My name is Teri and I work in retail. It’s not a job that I particularly like nor a job that I am super concerned about doing well at, because frankly, I’m hoping I don’t have to be working in this job for much longer. This is a busy and overwhelming time for both of us. I want you to know that I understand that, because we have similar stresses. We both have to shop for Christmas presents and deal with crowded stores and long lines. It just so happens that I am also sometimes the person behind the counter, too.
So I would like you to do something for me — to put yourself in my shoes for just a moment. This is an attempt to better the customer-cashier relationship. It is an attempt to return this holiday season to its happier, more celebratory roots. To make us remember that we’re all just human, and this coming month should be about surrounding ourselves with friends, family, and positivity. If you put yourself in my shoes, you’ll understand why I am asking this of you. You’ll understand that I don’t want to dread this season that is supposed to be so merry and bright. I want to still have faith that people are inherently good when I emerge on the other side of this all in January. What I am asking is this:
Please, just don’t be an asshole.
When you think about it, customer service is so weird. Taking a customer service job is like signing some invisible/unspoken contract to allow random strangers you have never met in your life come up to you and treat you like crap for something you didn’t do. No, it is not all bad. But, if you’ve never worked in retail before, you’d be surprised at what some people consider to be OK when interacting with customer service employees.
It’s the strangest phenomenon — as soon as I am on the clock and wearing the name tag, my identity completely shifts. It becomes my job (this huge, non-confrontational introvert’s job) to answer you questions, help you find things, and be your cashier. And for some reason, certain people seem to see me as both beneath them and superhuman at the same time. They disrespect me, talk over me, yell at me, you name it — usually about the most trivial matters that I had nothing to with. Then, at the same time, they expect me to be some sort of robot incapable of mistakes. And when I do make a mistake (because, need I remind you, I am still human, thanks), they act as though it is the end of the world. Fire and brimstone, alas, alack!
This should go without saying, but unfortunately many people tend to forget, that humans make mistakes every day. I, as your cashier, am still human, and am still very likely to make a mistake once in a while. I try to avoid it, believe me, but it happens. So if you are unfortunate enough as to be involved in one of those mistakes, through no fault of your own, I understand how frustrating that feels. I wish I didn’t make mistakes either. But there is no reason to get angry because I can guarantee that whatever mistake was made, was not made vindictively or maliciously. It could have been the result of a sleepless night, emotional turmoil, or simply ignorance or faulty communication. This was not a personal attack on you. I beg you, don’t treat it as such.
If I may, I’m going to ask you to do a few more things for me. But not just me. I am making this plea on the behalf of cashiers everywhere. Here are some things that will help make both of our holiday seasons go more smoothly. Trust me — they’re so easy to do!
Understand that not all cash registers are made equal — they can’t all tell that you swiped your card at the beginning. When in doubt, wait until we tell you to swipe your card. Otherwise, we’re going to have to ask you to swipe it again at the end anyway, which is just going to waste time. Let’s avoid the hassle altogether, and put our patient pants on, shall we?
Don’t be on your phone. We usually have a few questions we need to ask you. In fact, we could get in trouble if we don’t ask them. We also can’t just stand there and wait for you to notice that you still haven’t entered your pin number. Please, if you’re on your phone, ask the person on the other line to hold on for one moment while you check out. I’m sure they won’t mind.
Don’t get snippy at us when we try to sell you something. No one is forcing anything on you. If we’re asking you about becoming a member or signing up for a credit card or donating to a charity, it’s because we have to. It makes it worse when we constantly get snapped at just for doing what our boss told us to do.
If you are unsure, always take note of our return policy when you check out. Every place is different. Don’t come to the store weeks later hoping to return something and realize too late that you’re outside of our normal window for returns. Furthermore, don’t get angry at us for not making our return policy clear. Quite frankly, we did. In fact, it can usually be found outlined right there at the register where you checked out in the first place. Or even better — simply by asking us about it. It’s not our fault if you don’t follow the rules.
We literally can’t do anything for you if you leave your coupon at home. It’s not that we don’t believe you got a coupon in the mail, but without it, we can’t enter it in our system. At all. Stop asking us if we can look it up. We can’t. We want to avoid exchanges like this: No, I can’t look it up. No I would need the code. No it’s not listed on our computer. This is not some super computer that somehow recognizes the faces of people who have coupons. I’m sorry. Literally I can’t do anything for you. My manager can’t do anything for you either. Seriously. No.
As cashiers, we have nothing to do with how much that item costs. It’s not our job to barter with you on our prices, either. If we tell you that we don’t match our online prices, it’s because we don’t. Of course, it never hurts to ask, but understand that no means no. As a consumer, you have every right to decide not to buy something because it is too expensive. But, if you continue to make a fuss about the price, complaining to your spouse about the injustice of it all and disparaging the very name of the store as you exit its doors, even after you chose to buy it anyway — well, for that I have no words.
Telling us that you’re in a rush or to hurry up will do nothing for you. We’re already going as fast as we can. It is not our fault that you didn’t allot enough time to do your shopping. It certainly won’t make our computers run faster. It might even make us nervous types more prone to making mistakes, which could end up prolonging the whole process. Plus, it’s just rude.
It’s nice to be asked how we are every once in a while. When we ask you how you’re doing, try a simple, “I’m fine, how are you doing?” Even just a kind smile goes a long way. It gives us hope. Makes us feel like we’re individuals again — people with feelings and emotions, flesh and blood.
And even if all of the above is somehow too much to ask, try to take this last one to heart, if nothing else:
Remember the magic words: “Please” and “Thank you” will always take you far.
All of these requests are based off actual experiences I have had working in customer service. Like I said earlier, not all the experiences have been bad. In fact, I’ve met some incredible people working in jobs like these. People have made me laugh, complimented me, and befriended me. Unfortunately, one bad experience can spoil a whole day of good encounters – a whole season even. The holidays should be about acts of kindness big and small towards our neighbors. These are just small things I am asking of you. And if you choose to treat me with respect and kindness, I am more than happy to do the same for you.
Your Lovable Cashier