Checkout Clerks

Customer Service Assistant, Retail Clerk, Gal/Guy in Checkout. The name doesn’t matter. It is the person who scans the stuff I am buying, gives me a total, looks at me while I’m figuring out how their payment machine works, then hands me the receipt, often while circling various items on the receipt. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes and none of those things have to do with defining who is enjoyable, and who drives me nuts.

A smile is nice. It doesn’t need to be a big ole toothy horse smile. Just a pleasant expression. My mom noticed that at the Wal-Mart in Oxford, Mississippi none of the checkout clerks smiled or seemed happy. She told me and I would look for that trait when I was in a Wal-Mart, which wasn’t very often. Then, a couple of Wal-Marts opened a few miles away. Still, I wasn’t there often but when I went I noticed. Nope, no smiles. Then, oh, a year ago maybe, things seemed to change. Perhaps they have different hiring standards now, or sent everyone to checkout clerk charm school. I don’t get a big grin, but at least a bit of a smile. Maybe the clerk is thinking “This is Wal-Mart. You are getting great prices, I have to stand and scan customers’ stuff for hours, and you still want a shot of happiness for free?” Yep, I do!

On the other hand, overly friendly clerks are a big pain in the you-know-where. This week I was behind a gal at the market and she and the clerk were having a gab fest. Yak, yak, yak. They both lost what you would call “situational awareness.” This is the checkout line sweetie, with several people waiting in your line. If you want a chit-chat meet up for coffee break please. The two got along so well that the payment process took a while, and then a couple of items were left on the counter and not scanned into the total. That resulted in another transaction, for which cash, retrieved from the bottom of a purse, was used. The customer turned to me and apologized for taking so long. At least she was aware.

There are a couple of checkers on a similar plane at my local Target. One is chit-chatty about all sorts of things, with each sentence causing a slowdown in scanning. Another checker doesn’t smile much and seems lost in space, while talking about all sorts of things. I avoid both of them if possible. I try to be pleasant myself, but really, I just want to get my stuff, pay for it, get it bagged, and be on my way. I smile, say Hi and Thank-you, event comment occasionally on a specific item and what you do to it to make it edible (young people seem fascinated by things like rhubarb).

Costco seems to have a good system of fast checkers and pleasant people, but they have lots of help and a great system moving long lines, along with a wall poster showing who scans the most items per hour.

My favorite clerk was Kevin, at Von’s Market. He was a Manager at some level. Fast, pleasant, kept on top of things, would be checking groceries while keeping an eye on what was going on around him. He would be a great leader for “Checkout Clerk Boot Camp.” I didn’t see him for a while and am pretty sure he was the guy in a couple of commercials on TV. Maybe Von’s is his daytime job, as they say in Hollywood.

Every Day Is A Good Day – VJ


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