Greeting the customer, scanning their purchases, helping them to pack it, making small talk, taking payment, making sure you don't break any security or policy rules, cleaning and tidying up. In the days before thermal-transfer printing, it also involved hours tugging at the receipt printer to try and make it go faster. I have the exact sound the dot-matrix used to make emblazoned on my memory.
A LOT of the ranting I do on this blog will revolve around incidents that occur when I'm working on the checkouts. Unless you've done the job, you cannot possibly begin to understand how dire it can be. I made the mistake of thinking, before I'd done it, it would be easy. It's not. It's soul-destroying. The mental tension is unbearable.
But you can get round that if you try. I used to play games: 'How many items can I scan in 30 seconds?', 'how much can I annoy a customer without being rude or nasty or giving bad service?', 'judging by the evidence on the conveyor belt, what type of person am I serving?'.
And then there's your imagination. Some of memories I have of working on the tills show me just how drastically it can affect you. I can remember one day imagining the items on the belt were alive and that I was killing them when I scanned them. Boxes of Daz Citrus Blast were screaming for mercy. See?
And then you had the customers. Most were nice, we won't dwell on them, but some were absolutely vile. Thing is, you remember them much more clearly. In my mind's eye right now I can see the Hall of Shame. Their faces are etched onto my memory and I will hold a searing hatred for the way they behaved, the day I served them, forever.
There's a brilliant book by Joanna Blythman called 'Shopped'. It contains a chapter with an account of her time working on the checkouts in Tesco. It makes depressing reading, but highlights how horrible it can be.
Standing at a counter serving customers fags, lottery tickets and scratchcards. With the twist that customers also barge into the queue with baskets full of shopping. So basically, checkouts but standing up and a much higher proportion of customers with withdrawal symptoms, be they gambling addicts or just nicotine deprived. A cashier at the kiosk is also more likely to be physically attacked as they're more likely to have to refuse a sale.
All the checkout stuff applies but you could play different games. 'What are they going to ask for?', 'Can I guess how much this clump of lottery tickets will add up to?'. I also used to take my shoes off and work in my stocking feet to combat the aches.
The Customer Service Desk
This is a Godforsaken HELLHOLE. What makes it so bad is that people only come near this service point if they have a problem. This means the customer thundering towards you brandishing a receipt is going to be a snotty one. The desk is also directly beneath the loudest music speaker in the store. So every encounter I've had here has a soundtrack to it:
- The 'I'm entitled to unlimited free milk because I have a coupon' man = Whitney Houston - I Wanna Dance with Somebody
- The 'One of your colleagues tripped me up' woman = Enigma - Sadness
- The 'I happen to know your CEO' woman = Maroon 5 - She Will be Loved
I challenge anybody to work on that desk without cracking up.
The Cash Office
Processing the takings, banking the cash, monitoring discrepancies, floating the tills, conducting random till checks, monitoring checkout performance statistics.
This one's great for the moments of solitude it offers. It's also where most of my fierce tantrums have taken place. When somebody annoys me I retreat into this room and let rip. Every item in that office has been attacked. I don't know what they must think in the stock control office next door when they hear it.
The cash office is my little baby. I keep it religiously organised and often rearrange the place to make it look more pleasing to the eye.
Putting frozen dough into the ovens for pre-determined lengths of time, wrapping the results with my favourite machine ever, burning oneself on the ovens and having to go to First Aid, counting bread.
Thankfully I don't work on here too often, just in emergencies. To put it simply, I'm crap. Anything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong. Any rants about working on here are likely to be filled with sadness and sorrow that, not for want of trying, I can't grasp how to work this department properly.
Personnel, Payroll & Training
Paying the staff, inducting (or inducing, as I think it sounds funnier) new colleagues, training existing staff with corny videos and patronising books and generally running around cleaning other peoples' snot up.
I do quite like it though, but if I have to watch one more cartoon about rude cashiers, potential accidents or the safe way to open doors...I...will...scream.