Not Exactly A Dream Job

Not Exactly A Dream Job

A Story by Constance Payne

Walking through the door of the conscience store to start a shift the cashier walks into a world filled with laws, rules, and crazy customers.  The rules sent into place by the people who own the business and desire things to be done their way at all times usually never having worked in the cashiering end of the business nor having any idea of what it takes to get the job done.  The laws, placed into effect by some government blowhard who things that we are not able to place restriction upon ourselves in the name of common good sense.  Within laws and rules, a cashier has extremely odd fellows, men and women, who walk int the store with a host of personalities, temperaments, and attitudes.  These odd little fellows are who I would like to tell you about today.
When I first chose to be a cashier I figured that it would be a fairly easy job giving me time to have a life and complete my studies.  Spending a shift being nice to people, talking to people, and gaining a few friends in the process.  Being nice to people and helping them is something that I do because I breath and that should have made this job so much easier....Yea!  Right!!!Good grief, I was never so wrong about an assumption in my entirety and have gained a new respect for those who have been doing this type of job for the better part of a lifetime.  Cashiering in any story is not the easiest, but a convenience store is more difficult for the assumed convenience of it all. People want things quick, fast, and in a hurry.
Cleaning, stocking, and paying attention to customer's needs and wants is just a small part of the job requirements for a convenience store clerk.  Not only are they a cashier, they are a counselor, baby-sitter, friend, and confidant.  A cashier will see many different customers in the course of a ten hour shift.  They range from the guy who has put gas in his car to be able to get home from work, to the owner of the steak house who feels it is the cashier's fault his personal card is not working.
"Hi, how are you today?" a friendly gesture that is more of a loaded question bringing a variety of responses.  Some making you want to laugh, while other will make you want to cry and still other make you want to lock the door and go to the house.  As the cashier of a convenience store, that is your question of the day.  It is a question that every customer receives as they enter for two reasons, the most important is that it is a polite way to great people and two the customer needs to know that the cashier is aware they are in the store, keeps the honest man honest.Many customers say hello and continue with their business; however, there is always that one special customer that will look at the cashier as if they have committed the greatest sin of all time and scream, "who do you think you are? It is note of your damned business how I am today? You will loose your job over this believe me, I don't have to take that crap off you!!"  The cashier smiles, and say, "I am sorry you are having a bad day, if I can help please let me know", wanting to slap such an infantile fool right in the kisser.  That statement in itself can bring on another rude and ignorant comment.  Luckily the majority of the customers are the friendly type.
"No shoes, no shirt, no service, and what if I come in with no pants?"  They all laugh as they enter the door repeating this same joke each time.  As a cashier you have a multitude of responses available to you, none of them quite appropriate, so you smile all the while thinking such sarcastic remarks as "I would just break your heart with my laughter" or "Well, when I stop laughing I would probably have to ask you to leave or have you arrested"; yet saying nothing, only thinking. 
As a cashier you must always be polite and ready to listen, you must be able to read the body language that is being shared with you, and you must be ready for anything.  You get children dropped off to play on the lot or come buy candy; I have seen children taught that as long as you eat it before you leave the store it is not stealing.  What an interesting lot child customers are as they move thorough the store attempting to avoid the eyes of the cashier; touching everything, moving everything, and when they finally make their choice they begin to eat it hoping the line is long and they won't have to pay for it. The one thing about a child who does get to the cash register prior to getting their bounty eaten is that they always seem to be just a few cents short, imagine that.  They come in almost every day and yet never quite have enough money.  Here in lies a choice, allow the child to have their candy or make them go get the parent who sent them in ~ this last choice brings a whole new kettle of fish into play.  Yet, after a ten hour shift and several children it can add up to quite a chunk from the paycheck.  The other option is to make a void on the register; that means a conversation with the manager, but I would rather deal with parents.  As dark falls parents begin to stop in and pick up their children.  They enter the store and the cashier speaks a reminder that this is not a day care and the dangers of the kids playing in the parking lot.  Oh, the looks on the faces and the smiles that are so false.  "I knew you would keep an eye on him/her you are such a nice person and I had so many errands to get done today."  Paying for their purchase, a wave, and a see ya later, knowing that you will do it again but you yourself are a mom and could never let a child be without supervision.
Customers that come into the store on a regular basis feel that as a cashier you should see them as the most important person in the store at that time regardless of how busy you are and therefore remember from one day to the next exactly what they purchased previously, exactly how much it cost, and have it ready for them before they ever even make it through the door. Their "favorite" cashier would know that they pumped fuel, need a pack or two of cigs, and should not charge them for their soda as they shop here so much and are quite surprised to find that they are not the most important person in that cashier's life.
Then there is the "Cell Phoner", they are better than the lowly cashier and are having the most important conversation in their life at that moment.  It would ruin their day to have to hang up or tell the cashier they have fuel and which pump it is on or how much was purchased.  To this customer it does not matter that the cashier has seen better than two hundred people in the last ten hours, has a life outside the store, or is watching the kid stealing the candy; they want what they want when they want it and that person who can get no better job than cashier should give them what they want. My response to these type of customers varied but my favorite were "I did not want to interpret what seemed to be the most important call of your life you might miss the location of your drug deal" and smile that cheesy smile that lets people know you are kidding, maybe.  The second favorite I used, more often than not was to look them in the aggravated eye and state simply "Sweetheart, if I could read minds do you think I would be working in a dump like this one?" once again adding that cheesy smile that makes them wonder if you are being sarcastic or serious.  Either way they finally tell you what you need to know to get on with your day.
Cashier have many customers that think if you know them you will sell to them whatever they desire regardless of age requirements.  The law is in place because our government decided that smoking required a certain age for you to be responsible enough to do so.  Laws passed, regulations set, and rules put into place; which is a good idea but makes for some interesting conversations as a cashier. A simple statement; "I need to see your ID" usually brings a response of "Are you kidding me?"  The retorts are plenty in my minds eye but I only state "the law is the law and you know the law so No ID no Cigs; see ya".  As a cashier you are responsible for what you sell and who you sell it to, if you work in a convenience store a twenty-five hundred dollar fine is probably not something you can afford so you are very careful who you sell to, even if you know them. 
My favorite customer while I worked as a cashier was a young man who came in each day and played with a knife display we had set up.  He would flip them open and flip them shut several times.  One day he looked at me and with a very straight face ask a simple question "Lady, what would you do if someone tried to rob you?"  I allowed the question to fill the silence in the store as we were the only ones present at the time.  
About fifteen minutes earlier I had to clean up a gas spill and despite washing my hands had not been able to remove all the black that was covering them.  I pointedly looked at my hands and slowly began shaking my head, looking up I glared at him with my best don't make me kill you look and groaned.  "Oh no you don't I am too damned tired to bury another one tonight, I just got finished with the last jerk who tried.  You are just going to have to wait until tomorrow."  I turned on my heel and started stacking cigarettes, basically the fact that he was still standing there. He quietly  placed the knife back into the display case and left the store. Sometime later a uniformed officer came into the store and ask me if I had been scaring customers; I explained what happened and he reminded me that this could have been quite dangerous.  I smiled and stated matter of fact that I refused to be intimidated by a punk who could not afford his own weapon.  The young man never came back into the store while I was on duty; if he seen me through the window he would pass by and go elsewhere, poor fellow. *insert cheesy grin*
Why did I work at a convenience store you may ask, well simply because I was in college at the time and needed the job.  I found that once my work was completed I could focus upon my studies and as long as my store was clean and my register balanced by boss had no trouble with my studying.  I will miss the banter of craziness that I shared with a hoard of interesting people who entered my world if only for a moment for that soda or pack of smokes and found more than they ever expected standing behind a cash register ready with advice, sarcasm, and a wealth of inspiration available regardless of the asking.
Remember when you walk into a store and step up to a cashier you may be speaking with an actress who is waiting for her big break, a law student who is working his way toward congress, a single mother or father whose spouse decided to go play in a different sand box, or maybe just a kid working their first job and your treatment of them could change their life forever.  

© 2013 Constance Payne

Author's Note

Constance Payne
This was originally written in 2005 for an assignment about the job we were currently working. I have changed it some but not much. For every job there is a person who is doing it; respect that fact and treat them as you would want them to treat those you love the most.

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I worked as a cashier for a while and remember hating it and nearly all the customers who came in. The only things that made it bearable were the breaks and the few customers who were friendly and treated me like a human being.

Posted 6 Years Ago

Constance Payne

6 Years Ago

It sure made me treat cashiers differently I can tell you that much.

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Added on March 6, 2013
Last Updated on March 6, 2013
Tags: Employment, life, Treatment of Others, Condensational Attitude, Composition


Constance Payne
Constance Payne

Saint James, MO

I am an Inspirational Photographer who desires to change her small part of the world. I aspire to inspire. I am a Master's Student in Community Counseling. I am who I am and that is all that I can .. more..