Proper Etiquette in the Checkout Line

By Persephone

For the last three months, I’ve been a checker at Safeway.  You might have noticed that my articles have been very hit and miss this summer, and that’s a significant reason why.  I’ve also been taking classes and teaching a class, but the tumultuous schedule and mind-numbing work at Safeway has played a significant factor.

I’ve never worked in a store before.  I’ve worked many other jobs, including in a warehouse, but this one was a new one.  All the chitchatting and socialization that came along with it took some adjustment, but I managed.  Although I haven’t hated the job, I knew it was only a summer gig.  I have student teaching this fall to get through.  With my position at Safeway about to end, however, I thought I should partake of a little wisdom to anyone going through the checkout line in a store.  There are a few trends that should be squelched immediately:

  1. Stop making comments about the checker’s name.  My real name is rather pretty, and everyone has to ask me questions about it.  This gets old.  If something crosses your mind as a really clever comment about someone’s name in a store, don’t say it.  We’ve already heard it so much that we’re sick of having name tags.
  2. If you decide not to buy something, don’t hand it to us to put away.  We’re already understaffed, and now you’re sticking us with more to do because you’re too lazy to do it yourself.  This goes double for perishable items like ice cream or meat.  Put it away your own damn selves.
  3. When it’s time to pay for your groceries, get off your fucking cell phone.  It’s rude to the checker and to the people waiting in line behind you.  Plus, I shouldn’t have to tell you this is rude.  Honestly.
  4. When your groceries have been bagged and put aside, please put the bags in your cart.  I don’t know how many times a person just stared at me as I checked and bagged their stuff, waiting to put the bags up until they’d paid and it was time for the next person to get through the line.  Pay attention, people.
  5. Don’t wait until everything is through and it’s time to pay before you remember that there was something else you needed.  Or, if you do, pay, go find it, and go through the line again.  I’ve had to stand there for five minutes with an increasingly pissed off line of people because someone remembered at the last second that they needed barbecue sauce.  This is what lists are for.
  6. Don’t take it out on the checkers or the courtesy clerks if you didn’t find what you wanted or you thought your groceries were too expensive.  We aren’t the people who stock the shelves or set the prices.  We just get yelled at for it.
  7. If the city or state we work in requires us to card everyone for buying liquor regardless of age, don’t get mad at us.  We are literally just doing our jobs when we card you when you’re clearly in your eighties.  Grow up.
  8. Don’t wait until you’ve already paid before noticing that a coupon or sale didn’t go through.  If it’s that important, notice it before your credit card cleared.  It’s so much easier for us to fix it then.
  9. Be polite.  This isn’t to mean that you have to make conversation.  To be honest, I prefer not to do a lot of chitchatting.  Making small talk is exhausting after eight or nine hours of it.  That doesn’t mean you can snap at me because you’re having a bad day.  I didn’t personally cause it.

Despite this list of advice, I didn’t actually dislike checking.  The vast majority of the people I met were extremely polite and simply wanted to get their groceries and move on with their day.  I can totally relate to that.  However, even if only one person in twenty is extremely rude, it can ruin your whole shift.  Remember that we make minimum wage.  Remember that only an asshole yells at a person who makes minimum wage and still finds the energy to smile politely at you.

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