This is a letter straight from the trenches, from the pen of one of the poor souls manning a cash register in our fair city. Despite the fundamental flaw in our relationship-I want your money and you don’t want to give it to me-I propose a truce. You and I have an amazing opportunity to improve each other’s day. As a cashier, I love injecting a joke to break up a waiting couple’s argument, listening to an elderly customer’s story, or giving out a sincere complement to the person least expecting it.
Being on the front lines means sometimes I have my defenses up, but know that I really do want to help you. All I ask is that you take the following suggestions as a guide to our relationship. In return, I will do my very best to get you on your way with smiles on both sides of the counter.
1- Please be PATIENT. The scanner will only read one bar-code at a time and the computer will only take one keystroke at a time. Remember this: the cashier hates that you have to wait even more than you do. We know what waiting does to people, and those are the nightmares that wake us up in the middle of the night. We feel the hostility of a growing line as a choking tightness in our chests. The pressure makes our fingers shake and our minds clumsy.
If you do find yourself in a line.
-get your money ready
-group your items and expose their bar-codes
-do not under any circumstances make any kind of repetitive noise (tapping, clicking, gnashing of teeth, etc.)
The speed of the line should in no way be taken a function of the cashier’s competence or intelligence. Even geniuses sometimes need part time jobs. Grab a magazine, grab a breath, grab a pack of gum, and deal with it.
2- When you bring me a product with no bar-code and no identifying marks whatsoever, there will be an inevitable delay. No, I do not know the code for alabaster mini blinds (26” by 45”) off the top of my head. If I did, both you and I should be very worried.
Telling me the price is not a substitute for the inventory sku code, and throwing a drawer pull in my general direction while grunting something about two dollars just isn’t going to cut it. And then when you accuse me, indignantly, of not trusting you, well, now you’ve gone and made it personal.
3- If the item has no bar-code it is not free. If it has a bar-code but doesn’t scan on my first try… it is not free. Second try… nope, still not free. Third… not free. Fourth….let me check…NOT FREE.
I know you thought you were being clever and funny, but so did the other 10 000 people who tried it before you. And no, despite what you may have heard, they didn’t get it free either.
4- I know this news will come as a shock to many of you, but in this great country we have something called tax (pronounced taks). Deep breath, let this new information sink in. Now, when you get to my cash, and before you open your mouth to ask what you’re going to ask, stop, and remember the new word you’ve just learned.
5- Yes, that is the terrifying total. I know its an awful shock to get up to the cash with 3 items that are $2 each and hear a total of $6 (plus taks). Accusing me of any number of devious ways I must have manipulated my scanning to rob you will not change the total. It will only make me want to use my apparent criminal genius to plot your untimely demise.
6- I exist.
For the 30 seconds we are part of each other’s lives, you are my whole world. Every move I make, I do it for you. When you ignore me or, worse, spend the whole time on your cell phone, you break my heart. And if, ten years from now you make it your mission to woo the charming blond novelist sitting in the Parisian cafe, and if my hubby doesn’t clock you one first, no matter what team you play for, or how big your yacht is, there will be no way for you to re-earn my respect.
7- Only you can decide if you want the green one or the blue one. Go on, revel in your freedom and independence. Just please make up your mind before you get to my cash.
8- When you start complaining about the price of the rope your buying to tie up your 24 foot boat at the marina, know that behind my smile and sympathetic nods I am picturing that very same high quality nylon connecting your anchor to your ankle. So please, if you’ve got a boat, a car, even a canoe, please keep it to yourself if that image disturbs you.
9- There is no __________ (insert random word from dictionary) discount. No, not even on Wednesdays.
10- Being in a hurry does not make you any more important than the person you’re trying to butt ahead of. Being late does not make you special. It only makes you late. This is not communism, just plain good ol’ customer service.
11- If you insist on telling me step by step how to do my job, that’s wonderful. Come on back behind the counter and I’ll give you my apron, while I get the heck out of here!
12- When it comes to change, two heads are never better than one. When I’m half way through counting out $13.86 in change, the quarter you just found in your back pocket does not help in the slightest.
13- Whatever you’re screaming at me about, stop.
14- No really, stop. It’s not going to get you anything except a jaded cashier with another disturbing image running through her head.
Most of all, please recognize the awesome power you have as a customer to change my day for the better. It certainly doesn’t take much, a smile, a joke, a “someday you’ll get out of here” bit of encouragement. I guarantee not only I, but my next customer will thank you!