Cutting the Express Lane: What Would You Do?

OK, tell me if this has ever happened to you. You're at the supermarket to pick up a couple of things and you head to the express checkout line. Who is in front of you in line, but a shopper to whom the rules apparently do not apply. The sign reads: "Ten items or less." But this selfish shopper has a cart filled to the top with groceries, easily surpassing the limit.

So, what do you do?

Watch the story Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC's "What Would You Do?"

That is the question shoppers at Stew Leonard's, a popular Yonkers, N.Y., supermarket had to answer when they were confronted with a haughty shopper who had pushed her way into the express line with a cart overflowing with groceries.

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Will Anyone Respond?

One shopper seemed to do a double take, looking first at the woman's cart, then the big sign that read: "10 ITEMS OR LESS" and then back at the cart. But she said nothing.

When the inconsiderate shopper complained to the man in front of her about the slowness of the line, he held his tongue, too.

But then a woman with short gray hair broke the ice. "Are you in express?"

"Oh, they don't mind," the shopper said.

"But if I'm in express, I do," said the woman, clearly annoyed.

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The unpleasant exchange was interrupted by a burly young man with a shaved head carrying just a few items.

"Is this the express line?" he asked.

"Yes," said the angry woman, "except this lady says she's going to be really fast."

"Really?" the man said.

"Yeah," she said and then turned to the shopper: "You're really rude."

When the young woman finally made it through the checkout, we told her she had been part of a "What Would You Do?" experiment to see how people would respond to rude and discourteous shoppers in the express line. The arrogant woman with the overflowing shopping cart was really an actor, hired by ABC. The young man with the shaved head was an actor, too.

Bait and Switch!

Once we saw how shoppers responded to the woman with the overstuffed cart, we decided to change things up a bit. An older woman -- a grandmother -walked toward the front of the express line holding two items. She approached a woman near the front of the line.

"Excuse me," she said. "Would you mind if I go ahead of you? My husband's in the car and he gets so anxious if I'm a little bit late."

"Yeah," said the woman. "Go ahead."

As she cut the line, the old lady turned around to look behind her and beckoned her son, that young man with the shaved head, who was pushing an overloaded shopping cart, toward the front of the line. When the woman who had let the old lady in line saw the full shopping cart, she'd had enough.

"Oh, that can't go there," she said. "This is express. Ten items or less!"

"But my husband's so anxious," the old woman replied.

"You know what? I'm just as anxious to get out. You were all right with two items, but I'm not letting you in." She then turned to a cashier at a distant register. "Are you empty over there?"

"Little old people, they have nothing else to do all day," Tina Sharp, also a grandmother, said after we told her she has been part of our experiment. "They can't wait in line?"

One Final Twist

After that response, we couldn't wait to see how shoppers would react when we replaced the old lady actress with a much younger actress, a very pregnant younger woman.

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