Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tips for Shoppers: Whose Fault is It?

     One of the things that I suppose is frustrating for shoppers is that the chain between them and the source of their troubles is too long.  This is why many of them can only see the person in front of them.  And it is for this reason that the poor cashier gets blamed for everything.
     Cashiers get blamed for long lines at the checkout when perhaps it is due to poor scheduling practices held by the management.  Or perhaps it is because somebody did not show up for work on time.  Or perhaps it is merely because every shopper in the county decided to descend upon the checkout line.  [For your information, we cashiers are fully convinced that the shoppers do this to us intentionally.  In fact, we believe that you shoppers gather in the back of the store and syncronize your watches for this purpose.]
     The temperature of the store is another thing that gets blamed on the cashier.  Believe me when I say that this is unjust.  To this day, I do not know where the thermostat regulator is located in my store.  The same rule applies to music: I am sorry, ma'am, but I have no control over the radio station.  [I wish I did!  I've listened to the same 10 songs, 5 days a week for the past year!]
     Cashiers also get blamed for the prices.  The realm of pricing is even farther beyond our scope of practice than is temperature regulation, but, sadly, many shoppers do not realize this.
     I have so many stories of angry shoppers blaming cashiers for the prices of various products, but one story stands out in my mind:
    I was on my lunch break.  Perhaps this is one reason why this story is memorable to me.  It is one thing to be blamed, but it is ten times worse to be attacked when you aren't even "on the clock."
    Lunch breaks were only a half an hour, and I hurried from my register through the store, eager for the refuge that our break room would provide for me.  But as I was passing the meat department, a woman hailed me.
     "Miss!" she shouted.  "Miss, come here!"
     The break room door was in sight at the end of the aisle and my heart squeezed in disappointment as I reluctantly turned to face the woman.  But one of the rules of customer service is that you must always be courteous.  The woman had no way of knowing that I was on my lunch break.
    "Come here!" the woman demanded again.  As I reached her, she shoved a package of brand-name bacon under my nose.  "Look at this!"
     I stared at the package, completely at a loss as to what I was supposed to notice.  At my blank look, the woman pointed specifically to the weight printed at the bottom.
     "Twelve ounces!" she shrieked.  "It used to be 14 ounces.  It is twelve ounces now -- and yet the price..." here she vindictively pointed at the sticker on the shelf  " the same!"  Her face was turning a livid purple color.  "Do you think I am STUPID?!?  Did you think I wouldn't notice?"  She shoved her finger in my face.  "I hate the sneaky way you people try to trick consumers into paying more and I am not going to let you get away with it!"
     I listened to her rant as precious hours of my short break ticked away.  And it wasn't even store-brand bacon (oh, the unfairness of her accusation!).  How could she think I was personally responsible?  I didn't even work in the meat department -- let alone in the pricing of other companies' bacon.
    But her complaint was a valid one.  There must be a more straight-forward, honest way of going about raising prices, and they should not be raised unfairly.  It is up to consumers to speak up when practices are not honest or fair.  But somehow there must be a way to lodge such complaints in a way that will reach the source of the problem instead of falling on a innocent middleman...such as a clueless cashier on her lunchbreak.  Right?

     And maybe cashiers need a big neon sign to carry that says "Off Duty."


  1. As someone who has held two different customer service jobs in my lifetime, I totally understand what you are saying. We are always told to try to see things from the customer's point of view, but customers rarely try to switch this around. If a customer is really cranky I always try to imagine that perhaps they're having a bad day. Of course, too many cranky people can sour my own disposition, but that's something I'm working on.

    As for the bacon story, I feel you. A former barista, I've had to put up with people complaining about the "expensive" coffee prices. Those prices are there for a reason. We're making your drink fresh, using expensive espresso and syrups, and you kind of have to pay for that luxury. That's why those coffee drinks cost so much. No one is trying to rip anyone off. (I notice that the people who complain about the prices still end up paying them a good chunk of the time.)

    And the bacon price was probably only raised because of inflation. Just saying.

    OK, enough ranting for now. Thank you for a very good post.