Saturday, February 25, 2012


You knew it was coming sooner or later...

My first three hours on the register last night were the worst half-shift I've pulled in my nine months as a cashier. Absolute worst. Hands down. I was needing some scream therapy by the time I headed toward the back of the store for break. And so, Dear Shopper, here is a view from the other side of my register...

We call it the Crap Shift. We work 5:00-ish p.m. to around midnight. There are day cashiers, who head home at five to fix dinner and spend the evening with their families. There are the overnight-ers, who wake from their sleep just before the sun goes down, slam energy drinks, and walk in bright-eyed for the midnight shoppers. Then there are those of us on the Crap Shift. We come in right on the heels of our "day jobs" - some cook lunch for your kids at the elementary school; some tend your babies at day care; some are students who were up all last night studying for an 8:00 exam, classes all day, and now, five-and-a-half dazed hours standing on concrete scanning a ever-flowing river of groceries. We all have one thing in common: we're coming in tired. And we're here just in time for the big evening rush.

You, Dear Shopper, are tired, too. You're on your way home from work, hauling kids who are strung out from too much time sitting in a classroom. All you want is to get your groceries and get out of Mega Mart, go home, eat dinner, and crash on the couch. I understand. I feel exactly the same way. Only I've got five more hours of lifting suitcases of soda and buckets of kitty litter. Then I can shop for my own groceries and head home for a short breather. Another difference between us: I really need to maintain a cheerful attitude, while you maybe feel free to vent by being irritable or rude. Here are a few tips to make the check out process pleasanter for both of us...

Learn to count to 20. If that sounds too difficult, count to 10 twice. Hint: if you actually have to stop and begin digging through your cart to see if you are over the limit for the express check-out, just head for a big belt. I'm not equipped for large orders, and the process will be slower at my "Speedy" check-out (slower for you and all the irritated customers behind you) than if you stood in line behind one other large order at a regular register. Trust me.

Tip 2: If you have limited funds with which to pay for your order, try to have an idea how much your order is going to cost before you get to the register. When I'm buying groceries, I round prices to the next highest dollar and keep a running tally of my total. When I finish scanning your 47 items (because you forgot to count to 20 before getting in the Express lane) and your total bill is twice the cash you have in your purse, no one in a fifteen foot radius is going to be happy when you start asking me to dig items out of your bags and void them off, one at a time, until we count down to the amount you meant to spend. Yes, I'm smiling and putting on a cheerful face, but I'm also fighting a mighty urge to smash your potato chips and bread. Because, when you head for the parking lot, I get to pay for your rude negligence while I'm checking out the frustrated, grouchy people in line behind you.

Tip 3: Do NOT let your little darlings play with the bag carousel. Sooner or later, somebody is going to get hurt. You may not care if it's me ( which it usually is), but surely you don't want your toddler impaled on a bag holder. Hang in there and do the tough job of parenting for a few minutes longer - you'll be home in 15-20 minutes and then you can turn them loose in the yard.

Tip 4: If you think there is a problem with your order, I really do want to make things there's no need to get ugly. My Dad used to say, "You win more bees with honey than with vinegar." Being rude to me, to my CSM, and to my front-end manager is no way to get what you want. If you're pleasant, you can bet we'll go the extra mile to keep you happy. Start cursing and calling us names and you can just bet you're not going to get that vacuum cleaner for half of the marked price. You may, however, get personally escorted from the store.

Tip 5: Imagine that your cashier, like you, is human. You aren't ever going to know that the pretty girl smiling across the register is a single mom struggling to make ends meet, and that she's stressed about being two weeks late on the rent. That the young man bagging your groceries just found out today his parents are filing for divorce. That the lady handing you your receipt tonight won't be here tomorrow because she'll be flying out to arrange her sister's funeral. We'll smile and say "Thank you" and "Have a great day!" - but some of us have heavy hurts and broken hearts underneath. Just be aware that we have real lives and real problems, just like you.

Tip 6: If you're into playing the Extreme Coupon game, please don't assume that I want to lose my job so that you can score big on your check-out total. Don't you think that's asking a little much? Quit trying to work the system. Just stop it. And No, I'm not going to sell this case of sodas to you for half price because you think "No one in their right mind would pay that much for a case of Cokes!"

Tip 7: If you absolutely can't help being rude or ignorant, please don't be both at the same time. If you're rude to me, I can be polite. If you're ignorant, I can be patient and explain something to you. But if you hit me with both at the same time, I feel overwhelmed. Like a deer in the headlights. And don't assume that because you don't understand something, it must be because I'm stupid. I did a quick survey of my co-workers last night, when I was fighting to maintain some semblance of sanity, and there wasn't a single stupid person in the bunch. Actually, quite an intelligent, industrious, personable group of folks working the registers, every single one of them more than a match mentally for the irate woman who shouted "I'm not ignorant! I'm not paying $6.00 for these cookies! You get a store manager over here and tell him I want these marked down to $3.00!" Makes you wonder what this woman does when she has a real crisis on her hands.

There's a silver lining to every cloud...not really, but I'm trying to make a transition.

Here's a big Thank You! to the two 60-ish sisters who came through my line late last night with their small orders. When I finished checking out the second lady (whose order included, among other things, a tube of "personal lubricant"), her sister laughed, "What? No price check?" The second sister giggled.

"I'm sorry - did you need a price checked on one of these items?" I began looking through the bag hanging beside me on the carousel.

"No," joked Sister 1. "We were just laughing about how embarrassed we would get way back when we were both newlyweds, whenever we had to buy condoms. Seems like there always had to be a price check if we bought condoms."

"They'd just blare it out over the intercom for everybody in the store to hear. So embarrassing! It was awful," laughed Sister 2.

Which led to a very silly conversation between the three of us that left me in tears. "I really needed a good laugh - thank you both so much for coming through my line tonight."

"You have a great rest of the night," commented Sister 1 as they turned to leave.

Thanks to these two lovely, cheerful ladies, I did.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking to the masses.

As our mother says, "Always remember that half of the people are dumber than the other half. And if you are in the top two percentile of intelligence, then 98% of the people you meet are dumber than you."

I'm your brother, and I love you!