Things Everyone Should Rememer When They’re In the Grocery Store

In my time as a cashier, I have seen the best and worst in people. Best being the kind, considerate customers who want to make their experience, and the experiences of those around them, excellent ones. Worst has a wide range. From customers who treat me like a robot with no feelings, to people who leave packages of raw meat sitting in the dog food aisle, to people who call other cashiers dumb as you check them out. Everything I’ve seen so far has taught me some valuable lessons about customer service, and some important things about being a good customer.

1: Treat other customers as you want to be treated. There are tons of situations that I could apply this to, so I’ll just be general. Be gracious. Don’t behave as if you are somehow entitled to a better spot in line, a certain food item, or anything in general. Show patience with other shoppers, especially elderly customers. I will never forget one night when a sweet elderly lady was in my line. She was writing a check, but her hands were shaky and she was struggling. There was a man in line behind her, who had already sighed very loudly multiple times and given me several dirty looks. Finally he picked up his 3 grocery items, cussed very loudly, and moved to another lane. That is not gracious or kind or thoughtful.

2: All grocery store staff are more than happy to help you (at least I should hope so). However, if they are in the middle of a transaction, it is extremely rude to interrupt and demand that they assist you. Patience is key. And it is also important to understand that while we are there to serve you, that doesn’t mean that we can do anything and everything. Sometimes there is nothing we can do when an item is out of stock. Sometimes you may have to wait several minutes for someone to help you when the store is busy. We will do everything we can to help you, but we are not miracle workers.

3: When you are using coupons or buying an item on sale, please Please PLEASE read the fine print and PAY ATTENTION. Coupons are usually very specific on item size and brand, sometimes even variety. And we can’t make exceptions. Example: If a coupon is for a 12 oz. Item, we can’t apply it to a 16 oz. Item. And when items are on sale, they usually have specifics on the signs or in the ad. In the store I work in, most sales are on Bonus Card items. If you don’t have the card, then you can’t get the sale price, unless I call a manager to my register to use the supervisor card. And on some products, when the sale is Buy One Get One, we can’t give you the discount unless you actually buy two.

4: Be aware of what’s going on around you. Now this might seem like a strange one, but allow me to clarify. Often times, I have been on break or off duty completely, and been asked to put something away that a customer decides they don’t want. I’ve even had customers demand that I open a register, despite my repeatedly telling them that I am off the clock and despite the obvious signs that I am on break (such as me holding my purse, with groceries in my hands, etc.). Another way to apply this one is when it comes to the checkout lanes. Most stores have “Express” lanes, where customers with fewer items can come through without having to wait in long lines. At my grocery store, there are big green signs over the express lanes, and many customers, some who have shopped there for years, choose to ignore the signs and bring overflowing buggies of groceries into the lane. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to serve everyone, but it makes the customers behind very very unhappy and grumpy. Basically, pay attention to what I like to call indicators. Like, if a light on a specific lane is off, and there is one customer left, and that cashier does not invite you into their lane, it usually means that the cashier is preparing to close that register.

5: We don’t make the prices, so please don’t shout at us like we do. This one is especially for the cashiers. I remember far too many times when a customer has come into my lane and complained about the price of an item, and told me that “You shouldn’t charge so much”. I usually tell them that I have no control of the prices, and that if it is that big of an issue they should speak to a manager. However, managers usually have very little control, unless they work in a local “Mom and Pop” store. In chain stores, the corporations make the prices, we just sell items at the price they set.

6: Don’t assume that everyone in the store knows everything about the store. As a cashier, I can usually tell you whereabouts you might find an item, and I can definitely direct you to it. However, I, as a cashier, cannot tell you about the inner workings of the frozen department, or the meat department. And people who work in the deli might not be able to explain the workings of the produce section. If there is a problem with a cut of meat you have, or if you believe the price is wrong on your deli meal, I am more than happy to call up someone from the meat department or deli to help sort things out. But understand that I cannot actually do anything personally about it until I have spoken with someone who knows far more than I do about the situation.

7: Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has bad days. Occasionally, I will mess up someone’s transaction. I might forget to scan their rewards card or scan an item more than once without realizing it. I’ve dropped items before. I’ve forgotten to print the right amount on a check before. And while many of my customers are gracious and patient, I have often had customers who became impatient. I’ve even had a customer call another cashier an idiot as I checked him out, because she made a mistake when she checked him out. While all cashiers and anyone who works in a store should make every effort to do things right, it’s important that customers remember that they are only human. If the mistake is something easily remedied, then what’s the use getting angry about it?

I guess my point is this, we should all strive to make shopping a better experience. And it’s not just customers, all retail workers should do their very best to do their jobs well, and make customers’ experiences great. And if we all do our part, maybe people won’t dread going to the grocery store anymore.

*Disclaimer: I love my job. Despite how hard it is, and how exhausted I am at the end of the day, and the way the music runs through my head all the time, I love it. And one of the reasons I do is the people I work with. I have the best group of coworkers and managers in the world. It’s like working in a big family, and I couldn’t love it more.

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