I am a cashier at a local convenience store. No, this is not an “I hate my job” story. Since coming home from college two months ago, I have worked harder than ever to save some money for my apartment next semester (that I will be sharing with my twin sister—which we are ever so excited about). While being at work day after day, I have learned a bit about society. I have questioned my desire to study people and how they work as humans (through psychology) and I have also questioned my desire to counsel people (people test my limits as a cashier on a very regular basis). Oddly enough, although this job can be frustrating, I have become more fascinated by how people operate. Every moment between me and these various strangers have constantly changed my perspective on the world. And quite frankly, I think we need more kindness. So, I guess you can call this a “my job has taught me a lot” sort of story.
Recently at work, I recognized something very particular about certain customers, mainly adults. Well, more so adults who look absolutely miserable or don’t make eye contact with me. I was bagging up this particular customer’s groceries and as I told him the total, he slapped down the dollar bills and nudged it towards me with his fingertips, as if it was full of germs and he just couldn’t bare to touch it any longer. I reached over, picked up the bill and pressed the amount into the register then watched as he grabbed his change, failed to say “Thank you” after I said, “Have a good day,” and walked out the door.
Then, the next customer did the same exact thing: set the money down on the stained counter and pushed it towards me, crumpled bills and a handful of change. She stated, "I'm not sure how much that is, but you can count it" and she watched me as I slid every single piece of change off the counter and counted it in front of a long line of customers.
Now, I’m not saying every customer does this. But something within me clicked; it made me realize that the smallest of actions can truly impact someone's day. I don't want to speak the choir by stating that you should treat people how you want to be treated. But, customer service can open your eyes as to how a seemingly trivial social interaction between you and a stranger can make or break your mindset.
I question as to why so many customers don’t smile back and instead, set their money down and watch as I pick up the three dollars worth of change or wrinkled dollar bills. In a world where people are getting murdered, raped, abused, etc., sometimes it’s the simple moments at the convenience store that can make you feel like some part of this weird, troubling, exciting and scary life has meaning.
Here's a story that really made me feel like this world needs some more lovin': A couple weeks ago, my job’s gas pumps were having issues because not one, but two different customers who were on their phones “forgot” they were pumping gas and decided to drive off with the gas hose still in their car (I have many thoughts on the negative impacts of technology on society, but more on that in another article). So, the gas hoses were ripped off of the gas pump stations. Each station was fixed but some customers were still having issues with one of the pumps. A couple of coworkers believed it was “operator” malfunctioning because the pumps were definitely working, but for some odd reason, some customers weren’t able to pump gas (which happens all of the time). Gas can be quite confusing, but a customer's mood can really change how the scenario plays out.
One day, a woman came in from pump number eight, still holding her gas cap and keys while obviously out of breath, to interrupt me in the middle of cashing out a customer with a line of about six people, that the pump wasn’t working for her and that something needed to be done because “she didn’t have time for this” and it was making her late. I offered to get my manager, but she refused. I then offered to transfer her to another gas pump so that she can get her gas because I was unable to leave my present customers, but she also refused and stormed out. One customer commented that she needed to calm down and I just kept to myself, continuing on with my job (side note: I used to work the drive-thru at a Taco Bell, so I got pretty accustomed to dealing with nasty customers).
I said to my manager that we should put an out of order sign on the gas pump so that other customers didn’t have any issues. While looking for a sign in between customers, this woman comes back into the store and screams at me that there needs to be an out of order sign on the pump. I told her we were looking for it because it is a huge yellow sign that customers can easily read. She crossed her arms and said, “Well if you’re gonna waste my time, then I’ll waste your time.” I've never had a customer at this convenience store treat me like that, so I was a little surprised but I replied, “Ok." My manager came over to try to diffuse the situation. She said to him, “You don’t understand because your pony is too tight” (he wears a braid because he has really long hair) and he told her to have a good day as she turned around and left.
Although this isn’t the same scenario as failing to hand a cashier your money, it holds the same message: one moment can change your attitude or mindset for the rest of the day. Everyone has their own story of wrongdoings, mistakes, miscommunication, neglect, abuse, etc. That woman may have been running, too late to visit a sick family member; maybe she was having a super rough week and didn't expect to have trouble pumping the gas or it's possible she didn't mean to react that way and later, she felt extremely bad about it.
Coming from someone who deals with these unhappy (and also happy people) on a daily basis, please take the time to pick up that cash and hand it to the cashier; take the time to hold the door for that mother in a hurry; take the time to pick up the change for the guy that dropped it; take the time to smile at the little girl buying candy; take the time to love those around you because sometimes, they are fighting a battle you don’t even know about. I know that woman was angry and I could have easily responded by yelling right back at her. But, it wasn't worth my time and responding to an angry person with anger never solves anything.
I know many customers just don’t have the energy to “try” anymore; they just got done working a twelve-hour shift or life isn't working in their favor or someone close to them just died or they are truly in a hurry. Sometimes, it is the simplest moment of saying “Have a good day” that really makes people second guess their misery; you never know, it may just make them feel the tiniest bit better.