Hey, Cashiers: Remember Me? I’m the Customer!

They don’t seem to teach cashiers one of the basic tenets of customer service these days: paying attention to the customer.

I stopped by the grocery store last night and had just enough items in my shopping cart that I didn’t want to deal with the self-checkout counters that have been so dumbed down that they take longer to get through than waiting in line.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait in a line, as the customer ahead of me was just paying as I walked up to the line.

The cashier, a young girl who looked to be 18 or perhaps a bit younger was behind the cash register and asked if I had the store’s discount card — another sore subject I’ll get to one of these days. As I went through my wallet for the card, she proceeded to begin scanning my items, then passing them to a bag boy, who likewise looked to be about 18.

When I produced the discount card, she scanned it and returned it to me and went right on with her scanning.

All the while, the bag boy was talking about his upcoming break and his desire to trade places for the evening with another employee working a different part of the store. Almost immediately, a second bag boy appeared and joined in that conversation. The second bag boy advised the first that before he made such a trade, he should consult the manager on duty.

The cashier then suggested that he just wait 15 minutes until yet another bag boy — I found it strange they had three bag boys with only two cashiers present — returned. This wouldn’t work, the first bag boy replied, because if he waited the 15 minutes, he’d then have to take his break and it would delay the proposed switch that much longer.

The only two times the bag boy spoke to me was to ask if I wanted my milk and a jug of white vinegar — an invention with multiple uses around the home — bagged or left out.

I’m not sure what difference 15 minutes would have made.

But as I listened to this conversation, I was quite aware of this: I might as well have not been there.

If it weren’t for customers, they wouldn’t have to stress out over their break times or the section in which they worked on a given night; they could instead be stressing out for want of a job.

Yet here I was being completely ignored by these teenagers, to whom I must have looked ancient, who were so preoccupied by their “problems” that they couldn’t even see past them clearly enough to acknowledge that I was there.

The cashier diverted her attention back to me long enough to tell me the total, which I already knew because I had seen it on the monitor before she read it back to me.

By the time she told me the total, I had already swiped my card and the machine was already processing the transaction. It was delayed only by the fact that she had not yet pressed one button on her register, which she would have pressed without delay if she’d been paying attention to me instead of her co-workers.

Paying attention to the customer isn’t something they specifically teach when cashiers are trained to run cash registers; that much is apparent from the way many cashiers behave these days.

But it’s the kind of skill no one should have to teach. It’s the kind of thing the cashiers should already know, because it’s the kind of expectation they would have if they were on the other side of the checkout counter. We all share that expectation when we’re the one spending our money.

I think I’ve just reached that magical age where my patience for certain immaturities has worn thin enough that in the future, store managers might be getting calls from me. It’s not that I want to get anyone in trouble, but rather that I want to remind them that my time is also valuable, and if I can’t be treated like I’m even noticed, I can find other places to shop.

Does it bother you when you’re ignored by cashiers? Do you ever say anything to them?


  1. But why d you care? Maybe if they were talking instead of scanning your items I would understand why you would be upset. But honestly, it seems like you are just finding a reason to hate teenagers just because you think you are supposed to.

    1. What a curious comment, Danny.

      You don’t know me, yet you assume that I think I’m supposed to “hate” teenagers? The fact is, the most recent time this happened to me, in the 15 months since I posted this, the cashier looked to be in her 30s and the person she was talking to appeared to be a shift supervisor or perhaps even a store manager — clearly someone in some kind of position of authority. Teenagers aren’t the only people capable of showing a lack of respect to a customer.

      But to answer your question, I care because it’s common courtesy, Danny. I’m the customer. As such, I’m owed a certain amount of respect. I care because, as I said in the post, in that case, they held up my checkout time because the cashier was too busy NOT paying attention to press ONE button on the cash register so I could get out of the store and let them continue their conversation uninterrupted by something as inconvenient as doing their job.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.