At the beginning of June, I began my first-ever part-time job at a local supermarket. Having never worked in this particular field before, I was unsure of what to expect. I envisioned greeting customers in my crisp uniform, chatting amiably while ringing up their purchases. Upon bidding each customer farewell, I knew I would feel a deep sense of well-being at a job well done. I would not succumb to the pressures of work; I would not fall prey to the trap of complaining about my job! No, I would enjoy it, revel in it, and become the best cashier my town had ever seen!
That fantasy fell apart almost immediately.
In truth, working a part-time job is hard. The hours are long, the customers are impatient and there is always that one item that refuses to ring up. Even though I've only been at it for a month and a half, I'm already counting down to that glorious day where I can bid adieu to my polyester collared tee and khaki pants. But even with its myriad of difficulties, my part-time job as a cashier has taught me a number of things I definitely couldn't have learned just by lounging around all summer long. Here are just a few lessons I learned from the register.
1. Learn the PLU codes.
Bananas? 4011. Seedless watermelon? 4032. Avocados? 4046. These are only a few of the strings of numbers now ingrained in my brain. PLU codes are the numbers a cashier punches in whenever you're buying fresh fruit or veggies. They're used in place of a bar code. This tip is mostly one of practicality—it makes it much easier and much simpler to punch in the numbers when you weigh the items on the scale, instead of delving through the database—but there's also a deeper purpose to it, too. Memorizing the codes shows you're making a commitment to your work. You want to give the customers the best and most efficient service you can. When will I ever use the PLU codes again? Who knows. But I'll have them handy in my memory, just in case.
2. Your job is not like school.
I received three days of orientation, and then it was my turn to take control of the register. I had to learn quickly or suffer the consequences. No manager is going to tell you, "Aw, it's okay that you accidentally added $50 to their bill. You'll do better next time!" No customer is going to give you a gold star if you rang up most of their order correctly. Learning fast and thinking on your feet are vital skills to possess (or develop) when working in any new environment.
3. Patience is key.
Ever hear the old adage, "Don't shoot the messenger"? Well, many customers haven't, at least in my experience. If the cherries are too expensive, if the best brand of chips is out of stock, if the debit card is denied, it's the cashier who bears witness and takes the brunt of the complaints. But in those moments where you want to roll your eyes and scream, "Okay! I get it! I can't do anything to help you!" remaining cordial is important. The way you act can sometimes make or break a customer's experience. Plus, it's the right thing to do. Expressing your anger will only make the customer more upset. So keep on smiling and asking, "Did you find everything you needed today?" even if you dread the response.
4. Celebrate the little things.
Even though the work itself may not be much fun, I've found ways to drastically improve my long shifts. My place of employment runs different competitions to see who is the fastest at checking, so I challenge myself to complete each order as quickly and effectively as possible. Even sharing a funny story with coworkers or having conversations beyond "How are you? Good." with patrons can do a lot to brighten up your day. Staying positive helps the day go by just a little more quickly.
5. Working is a big step into the "adult world".
For the first time, I've had to interview, clock in and out and pick up my pay stubs. In the very near future I'm going to have to do taxes (shudder). There are a lot of grown-up things attached to that name badge and pricing gun. I'm learning how to manage my money, schedule efficiently and interact with many members of the local community. It's a giant leap into the world of "adulting", and I'm grateful that I took that step forward. Working has made me appreciate what I already have. It's made me contemplate my future, and the steps I will have to take in order to attain my chosen career path. Many of the skills I've retained through this job and my internship are ones that can translate into any profession. Though my experience in the working world has been brief, I'll carry the lessons I learned throughout the rest of my life.
P.S. If anyone wants to know about the 10 for 10 deal on yogurt this weekend, the correct way to replace the paper in the register or where the dairy section is, I'd be happy to help. Just come on down to lane nine and ask .