I work a one or two nights a week at a grocery store. I needed something to do after my day job. Going home, eating dinner, and watching TV wasn’t doing it for me FOUR DAYS IN A ROW. Sure I’d go to happy hour or run errands or stop at Target, but I don’t have that much money to go spending every single night of the week. I was getting antsy and bored.
So one or two nights a week you will find me as the self-checkout person (cashier?) at a local grocery store. It’s the perfect gig for me. I get to be nice, talk to people, do easy work, and have no stress.
As a self-checkout cashier, I do what you would expect: help customers who are having issues with the self-checkout. “Place item on the scanner scale” “Cashier will confirm your birthday” “Item not found” or “Please wait. An associate will be right with you” are some of the frequent issues. And trust me, there are constant issues.
As friendly and helpful as I am, I do not scan, bag, or tell you your total. It’s not my job, and honestly, am too busy. I have four checkouts to watch, and I’m only one person. (Sometimes I’m not even there. I’m taking out the trash or collecting carts. It’s an important job.)
Imagine trying to go through self-checkout with a FULL CART of groceries, in a tiny bagging area, a machine that’s yelling at you, and no idea how to ring in your bananas or broccoli. As a grocery store, there is obviously produce being bought. And people who come in shopping for their large families. And folks with broken arms. And people who just got out of work and just want to buy a bottle of wine. Not that these people can’t operate the self-checkout, but it can be cumbersome, overwhelming, and daunting. I’ll be the first to admit that. And I know customers get frustrated or even retaliate.
My grocery store isn’t paying Suzy Smith to work for them. Suzy has never had any training on how to ring in navel oranges (3107). Suzy doesn’t know that avocados are by the EACH and not by the POUND. Suzy doesn’t know that the UPC for Tabasco doesn’t work, and it needs to be typed in manually. It’s not Suzy’s job to know or do any of those things.
I like to believe that people are good, and they aren’t trying to steal. Most of the time their error is just an honest mistake. Let’s go back to Suzy. She puts all three avocados on the scale and hits the “Avocado” button. One avocado at 72 cents. Suzy thinks the scale weighed her 3 avocados and puts all 3 in her bag. Even though she only paid for one.
Did Suzy do it on accident or on purpose? We may never know.
I know that people steal. I am certain that it happens on my shifts right under my nose. And there’s not much I can do about it. “I didn’t know.” “I thought it scanned” “I hit the button on accident”. I’m not going to argue with Suzy about how she didn’t know that a DING (a scanning error) is different than a BEEP (an item scanning twice).
I’m not saying I let people steal, but I’m saying that the self-checkout person is not going to block you from leaving the store, or call you out, or demand to see your receipt. Most likely we are busy with the next wave of “Item not found” “This price is wrong” “Please hand ID to cashier” and “Scan your bonus card now”.
(Should you steal? No. )
Fun things from my self-checkout career:
- I’ve had people tell me they don’t have their ID (when buying alcohol), “I didn’t think the self-checkout would ask”
- I actually had a woman one time get mad at me for NOT ID-ing her.
- I’ve had people ask me “Can you run back and get me some garlic hummus, I forgot to grab it”
- “Can you just scan and bag everything for me?”
- “How come it didn’t take my coupon?” after paying. And not informing me or the machine that they had a coupon in the first place.
- “Is this thing on?”
- “Do you work here?”
- “How will the scanner know the price?”
- “Do you need to be 21 to buy beer at these?”
- “Do I pay at the beginning, or the end?”
- “What kind of fruit is this?” (holds up random item)
- “Is the self-checkout stealing all my credit card info?”
- “Am I being recorded?”
- “How did you install all these?”
- The best is when the customer starts telling me how terrible self-checkouts are, that I shouldn’t have so many at my store, and I should get rid of them all and hire more human cashiers. ‘You’re right sir, I personally selected all these checkout machines to go RIGHT HERE. So let me personally rip them out of the floor and throw them in the dumpster for you.”