Monday, 19 September 2011

What Your Checkout Chick Really Thinks

People who have worked in retail share a common bond that allows us to avoid those awkward ‘getting to know you’ conversations in social situations. Imagine you are seated next to a stranger at a dinner party. You have already discussed how you know the host, where they got their skirt and how lovely the entrée was. Then you mention that you work, or once worked, in retail. They respond with a knowing look and sympathetic smile, “I used to work at Woolies!” Suddenly you realise that you have enough in common to talk for hours, and begin swapping stories about the less than friendly customers you have encountered over the years.

My personal favourite story, which addresses the perils of packing environmentally friendly green bags, is one that I stole from my sister. Finding dried up old animal faeces in the bottom of one of the bags she was supposed to be packing was really the cherry on top of a fabulous day at work. What was the customer’s reaction to this unsanitary discovery I hear you ask? A sheepish laugh and the confession that her cats sleep on the bags. At least this explained the faint smell of kitty litter and why she had accessorised her sweater with dozens of short ginger hairs.

If telling this story risks putting my new friend off their pudding, I bring up my biggest pet peeve; customers who act as if they are mute, despite chatting animatedly to their shopping partner just seconds before. “Hi, how are you?” Silence. “Do you need a bag?” Silence. “Do you have FlyBuys?” Silence. “Have a great day!” Silence. It is important to note that by asking these questions I am not trying to be your best friend. I am fully aware that shopping for groceries is not your ideal way to spend a Sunday, and you probably just want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. This being said, refraining from answering these questions could lead to me ‘accidentally’ squashing your bread. Oops!

Retailers encounter dozens of obnoxious customers on a daily basis, each time biting their tongues to stop themselves blurting out what they really think. Many times, I have had to restrain myself from calling through the loudspeaker, “We have lives too you know!” to people who are still in the store 20 minutes after closing time. To the customers who think that they have a better understanding of the company policy please note; not every mistake means that you are entitled to something for free. Finally, to the man known only as ‘Smelly Guy,’ for goodness sake take a shower and a trip down aisle eight for some deodorant while you are at it!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am sure you have encountered your fair share of rude retailers. A middle-aged woman, who seems to get up on the wrong side of the bed every day, often serves my mother and I at our local supermarket. I give her a minus 10 for her customer service skills. No smile, no conversation, no nothing. After months of discussing how downright miserable she is and trying to avoid her at all costs, my mother made it her mission to break through this woman’s icy exterior. She sympathised with the woman, stating that it must be horrible having to work on such a lovely day, and threw in a compliment for good measure. To my surprise the woman’s frosty demeanour began to thaw. Whether it was my mother’s way with words, or because the woman thought she was a mystery shopper we will never know. Either way, it made for a more pleasant shopping experience.

Telling someone that they are doing a good job can really improve their day. So next time you are at the supermarket and want some good karma, be nice to the checkout chick. Maybe this time she will tell you if your milk is leaking.


  1. I always wonder what the shop assistants are thinking when they serve me, as I like to think I know how they think as I have also worked and do work behind the till in retail as just a Saturday job, but it is suprising how somebody can change your day by just simply saying 'oo, you're doing a great job!'

  2. Yay my first comment ever! Agreed, when someone tells you you're doing a good job it slightly lessens the feeling of wanting to just walk out from behind the till mid customer and go home lol. Thank you for stopping by to have a look at my blog! Yours is lovely, I followed you!

  3. Hey! I saw your About Me and decided that I HAD to look at your blog! I'd love to be Carrie Bradshaw too! Great blog and that cat poo story is horrible! You write really well and I will be following! Please check out my fashion/everything vintage blog
    Take care and keep writing!

  4. Wow thank you so much! Hopefully my blog will be as good as yours one day lol. Thank you for being my first follower! I followed you back! P.S. We can only hope that one day we are each living in lovely apartments in New York with a closet full of fabulous shoes!

  5. Hehe yeah we can dream!! Step one is find a Mr Big, so good luck with that! Aww thank you for the compliment,I really appreciate that someone actually likes my rambling! XxxX

  6. When I was a student, I worked and managed retail, a posh boutique in LA California. Often, we would get snobby customers that 'acted' like they did not know what they wanted, they wanted it yesterday, it's ALL the boutique's fault, and they wanted everything for free. They were sadistic! And it was our job to deal with that. Those customers came from all over the world, and they were all rich. Now that I have success, I still treat all people with humble respect, but many people are pushy snobs to retail workers, I see it all the time. My advice, if you want to help retail workers, stand up for them when you see a snobby customer being cruel to them. Even if that snobby person is your friend, just don't walk way! I will say,"Why are you picking on someone that can't stand up for themselves, are you sadistic? That's so evil". And don't get mad, just call the police/manager/security if they freak out. Understand that police and retail workers share a common bond too (dealing with the public), but you often need a good customer to complain about a bad customer so the police can do their job. And yes, thanking retail workers is the least we can do. And if a retail worker is ever rude to you for no reason, complain to the manager, threaten not to shop there anymore. If we did all that, then this would not be the issue it is.

    1. Hi love, thank you for the comment! It's funny how dealing with rude customers impacts the way you treat retailers for the rest of your life. Even if retail isn't the most glamorous industry to work in, it has definitely taught me a lot about how to treat other people.