Monday, November 11, 2013


When I was shopping at Wal-Mart last Thursday, I reached the front of the store with my cart full of groceries to find only four registers open and about a bajillion customers waiting to check out. I looked for the shortest line and queued up. When only one customer remained between me and my goal of checking out, I noticed that the cashier's light was off, indicating that she was trying to close down her register. Silly me! I backed out of that check-out line and started the waiting game over in a different line.

Another customer, undoubtedly frustrated by the long lines, commented to me, "Well, you'd think she'd at least finish checking out the customers already in her line!"

Which leads to today's post -

I used to work as a cashier at a mega-discount store, and I learned a few things every customer needs to know, especially during the busy holiday season:

That cashier who was trying to shut down her register last Thursday? If she would "at least finish checking out the customers already in her line," she would never leave her register. Never, ever, ever. Got that? As long as she stands there and scans groceries, someone else will be queuing up way down the line of customers. The line doesn't end, people, when you pay your bill and walk out of the store: there will always be another somebody behind you. Got that?

Registers at our local Wal-Mart - and I suspect at most larger chains - are connected to a main computer system that automatically locks the register if a cashier has been working a certain length of time without a break. Why? Because cashiers do feel pressured to take just one more customer - indefinitely - until they've worked way over their scheduled number of hours. Or until they've been standing in the same spot for four and a half hours without a bathroom break. As a cashier, if my register locks up and shuts down, I don't care how much you want me to check you out or if you've only got two items:  there's nothing I can do to help you, even if I stand there and press buttons until I'm blue in the face.

The scene I encountered Thursday afternoon is nothing unusual. Admit it: we have all asked the question, "If they have twenty-three registers, why are only two of them open?" The person checking out your groceries serves an endless stream of customers, most of whom are at least mildly frustrated by the time they reach her because they've been standing in line for 15+ minutes and they're in a hurry.

However, that cashier has zero influence over how many registers are kept open. She has absolutely no control over how long you're going to have to wait in line to check out. She does not choose when she will take a break or close her register. But, when customers reach that cashier, they invariably complain to her that more registers need to be opened, that the lines are too long, that service isn't fast enough, blah, blah, blah. Can you just imagine how edifying it is to stand at a register for five or six or eight hours and listen to this same negative litany over and over and over? You think your cashier is less cheerful than she ought to be? Have you ever thought that maybe there's a reason? (An aside here: if you want to express your frustration over the long lines and a shortage of cashiers, call the store's management department to voice your opinion, instead of griping to the cashier.)

One more note: the cashier checking out your groceries is a human being, created in the image of God. Don't forget that. Instead of standing in line thinking about how irritated you are because you're tired and things are moving so slowly, try to get outside of your own little head and see the situation from a different perspective. Try to imagine what it's like standing on the other side of the register.

In closing, when you go grocery shopping this week, or when you run by Wally World on the way home from work to pick up deodorant and cat litter, or when you finally tackle your Christmas gift list - treat your cashier with courtesy, even if you think you've been standing in line too long. Put away your cell phone. Make eye contact and say "Hello." Try to make pleasant, upbeat small talk. Ask your cashier how her day is going. When she hands you your receipt, tell her "thank you" or that you hope the rest of her shift goes well.

In short, treat your cashier the way you would like to be treated yourself.

You'll both be glad you did!

1 comment:

troal said...

Ah, these times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
And people filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive
in such a graceless age?
-Don Henley