.

I wanted to complain, but I didn’t want to get her in trouble.

I’d call corporate, but hell, they already know about the issue and apparently don’t care enough to enforce it… or fucking provide sponges!

And yes, I could go to another store, but this is the closest store to me, they have the stuff we want, and the prices are right. I also like many of the people at the store who I have come to know via years of small talk.

I shouldn’t have to go somewhere else.

And I shouldn’t have to be made to feel like an asshole just because I don’t want someone licking everything I buy. The whole thing just makes me feel anxious each time I get into a line.

A week or so later, the only line open was the woman I had chided. I watched as she waited on the people ahead of me, licking like crazy.


Do I really have to do this again?

And then another cashier went on duty — a young guy, no less!


I hopped into his line like my cart was on fire.

I put my stuff on the conveyor belt and watched in horror as his fingers went to his mouth.

The fucker was a finger licker!

* * * *

QUESTION: Am I nuts? Do finger lickers bother you? Leave a comment below. Or tell me things that annoy you when out shopping and make me feel a bit less like an asshole.

58 thoughts on “Finger Lickers!

Add yours

  1. Dude, I know this is insensitive, but I find this hilarious just because I know you and I can picture you freaking the fuck out internally while the finger-licking is going on.

    I can happily say I have NEVER experienced this, thank God. It would absolutely gross me the fuck out (though probably not to the same degree).

    You know what annoys the shit out of me when I’m shopping though? People who mistreat their kids. For some reason, the number one place I see this is at the supermarket. Probably because the kids keep asking for things, putting the parents on edge.

    But God help you if you yell at your kid or spank them in front of me. I’ll straight up call people out on that.

    Not as bad, but still annoying is when they completely ignore them. The kid is either crying, or asking for something, or going “Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, DADDYYY!” and the guy acts like the kid isn’t even there. Engage with your goddamn progeny! They’re the ones who will be taking care of you when you’re old and shitting yourself! You don’t want to end up in a nursing home, do you?

    1. Yeah, I hate those people, too. Every time I see that shit, I think, wow, there are people out there trying to have a child who would gladly adopt your burden, you asshole. Personally, I think there ought to be a license to have kids, something involving tests of intellect and mental stability. But if we started doing that, there would be a mass shortage of children.

      1. Totally agree here!!! I absolutely CAN’T stand to see a child verbally or emotionally abused which, in my opinion, is what this is! Children are precious gifts & s/b treated as such. (Off my soapbox now=] ).

  2. I have to confess that I have committed this crime…in the privacy of my own home…not in public…not in the workplace. I believe it is one of those things that is handed down from mother to child and habits are formed and you don’t even realize you are doing it, until someone points it out. There was a time a woman would lick her fingers and smooth down her child’s “Beaver” like cowlick just like June Cleaver did back in the day. It only lasts until the child finally pipes up and says, “enough with the licking”.
    Back to the plastic bags. They have all but been outlawed in Canada. People now bring their own bags to do the grocery shopping. We have a trunk full of cloth bags in each car…which we always forget and have to walk back to the car to get them unless we want to pay for plastic finger licking ones in the store.

    1. Yeah, sounds like I’m going to have to get a bags and do it myself. Even better, I might just grab a giant plastic box or two, the kind you store stuff in your garage in, and take those. Then it’s just one quick trip from the car to the house!

  3. I’m just like you, Dave and I solved the problem by telling them that I like to do the bagging myself , if they didn’t mind. None of them did so that
    is what I now do all the time.
    Hope this helps.

    1. Hi Chris,

      The bags in this particular store aren’t accessible to the customers, otherwise, I would. I actually enjoy bagging my own stuff. I’m quicker and I don’t mix bleach and bread like some cashiers have done.

  4. Dave, I’d bring my own bags if I were you. Bypass the problem completely. (It reminds me of people who complain about their mate rolling/mashing the tube of toothpaste in a non-pleasing way for them. Instead of fighting about it, why not buy 2 tubes of toothpaste?)

    Anyway, I’m currently living in Mexico, and while I haven’t noticed a ton of finger licking, my butcher handles money and meat without gloves. What’s stranger is that the tortilla factory lady does put a plastic bag over hand when she handles money.

    I’m pretty sure tortillas are less germified than raw meat. But when in Rome….

  5. I thought it was a valid post. I’ve had similar experiences where I’ve been shocked beyond words by senseless acts of unsanitary behavior, like the Seinfeld episode where Poppie neglects to wash his hands after using the toilet and Jerry refuses to eat the pizza, just shaking his head. My sister makes fun of me all the time, but It’s a tough spot to be in. I’m impressed with how you handled yourself, I might have moved to a different town, at the very least started shopping somewhere else. I’m only slightly kidding.

  6. Haha, man, that’s rough. I can relate. Still, there’s comfort in my quirkiness and ocd. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Crap, now I’m going to be looking for “lickers” wherever I go. The next couple days are going to be rough.

  7. I can’t say I’ve ever noticed the cashiers doing this…although I’m sure I’ll notice now. I, on the other hand am guilty of using this method to open a bag in the produce department. In my defense, I have already pulled the bag off the roll and I’m the one putting the food in the bag. Plus, my store has the wet wipes at the front so you can wipe down the cart handle and hands if you choose.

  8. I recommend you bring a sponge with you and let them use it when they are bagging your groceries. If that doesn’t work have a very public freak out and start screaming that there are finger lickers everywhere! Maybe the Finger Lickers can turn into a short story?

  9. While the finger licker’s germs on your stuff is gross and unsanitary, I couldn’t help thinking, “My God, she’s putting her finger in her mouth after touching all sorts of shit – the packaging, the til that’s been used by all sorts of mouth breathers, money” – the list goes on. She might as well touch a hotel room remote control device and lick a digit. Thanks for a new level of ewww.
    By the way, I know this isn’t the place to comment but I’m lazy. I love the SPP with you and Sean and Johnny. I’ve almost driven off the road laughing.

    1. Thanks for the SPP love. And yeah, I’m surprised that cashiers are alive with all the shit they touch. But hey, maybe ingesting all those germs is bolstering their immune systems. They’ll be the only things to survive the zombie apocalypse!

  10. Oh man, I so feel your pain here.

    My husband and I will only use self checkout to at least avoid the coughing, hacking, and finger licking cashiers. However, the rest of the zombies that walk around the store are equally as bad! It’s like people never heard of germs and how they spread.

    I’ve had people cough in my face, cough over food, sneeze into their hand and then check out the ingredients on the back of a package. I’ve gotten into an argument with a guy who stuck his hand in the bread bin when there were clearly tongs to use! People just seem to not care and go through life disgusting. I think it is only a small part of the population that really cares about spreading their own germs and having to touch, eat, and deal with other people’s germs.

  11. I hate to tell you but licking the fingers has got nothing on the “revolving belt of disease” that is the conveyor belt. They never clean it and all the blood from the meat leaks all over it and the bacteria on it is worse than the inside of a public toilet seat. I won’t put anything on it that goes straight to our mouths, like bread, or anything we have to touch and eat. It just grosses me out so bad!!! I make the cashier take it from my hands and put it straight into a bag. I refuse to put it on that filthy belt.

    1. I’ve actually seen cashiers wipe down the belts. Usually, it’s right before I’m about to put down something that can’t get wet, too. 🙂 Yeah, I wish all stores would start using those auto-checkout aisles. Then it never has to touch any licky fingers … well, except all the people who’ve touched it prior, but I don’t see them, so I pretend they don’t exist.

      1. Ignorance is bliss…so right! As long as I don’t see it, it is not so bad!

  12. I finally got over to read this. I heard bout it on the Podcast and they weren’t kidding with the length. I totally get it though. My son in particular is freaked out by germs and his hands being dirty etc. He would freak out if he saw something like that. I have to wash my hands whenever I touch pretty much everything, and I would totally have told her to cut it out.

    Good job Dave!

  13. Thanks, Carl. Sorry for the delay (to you, and others whose messages didn’t get approved immediately). I keep missing the message notifications.

    My son isn’t yet germphobic, so I try not to let him see me notice these things, so I don’t mess him up. Most of my neurosis began in 3rd or 4th grade when we had a teacher with major OCD who forced us to march to the bathroom like 10 times a day to wash our hands! IT was crazy! And by it, I mean HE was crazy.

  14. I’m right with you on the dirty bastards! I even alco wipe by shopping when I get home! They need naming and shaming! Your right about make staff not licking!


  15. LOL. I should get one of those black lights and run my food through it when I get home. But then I might not eat again. Which, come to think of it, might be a good diet strategy.

  16. Most grocery stores have antibacterial cart wipes at the entrance, so I take a bunch of them and wipe my food off if the cashier was spitting on it. One time a grocery worker yelled at me for taking them, I said that the cashier obsessively spat on my food and if he did not me alone, I would call the health department. I suggest calling your local health department and filing a complaint if this happens regularly at your grocery store.

  17. I try to use self check outs when possible. Lady at Walmart did that to my cart full of shit last night…licking her fingers multiple times while handling bags and my food. I had wayyy too much stuff to do self check out. I didn’t wanna be that asshole taking up the self check out with all of those groceries. Ugh. I was careful to use disinfectant wipes when I got home to wipe down certain packages of food…how exhausting. I know it’s hard to avoid germs in general, but the fresh saliva on my food is pretty gross. How can so many cashiers do this and not know how nasty it is. And most customers just seem to accept it.

  18. In the grocery store where I shop most frequently, about half the cashiers are finger lickers. Yuckkk. But at least I know, for the most part, which ones to avoid. (The store doesn’t have self-checkout.) Going to another store doesn’t help much. Finger-lickin’ cashiers are everywhere, although perhaps not in as high a ratio.

    Taking one’s own bags and loading them might be of some value, but only marginally if a cashier who’s been licking fingers to open other customers’ bags has to ring up your purchases.

    I often call them out on it. Somewhat discreetly. I doubt it works. They probably go right back to the nasty habit because many don’t even know they’re doing it. “Yes, you did. I SAW you.” Then I try to appeal to their self-interest by pointing out how unhealthy it is for them. “You’re handling packages of raw meat, medicines that sick people have touched, and perhaps worst of all, cash.” Then I go home and wash what I can and mark what I can’t wash with FL.

      1. I don’t think it’s an obsession of yours, although I wouldn’t want your son to develop OCD. But proper hand-washing is one of the best common-sense things he could do to avoid colds, flu and other diseases.

        I realize that when we go out into the world we’re exposed to many germs. Fine. Most of them bolster our immune system and we need exposure. But finger-lickers transferring their spit to my food … no thanks, it’s a true hazard.

    1. Yup..people licking and also touching raw meat juices and transferring it bothers me too. People are to free with germs. That is why so many American are sick and we have the highest number of sick people in the world too.

    2. Paper bags are the best. The cashiers do not need to like their fingers for that – so far..touch wood – especially the bags with handles. Plus, you can recycle paper better than plastic.

  19. I don’t think it’s an obsession of yours, although I wouldn’t want your son to develop OCD. But proper hand-washing is one of the best comon-sense things he could do to avoid colds, flu and other diseases.

    I realize that when we go out into the world we’re exposed to many germs. Fine. Most of them bolster our immune system and we need exposure. But finger-lickers transferring their spit to my food … no thanks, it’s a true hazard.

  20. I am also extreme too dave wright!! I lose my sanity over that nasty shit! I hate those finger lickers all over our groceries. I also fucking change lines too if I come across those finger licking bastards!!! I absolutely hate grocery shopping & those finger licking bastards are making it worse!! They have no goddamn courtesy concerning finger lickers


    1. That is why I love Walmart’s self check out so much! Plus, I sanitize my hands after touching the registers too!

  21. People that lick there fingers drive me absolutely nuts!!! Try eating at the dinner table with finger lickers. First, everyone is in line for food, the finger licking has already begun! They’re getting everyone of the dishes that you want. Sometimes I end up using the spoon that I’m supposed to eat with to spoon out the food or I’ll make a quick run to the restroom to wash my hands before I eat. Then I make it to the grub table after washing the germs off my hands. I’m laughing, talking having a great time, the food is fabulous, people are licking their hands at the dinner table! Suddenly, someone gets too carried away by laughing and giving me a slap on the arm or shoulder!! Where’s the Lysol, please!!!

    1. I guess most people are just plain disgustingly dirty. What about people handling trash and trash cans who never wash their hands. I have seen this and then they use the same hands to eat. Yukk!

  22. Oh, btw…Grocery store finger licking (or any public finger licking for that matter!) is most certainly GROSS! Wipe down your steering wheel, and don’t touch NOTHING after getting home from the grocery, until those hands are washed. People are extremely thoughtless!!

  23. It is my pet peeve so I enjoyed this immeasurably
    I detest when old men indulge in this filthy habit-
    and old women because I haven’t seen younger people do it but why can’t they put a folded piece of paper towel, dampened on the side of the register- I have also seen not so old people coming into my store and have asked me for tissue paper for a gift and they proceed to lick, lick, lick each sheet to separate- There is something horrible about watching people put their first two fingers up to their lips and do a sort of quasi spit onto the fingers and then go frantically flipping a page in a newspaper or something else.
    The worst thing ever, was a store I was at in Berkeley the older man behind the counter was trying to put my credit card through and it kept being declined-I knew I had money so I asked them to try again- a younger woman took the card and spat on the back of it and rubbed it on her bum pocket and then it did go through !! I wish I could have said something but I didn’t want to embarrass her-
    I give you credit for telling the cashier to NOT lick -I don’t think I could do it so I just trudge home with some stranger’s DNA all over my bags.

    1. When someone even has to TOUCH my card, as soon as I get home I get a Lysol wipe, it gets a very good wipe down – I have no idea where their hands have been!!! I won’t even put my card in the usual place, with my drivers license etc bc I don’t want the germs to spread. I CANNOT stand for anybody to lick their fingers to give me ANYTHING! She spit on your card?? Ewwwww!!!

  24. Great post and I can totally relate to your disgust. Even worse, I have seen bank tellers do this while they’re counting the germ ridden money or grabbing receipts (which they promptly stamp and hand back to you, saliva and all…) There is a wonderful product called Kwik Sort (aka Tacky Finger) which is available at most office supply and discount stores. Businesses should be required to place containers at every work station and then require their employees to use the stuff.

  25. I understand about your issue, but I have to say you are surrounded by germs all the time. You yourself are full of germs no matter how often you use the antibacterial stuff or wash your hands. When you handle money you get germs. Using the shopping cart you get germs. Touching any door handles, including your car you get germs. Germs help us stay healthy, that’s how we keep our immune systems healthy. I’m sure you don’t wash your child’s face before you kiss them on the cheek or the forehead. As to the reason they might lick their fingers is because older women usually have dry hands and it’s hard for them to get grip enough to open the bags. Even if they use the sponges or the gel like stuff, those are just as bad. Sponges hold mold and other germs in them. Imagine all the people who stick their fingers in those and what they have touched. You might as well put yourself and your family in plastic and don’t touch the world.

    1. If they made portable plastic suits, I probably would put myself in one.

      And yes, I’m aware that everything has germs and exposure is healthy to an extent (also why I don’t use antibacterial stuff).

      But my OCD is rather irrational, and it doesn’t allow me to be any less disgusted by gross people licking their fingers and then touching my stuff.

  26. While we are surrounded by germs – the dose, often makes the poison. As someone who has a compromised immune system it does bother me when I am at a friends house who licks fingers with shared food or in food preparing. I think it is rude and thoughtless. Also, when one is sick why not wear a face mask to protect others? I noticed in a recent visit to the ER that they have them in their waiting room. My best strategy is to wear face-masks myself in places such as airplanes and other high-risk situations. I never put my finders in my mouth or eyes and use a cloth. I am learning to share my concerns with friends because if I don’t, I simply cannot take the risk of being ill for 4 weeks from a cold that others might have for 7 days.

  27. You’re not alone. I’m a female and don’t care about “sparing feelings” anymore. I’ve even straight-up labeled the finger-lickers “disgusting” to their faces within earshot of others. I think it can shame them if others hear it. This is the only thing that will stop it.
    The lady you admonished wasn’t shamed enough into being self-conscious enough to stop her disgusting behavior.
    Just today, a cashier (young man) absent-mindedly picked his nose. I said in a packed Trader Joe, “You should not pick your nose” and then I dramatically sprayed my receipt with sanitizer.
    Fuqk them! I don’t want to spare their feelings; I want to spit in their fuqking faces!

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