I started working at the age of fifteen mainly because I wanted to get out of the house and I wanted to have money of my own. Of course, as any teenager will tell you, the only jobs available to young adults are customer service jobs. Why? Because they suck. My most recent customer service job was as a cashier at a small grocery in Queens which I worked in for a little over a year. I patiently waited to write this article until after I quit and the time has come. After a year, I finally understood why cashiers are one of the bitterest people you will ever encounter. Seriously, if you have any love for humanity, do not become a cashier. If you are already one, I feel for you.
As people grow more aware of what plastic does to our environment, more people are either reusing bags or investing in tote bags. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and kudos to those people who are going green. However, do not tell me you have your own bag after I have already started packing your ridiculously heavy groceries in plastic bags. Seriously, this would happen so often that I just began asking people if they need bags. Some customers felt so guilty after I asked that question that they proceeded to actually carry their own groceries and walk home with them (no, I did not feel bad). Also, if you know you have a bag, and you have fifteen items, why not start packing as I’m checking out? But no. Instead, you use your phone the entire time, and then wait until after I’m done checking out to finally pull out your massive grocery tote bag and ask me to pack everything (In what world does this make sense?)
Jackson Heights has a very large senior population and of course, my store was very attractive to these citizens. It was strategically placed before the block of supermarkets so that it would be a short walk for most. While I generally am very patient with old people, there are some days where they make me want to drop everything and walk out. The amount of time it takes them to dig through their bag and look for change is unbearable. Everyone on line stares at me as if they are telling me to do something about it but I know that if I do, the situation won't end well. I subtly tell them to keep moving by screaming out "next customer!". Yet they are still packing their bags into their carts and counting their change.
The store I worked at was really popular for its immense variety of European products and organic groceries. This meant people always walked in asking where something was. At first, I didn’t mind when they came in asking where something was but then it really got to me. The store literally consists of two aisles and a fruit stand surrounding the exterior. TWO aisles. How hard is it to look around a store that is literally the size of a living room? The worst was this one time when a lady called the store while there was a line of about 11 people waiting (and one cashier) and asked me if we carried this specific cheese. Two aisles people. It’s not that hard to come in and take a look around. Others would literally holler at me from the entrance, asking if we sold what they were looking for. Hello to you too? It got to the point where I would just point in the general direction and then continue taking customers. “But I’ve never been here before, I don’t know where anything is”. Well sorry, we don’t have a search bar for you.
Jackson Heights is one of Queens’ most ethnically diverse neighborhoods and while this is a great thing, in my opinion, I had to suffer the ugly sides of diversity at my old job. This one time, a woman came in speaking a language I did not recognize at all but it seemed like she was asking me for something. I kept trying to tell her I only spoke English and Spanish but for some reason, she seemed offended. The more I said I did not understand, the angrier she got. It seemed like she was one word away from spitting in my face. Something that would happen a lot was I would speak in Spanish to Hispanic people but they refused to reply in Spanish. Some even seemed offended that I would speak to them in Spanish instead of English. While I thought I was doing something to make conversation and to familiarize myself with the customers, I was actually offending people.
Why do customers always think people behind registers are trying to steal from them? I’ve had customers actually ask me to check everything out a second time because I was going “too fast” and they couldn’t keep track of all the purchases. There are some people that end up spending more than 40 dollars on a few things and they get all wide-eyed and suspicious and try to blame me for it. The items clearly have price stickers on them. Don’t expect to pay with a ten dollar bill if you’re buying fifteen-dollar-cheese and twelve-dollar-honey. I think the main cause for my hatred towards customers is people trying to double check the math as I’m ringing them up. Seriously, just let me do my job.
I can’t even begin to tell you a number of times I’ve been flirted with for a discount. If you cannot afford fifteen dollar cheese then don’t buy it! I’m not here to give discounts. I’m just here to ring you up and bag groceries. So not today, not ever. And my eyes are up here buddy. For some reason men thought it was okay to call me "honey" or "sweetie" while I was ringing them up but it would only make me want to projectile vomit all over them. And no, I'm not going to put on a "real smile" for you just because you asked me to. Now, keep moving.
Which brings me to my next point. The prices are as marked. In what universe does “Strawberries for $2.99” mean “2 for $.99”? People would rather go through the trouble of waiting in line for their two boxes of strawberries and then being told that they are wrong instead of reading or double-checking the price. Then, when they get to the front of the line and I tell them the actual price, they swear on their mother’s grave that I’m wrong. Trust me, this isn’t the first box of strawberries I’ve rung up all day. Then they throw the strawberries on my incredibly small counter and claim they don’t want it because it’s too expensive. Stop looking at me to see if I’m going to do something about it. I’m not going to apologize for a price I did not assign and honestly, I could care less if you don’t buy the strawberries. This isn’t my store. You do you. Just don’t leave it on my counter.
The counter top at my job was way too small for people to come around leaving their groceries on top of it while they shopped for more. Yet, people still insisted on doing it. “I’ll be back in a sec” they would say to me without even glancing. At first, I was a bit too shy to say something about it but there’s only so much one cashier girl can take. “This counter is for checking out only.” “There are baskets by the entrance you just walked through.” Some customers would realize their mistake and apologize but others would either ignore me or put up a fight. This one guy told my coworker he didn’t like using the baskets because they don’t “look clean.” Shall we hose them down on the store front for you? This other guy told her he forgot to bring his “third hand” and that’s why he had to place his groceries on the counter. Are you kidding me? That’s what a basket is for.
Lastly, don’t get mad at cashiers for no reason. Just because I work here doesn’t mean I’ve tried every single cheese in the fridge. It is not my fault my boss labeled the tangerines incorrectly. It is not my fault if the other girl charged you incorrectly yesterday. I have no control over the fluctuation of prices. I am not going to give you a discount just because you read the signs incorrectly. Also, you cannot pay me $8.00 in nickels and pennies. Have a nice day.