I haven’t been blogging as frequently as I’d like . . . sorry about that.
I have a new job now, and there is a bit of downtime on occasion, so hopefully I can get back to weekly blogs again. The plan is to also finish my book.
But since I am fresh off my old job, I thought I’d share some words of wisdom about my experience. I hate to say the name of where I was working, but I will say it was a grocery store. Rhymes with “Foal Dudes.” A cool, hip, grocery store. It was one of those high-tiered, organic-minded places. One of my favorite stores, actually – and still is even after “pulling the curtain back” and seeing behind the scenes.
I mean, it was corporate, so there was that bullshit to deal with. And they hired everyone at part-time, with the promise they’d promote to full-time if you were diligent and worked hard. I was there five months. Number of people they promoted to full-time while I was there: zero. Number of us who were diligent and worked hard: I’d say 85%. They just kept hiring more and more part-time people. I think I was part of a group of 20 they hired for the Christmas season.
For cashier work, it paid decently, and was something to tide me over for the time being. My standard joke was, “Yes, I’m a cashier – it’s exactly why I got a masters degree.” The person I told the joke to would either look empathetic because they too were underemployed, or look horrified at the idea the economy is still so bad there’s a large group of us who ARE underemployed. Sadly, no one I told the joke to laughed.
ANYWHO, I felt completed to write a blog about my experience there, and since these list formats are still so popular on blogs, I formatted it that way. So without further ado:
Ten Things You Need to Stop Doing at the Freaking Grocery Store
- Wash your reusable bags.
Oh my freaking gads, wash those things. It’s wonderful you’re concerned about the environment. I think it’s great. I’m also amused by the fun and funky bags some of the customers bought in.
But these bags hold food. And they get gross. It was about 10% of the time I took a bag from a customer and winced when I opened it, but that’s 10% too much. Toss that puppy in the washing machine, or hit it with a cleaning wipe.
Side story, one of my cashier buddies told me she found underwear in a bag. While there’s a good possibility that’s just voyeuristic behavior, EW ANYWAY.
- Speaking of bags – use produce bags, please.
Yes, I think it’s wonderful you’re saving the environment from a small thin piece of biodegradable plastic, but your apples are rolling all over the damn belt and it’s a pain in the ass to wrangle them. I particularly loved the customers who would dump all their produce in a big pile and I’d have to sort through it. It was just a time suck – someone would come through with ten oranges, and I’d have to pick them up, two at a time, carefully place them on the scanner, keep them from rolling off, weigh them, then place them in a bag two at a time. Took forever, and your fruits and veggies are rolling around on that nasty belt – which gets absolutely BLACK during the day. And adding root vegetables with dirt hanging off it (the beets were always the worst) or netted bags of brussels sprouts with water clinging to the sides just made the belt grosser. There are reusable product bags that are wonderful for keeping produce in its place, and they’re environmentally friendly! See number one about keeping them clean, however.
- Stop asking me how I am.
Customer, finishing putting their items on the belt: “How are you today?”
Me: “Well, my back and neck hurt, I did not write a 50 page thesis paper and attend grad school for two years to ring up your fucking sweet potatoes (that are NOT in a produce bag), my aisle still smells like beer because someone dropped a six pack over here this morning, and I’ve been asked 200 times how I am today. But thanks for asking, how are you?”Yeah. I never did that, but I certainly wanted too. Most times I answered, “Hanging in there – yourself?” After I was there a couple of months, I tried a different tactic. I simply didn’t answer them. I wasn’t rude, I still made eye contact and smiled, I just did not answer their question. And it didn’t make a bit of difference in the transaction. You don’t care how I am. I don’t care how you are. We just want to be pleasant to each other and make this transaction go quickly and smoothly and both get on with our lives. A simple, “Hello!” or “Hi,” will do nicely in this situation.
- Pay attention when I ask you a question.
*customer sets one item on the belt*
Me *beeps item* : Would you like a bag for this?
Customer: Oh, no – that’s ok, thanks.
Me: That’ll be $11.27.
Customer *hands me money*
Me *hands them receipt*: Have a nice afternoon.
Customer: Can I have a bag for this?
- Do not beat me up because you’re having a bad day.
Fortunately, the clientele at Foal Dudes is a little higher class than some of my previous retail experiences. (I’m looking at you, Wal-Mart. That’s the seventh layer of hell for retail workers, right there.) Most everyone that crossed my line at this grocery store were happy to be there – chattering about the freshness of the organic strawberries, or cheery about the free samples on aisle 2, or pleased the flowers are so fresh. They’re always fresh – it’s amazing to me how fantastic their flower section is.But every once in a blue moon I’d get some asshat who’s goal was to ruin someone else’s day because they were having a bad one. I actually kinda enjoy those customers because they broke up the monotony of my day (and OH THE MONOTONY – in fact, I think I’ll make that #6. . .) and they made me realize I have developed a backbone in my adult years.There was a lady at Wal-Mart, I will never forget her, who started yelling at me from the moment she hit my belt. I managed to get through the order and not cry, (I was 19), but when she stormed off to report me to the managers, I had to stop a minute before ringing up the next customer because I was shaking so badly. One of my managers came over, and she was flabbergasted. She knew the lady was wrong, I was one of her favorite employees. She asked if I was ok, and the customers in front of me told the manager I did nothing wrong – that the lady was crazy. That was *MUFFLED* years ago, and I can still see that bitch’s face screaming at me. She rattled me quite badly.
I had someone similar come through my line at the organic grocery store, and while she was slightly less crazy, she did try and try and try to get a rise out of me, and I simply did not let her do it. I even looked her dead in the eyes and told her, “I am very sorry you are upset, but there’s nothing I can do for you except listen to your complaints. If you’d like to go to the customer service desk, they can also listen to your complaints.” When she walked off, I realized her sole intent was to piss me off, and by not letting her rattle me, it pissed her off even worse. Hooray!
- Realize we are human beings being put through a hamster wheel of monotony.
I worked with people who had been there for years. I don’t know how they did it. I asked the same questions over and over and over and over and said the same phrases so much I wanted to flip a table.
– “Would you like your meat in a separate bag?”
– “Can we help you out to your car today?”
– “Is this conventional or organic?”
– “Sorry, we have a chip reader. Just put your card in the bottom there.”
– “Yes, it’s a chip reader.”
– “Card machine is right here.”
– Customer: “It says chip malfunction.” Me: “It does that – just take it out and try it again.”
– *credit card machine makes angry beep* Customer: “Can I just swipe it?” *swipes chip card* Me: “No, you have to let it malfunction three times before you can swipe it. Otherwise it starts all over after the swipe.” *credit card machine makes more angry beeps*
– *credit card machines makes repetitive pleasant beeps while flashing PLEASE REMOVE CARD as customer stands oblivious* Me: “You can go ahead and remove your card.”Over and over and over and over. Oh my fucking god. One day I simply couldn’t do it. I could not ask anymore people if they wanted their meat in a separate bag. I quit asking. It was blissful – for about four hours. Then a bagger (known as a “cashier’s assistant” came over to help me, and first question out of their mouth to the customer was, “Would you like your meat in a separate bag?”
- FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY IF THE ITEM WON’T SCAN DO NOT MAKE THE JOKE THAT IT’S FREE.
This rule applies to any retail store anywhere. It was funny the first year or two barcode scanners became a thing. It’s not funny anymore.
- Do not bring a cartful of items into the express lane.
I do not give a shit how much of a hurry you are in or how important you think you are or how small you think our line is. Our line is small because the transactions are:
That’ll be $15.69, please.
Thank you, have a nice afternoon!If you bring a 15 minute transaction through my line you fuck up the whole thing. And do you think people get mad at you? No. They arrive at me, frustrated, and take their frustration out on me. You’re long gone and don’t care.
- Do not do an exorbitant amount of drugs or alcohol before you come to the grocery store.
So it’s 10:00. We’re closed. The lights are starting to go off in the store. A young couple is slowly pushing their cart through the aisles, oblivious to the closing routine around them. I am the last cashier on the clock. There are two cashier’s assistants and a manager waiting at the customer service desk. The couple rounds the aisle. We all perk up. They head down the next aisle. We all droop again.FINALLY its 10:15 and they arrive at my register. Slowly, they push their cart up, stop and stare at the contents for a minute, then begin unloading things on the belt. I begin ringing them up. The guy stands in front of the credit card machine. She continues unloading things on the belt, but stops halfway through. I ring everything up on the belt and in my polite customer service voice ask, “Is this two separate transactions?”
“What?” he blinks at me.”
Is this two separate transactions?” I politely ask again. Dude looks at the girl, clearly confused. She finally answers.
“Are you buying the things still in the cart here?” I maintain the customer service voice.
“Yes,” she says.
“Then I need them up here on the belt so I can ring them up,” I said. My manager has head-desked on the customer service counter.
She slowly puts the rest of the items on the belt and I get everything rung up and bagged. “That’ll be $87.22, please,” I say.
I then go through the yes-it’s-a-chip-reader-no-don’t-swipe-it conversation.
His card is declined.
“I’m sorry sir, your card isn’t accepted. Do you have another form of payment?”
“Your card has been declined. Do you have another form of payment?”
“Well, that can’t be right.” AND HE RUNS THE CARD AGAIN.
They then proceed to stand there and stare at each other.
After ten minutes of them asking each other what they want to do, my manager has turned no less than 40 shades of red in the background and head-desksed twice more. The girl finally turns to me, takes a deep breath, thinks a minute, then asks, “Ok, so – is there a phone I can use?”
My customer service voice has become slightly frosty. “I’m sorry?”
“Yeah. A cell phone.” Pause. “That I can use.” Pause. “So I can log into my account and transfer money from one account that doesn’t have money – into another that does have money?”
It’s 10:35 by now. The store has been fucking closed for 35 minutes. All traces of pleasant customer service voice was gone by this time.
“No.” Little shards of ice dropped off the word as I said it.
Somehow they came up with another card, paid for the groceries, and FINALLY left the store.
I’m well aware they were higher than kites. And that’s all well and good. AS LONG AS YOU’RE NOT PISSING OFF PEOPLE IN A STORE BY MAKING THEM WAIT 45 MINUTES PAST CLOSING TIME TO GO HOME.
Now there was another guy who came through my line, clearly on cocaine or something that sped him right up. He was brilliant. Zip-zip-zip right on out of there. Although he did come through my line three times. And the gal behind me twice. And I saw him on the other side of the store buying more stuff later on.
Seriously, don’t come to the grocery store fucked up. It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.
- Try not to micromanage us.
My favorite interaction at the store. . .Customer: *as I’m putting item in the bag* “No-no-no- do it this way.”
Me: *doing it that way even though it will crush the items* “There you are, sir.”
Customer (not unpleasantly): “I worked as a cashier, I know what I’m talking about.”
Me: “Of course.” *hands receipt* “Have a nice day!”
*customer walks off*
Cashier next to me: *muttering* “Worked as a cashier . . . what the fuck you think we’re doing here, dude?!??!”
So that’s my list.
Or at least the stuff rattling around in my brain at the moment.
Did I miss something? Cashiers – feel free to weigh in here. We all have horror stories from being in the trenches. I’ve long said everyone should be required to work at least three months in retail or food service. The world would be full of kinder, gentler, customers.