Etiquette from both sides of the counter
By Anna Graham, Contributor
During these last four months (and counting), I’ve finally experienced life from behind the till. Thus far, working as a cashier has presented some important life lessons: you come to recognize when service is actually good or bad, what you can and can’t haggle yourself out of, and what you do and don’t have to put up with—as a customer or otherwise.
As a late bloomer in the world of retail, I’ve wracked my brain to recall when I might have been a horrible or at least difficult customer. I’d like to think human decency has stopped me in the past from ever yelling, snapping, or being rude to an undeserving cashier, but I doubt that actually ever stops anyone who hasn’t done the job.
One would think it’s common sense, particularly among young adults, to not order food with their headphones blasting in their ears, or to not dump Ziploc bags full of coins (including pennies) onto the counter to pay, or to not outright threaten their server for one reason or another. There are annoyances, like bags of coins, that are inconvenient, but aren’t the end of the world. There are issues, such as headphones, which can cause a transaction to go horribly wrong, but can be fixed. Then there are difficult situations, such as threatening or harassing an employee—this last one, regardless of the customer’s reasons, I refuse to find fair ground on.
But the point of this piece is not to rant about the crap we’ve all been through. Rather, I’m attempting to implore any readers of this piece to just be more aware of their actions towards those on either side of the till.
I’m not shocked when an elderly person is difficult; I’m disappointed, seeing as I and other people employed to serve them are oftentimes much younger, but I’m not surprised that there is a generation gap to overcome during transaction. What does surprise me is when young adults are difficult, rude, verbally aggressive, or even violent to the cashier. There could be dozens of reasons for why a younger customer might act in those ways, but if the person is fully aware of their actions—as apologizing after would imply—why cross that line to begin with?
Most customers’ immediate reaction to anything going wrong is to blame the employee serving them. Employees make mistakes all the time; as a customer, a lot of those mistakes are indeed annoying, even more so when it concerns money. It’s impossible to be patient or considerate of others all the time, but it’s important to keep in mind that there are few people who would actually go out of their way to be downright lousy—they certainly exist, as customers and cashiers, but they’re far from everybody.
Regardless of what menial or pointless tasks my job entails, I still take it very seriously, and I actually don’t mind it. Not until very recently though have I begun to find dealing with people draining, and even depressing. With most corporate retail jobs, the mentality of “deal with it or quit” doesn’t exactly lift the “depressing” factor either.
For whatever reason, customer service workers are seen as the thing to release all one’s aggressions on, and that goes for customers and even some managers. So while I do stress that customers have the right to complain when there is a legitimate issue, I also stress that to make any little thing a problem is not just difficult, but from one person to another, it’s shitty.
Don’t treat a cashier or a customer any differently from how you might treat a classmate; you don’t know them, but if you need something from them, do you not ask them nicely?