For almost the past two years, I have been an employee of Tops Friendly Market. Working there has opened my eyes to how some people treat and act around complete strangers. In my two years there, I have met the good and the bad. Sadly, the bad easily outweigh the good. I’m sure some of you who have also worked in retail see some consistent qualities in several of your customers as well.
1. The Couponer.
This first character is quite a doozy, and I’m sure anyone who works in retail, especially at grocery stores, has stumbled across this potentially hazardous person. While this person can be one of your best customers, they can also be some of your worse. I have met people who are genuinely trying to save a few dollars, but I have also met several people (including people who work for the company), trying to scam the store because they know ways around the rules.
At my Tops, we have this one man in particular, whom we call “Mr. Cough-Man.” He earned his name as he has this annoying, almost intentional warning sound for us cashiers that can be closely related to that of a human cough. He walks around with his binder and little plastic box of coupons. When he gets to your line, the first reaction is to crawl up into a ball and cry until they carry you away in a straitjacket, but the second reaction is to calmly motion for the manager to linger nearby as you deal with Mr. Cough-Man.
The first time I had Mr. Cough-Man, I had only been at the store about two weeks. When one of his coupons failed, he proceeded to yell at me, which resulted in spit flying into my face. I had never been so horrified at a human being before. But Mr. Cough-Man has a habit of going through the lines of the new girls, as they are more likely to allow things to go through that a more experienced cashier might not, so I have been lucky for a while.
2. The Regulars.
Just because I work in a large retail store does not mean I do not have regulars. I can think of three gentlemen off the top of my head who met me while I was working at the store and have proceeded to come through my line whenever I am working. This is really a great honor to me, as it shows that I have had a positive impact on customers.
One of my favorite customers is a middle-aged man who comes in on Sundays, typically with his wife and children. They do their shopping for the week and tend to come through my line, and recently, his two little girls have started calling me by my first name, even when I don't have my name tag on. To me, it's incredible that I have made an impression even on his two little girls. But the thing that really sticks out about this man is his generosity. It seems that at Tops, we are always asking for a donation, whether it be for Juvenile Diabetes research or for the local food bank, it's always something. As a cashier, I get tired of asking, and I can assume that as a customer they get tired of donating. But this man, even if you ask to simply round up his change, he will ask if he can donate $5 instead. This man is the reason why I continue to work in retail.
3. The “I Won’t Donate 7 Cents To Juvenile Diabetes Because It’s Their Fault" guy.
Yup, this is an excuse I heard once when I asked someone to round up their change (donating 7 cents) to Juvenile Diabetes research. “Instead of donating, how about they get up off the couch and put down the potato chips.” I know you’re surprised, but you can close your mouth. Yes, someone has said this to me. But my favorite customer is the one who, when asked if he would donate to Juvenile Diabetes research foundation, replied, “How about you donate to my retirement fund.” To the disapproval of my boss, I replied, “I already am, Sir.”
4. The Harmless But Somewhat Creepy Old Guy.
This guy, this guy is something special. He comes up to your line, and while he seems like a harmless old guy who is just picking up his milk and eggs, you are about to be sadly mistaken. When I am on the cash register, I tend to ask people if they found everything they are looking for. For the most part you get yeses or nos, and then they tell you what they couldn’t find. But occasionally, you get the old guy who says “No, I couldn’t find the Viagra.” You feel your face turn a little red because, of course, your now thinking about this old man struggling to get it going. Then he laughs and tell you he’s just kidding, and you let out a little chuckle and drop the subject.
5. The Moms and Their Children.
This group of people can either brighten your day or ruin it. It basically depends on what kind of mood either member is in. Each day, there is your typical screaming baby who just really needs a nap or your tantrum-throwing toddler. But sometimes, the Grocery Gods bless you with a little angel customer. One of my most memorable customers was a little girl. She was telling me all about how she was 6 and she just had a birthday party and all of her friends came and she had so much fun. As she walked away, I waved “bye bye," and this adorable girl blew me a kiss and waved goodbye. This was almost two years ago, and though I can’t remember her face, this sweet action makes me smile everytime I think about her.
6. The Little Old Ladies and Their Delicious Recipes.
When I see customers come through who have an interesting arrangement of food, I like to ask them what they are making. I have heard everything from cake in a can to some seafood paella-sounding thing. But one lady in particular was making a type of coffee cake that sounded irresistible, and we all know how well old ladies can bake. Jokingly, I told her she should bring me some, because I would love to try it. A few days later, I walk in and am getting ready to clock in, when another employee from the service desk says, “Here, a customer dropped this off for you today.” Wouldn’t you know it? That sweet woman brought me her coffee cake. And let me tell you, it was darn good.
7. The One That Forgot Something
Newsflash, friends of legal drinking age, most grocery stores now require you to provide them with some sort of I.D., preferably a driver's license, regardless of age. Yes, this means everybody. So if you show up to Tops and try and purchase alcohol, and you do not have your driver’s license on you, we do reserve the right to deny you a sale, sorry. In all honesty, if you are going out, it is best to take your driver’s license with you. I mean if you drove to the store, you should have it with you.
In the world of retail, each company has their special customers. Some customers are so special, there is no way to describe them. But if working retail has taught me anything, it is how to deal with people who are being not-so-pleasant in a way that will keep me from losing my job.