Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the other hand ....

I realize I offended several of you in the retail industry by my last post ..... but I unapologetically stand by my opinion. Cashiers who kvetch about their job, boss, work schedule or co-workers in front of customers are rude and unprofessional. (and did I mention I don't give a shit???)

Thank you to Jen for pointing out (since a few of you seemed to miss it) that I was ranting against bad cashiers who are under the (extremely misguided) impression that I have an interest in their personal life, or in how many more hours until they get off, or in how much they hate their job. Or their boss. Or their co-workers. Or the company they work for in general. And I have no clue how the comments got hi-jacked to a rant about welfare, but somebody missed my point completely.

Cashiers who are competent, knowledgeable, capable, and friendly are worth their weight in gold. And because I used to BE one, I will share with you a few thing from the other perspective .... bearing in mind that I was a retail cashier back in the olden days before scanners and upc codes, when we had to ring up the items (gasp!) by hand by punching numbers on a giant cash register, and calculate discounts and percentages in our heads (math!), and memorize each week's sales circular because the machines didn't automatically reduce prices (brain power!), and we not only bagged the groceries for the customers, and carried them out to their cars,** but also emptied the carts ourselves onto the conveyor belt, oh my aching back .... **ok, so technically, the cashiers rarely carried groceries out to the cars, that's why God invented "baggers", hello, dashing 21-yr old Blaine Escoe, so nice to meet you and yum that you got assigned to my lane that fateful night at work .... but I digress.

Tips and pointers from cashiers to clueless shoppers to make this holiday season (or hell, make any day of the year) go more smoothly in the retail world:

1. If you are not sure if something is on sale, ask before I finish ringing up a hundred other items. Don't ask me to dig back through your shit to find out what the sale price was. Ask up front, it will save us both a whole lot of time.

2. Don't try to pass me expired coupons on purpose (yes, again, back in the day before they were scanned and automatically denied as expired.) If I point out to you that one (or more) of your coupons is expired, believe me, it's embarrassing for me, too. Just take it back and let's move on.

3. For the love of Pete, don't wait until I've finished ringing up a two hundred dollar grocery order to get out your checkbook and start writing your check. (I suppose in this day and electronic age, I should amend that to "get out your debit card") Have that thing filled out except for the amount so we can move on and both get on with our lives.

4. I am a captive audience while I am ringing up your order. I realize that, and don't mind at all when you talk to me during this time about things. In fact, it relieves the monotony of my job. However, please understand that the more I participate in this conversation, the slower I will go. (I feel the need to mention AGAIN that this was back in the day when we rang items up by hand and couldn't stand, facing our customers the entire time.) Also, as a courtesy to the customers behind you, please be aware that when I am done ringing you up and you have paid, it is time to bid one another a fond farewell and move on.

5. Do not eat a banana while you are shopping and then hand me the peel and ask me to weigh it. Seriously? Are you kidding me??? Yes, this happened on more than one occasion ... same goes for people handing me an empty bunch of grapes and telling me you ate them while you shopped. First, how the hell am I supposed to charge you for something that is priced by weight? And secondly, GROSS .... did you WASH those things before you started chowing down?? On the other hand, eating a snack or drinking a Nestle Quick chocolate milk (ahem) while you're shopping and handing me the empty packaging with the reminder to charge you is fine.

I believe that most retailers simply want to sell their items in a (hopefully) clean store, at a fair price, and stand behind their merchandise. Cashiers should be representative of that.

I believe that most customers simply want to buy what they want to buy, in a (hopefully) clean store, at a fair price, from a supplier who stands behind their merchandise.

So to that end, let's make a deal.

As a customer, I promise not to badger the cashier for something that is clearly not his/her fault. I will not roll my eyes or make snotty comments for things that are out of the cashier's hands. I will not take my cruddy day out on the cashier who just happens to be standing there when it's time for me to check out.*** I will be prepared with my payment, and if I have questions, go directly to the source (ie, Customer Service) that is better equipped to handle inquires or problems or concerns. ***you guys know I would never do any of thost things, right? I might be sarcastic at times here on the blog, but with the exception of one completely incompetent Geek Squad employee a few years ago who basically trashed my home computer, I have pretty much never taken my anger or frustration out on an employee. Wellllllll, there was that JC Penny episode many years ago, but that was TOTALLY the cashier's fault and I'm not taking the blame for that one, either. But besides THOSE two times, I am the ideal customer.

As a (former) cashier, I promise to do my job to the best of my ability, without bringing one iota of my personal life, feelings, or comments to the customer. I will greet you courteously and promptly, and then I will set about doing my job. I might think you are the dumbest, most annoying customer on the planet, but I will remember to do my job professionally. I also promise to remember that I am representing my co-workers, boss, and the company I work for .... so even if some shit goes wrong that is totally, 100% NOT my fault, I will still apologize to the customer on behalf of my employer because it is the proper thing to do. Then I will go in the employee breakroom and draw your face with devil horns on the bathroom wall ----- but in public, I will remember to be a professional, because it's my job and I'm getting paid to do it.

Deal, pickle?

Besides the retail store (like a Wal-Mart, but not Wal-Mart) that I worked for in high school and college, I also did a brief retail stint at a Lerners when I was sixteen. I hated that job, and sucked at it. I barely knew how to dress myself, let alone offer shopping advice to other grown-up women. The final straw came the day they made me stand out front of the store, passing out credit card applications, with a "Ms. Lerner" sash across my chest like in the Miss America pageant. I gave my notice that day.


Julie said...

You are right on with your thoughts. I figure anyone who goes shopping this weekend and then gets upset about the lines is stupid. What did you really think it was going to be like? I always try to be very friendly to the cashiers because I know they have had a long day with a lot of bitchy coworkers, customers, etc.

I am the swim lesson director at a local pool in the summer. We were having some major problems with our custodian and trying to deal with them (get enough on him so we could fire him). He did something very bad and my data clerk apologized to the parent for it happening. The mother yelled at my clerk and told him to NEVER apologize for another person. I just sat their with my mouth open. I always thought it was the polite thing to do whether it was your fault or not. Oh well!

Anonymous said...

Loved the last two posts!

I haven't done retail since high school many, many moons ago. My daughter, however, is an ASM for one of those national book stores and she has the best stories about the worst behaving people. So when we shop together, she kicks me if I behave badly to a clerk and tells me after the fact when they've gone over the edge and around the bend.

I've done all my Christmas shopping online. The grocery store and the post office are enough for me!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Cathy said...


LOVE the part about going in the break room and drawing horns...we often went in the back and "looked" for merchandise but we were really screaming and swearing about the customers on the floor!

Happy Thanksgiving Escoes!

Santa Clara

Renee said...

Amen, sister. Love your rules for customers and retail workers. It doesn't take much to be EFFICIENT and FRIENDLY as a cashier, does it?
Write on, Kristie.
Happy Thanksgiving to the entire gang and hugs to Blaine!

Rosemary said...

Pleasantly surprised to see another entry.. you always always make me laugh. I love both of these posts..

Just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours..

Hope that Blaine is feeling great..

Anonymous said...

I do feel the need to comment on this - i worked in retail through high school and part of college, and part of the training at BOTH companies was to make "conversation" with the customers. In fact, if you were not attempting to make conversation, then you got written up. And talking with most people i know who work in retail, its pretty much expected now that you make conversation. And sometimes, the 16-, 17-, 20- year old cashier DOESN'T know how to make conversation with older, slightly pissed off looking customers and the only thing that comes to their mind is something relevant to their life. So cut them some slack.

however, hail your rules for customers. i once had a customer get so nasty with me that i was crying hysterically and had to leave the register. and don't even get me started on the customer who refused to let me check him out until i accepted Jesus as my only Lord and savior. i still roll my eyes just thinking about it.

Pam D said...

Kristie, I think most of us "got" it. I've worked several retail jobs, as well as working customer service for a major package delivery company, and there are employees who "get" it, and some who don't. You were addressing the latter, and you fully appreciate the former, and I, for one, completely understand your previous post. Preach it, sister!

Dianna in Louisiana said...

I TOTALLY, TOTALLY, TOTALLY Agree Kristie!!!!! The fact that someone works in retail does not give them the excuse to badger customers with their frustrations. I do, however, love the impromptu, fun conversations that I have with some cashiers, etc.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

fj said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tracey in Calgary said...

Happy Turkey Day, missy and thanks for the laughs :-) (I've worked retail too, really, who hasn't?)

Marisa said...

You did not offend me. I am still cracking up at your post about shopping and YOU DON"T GIVE A SHIT!
I cannot even imagine what tomorrow will be like and I am PRAYING that "I" being the new cashier, if I screw up and see a woman tapping her foot and rolling her eyes, that I will think of you and smile!!

Anonymous said...

I adored your post but I love humor and sarcasm. I know it isn't for everyone. I actually started following your post because you made me laugh on a very long and sleep deprived day!! THANK YOU