Behind the Scenes at the Supermarket
July 29, 2005 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Questions for grocery clerks (or people who stand in line at the grocery thinking about people and their purchases).

Seeking anecdotes related to grocery clerking: stereotypes ( _____s tend to buy ____ ), or just unusual or funny purchases and the backstories you make up about people based on them. Also, what do customers do to make your job hell? Conversely, what do they do to make it wonderful?

This is to help me develop a half-baked web project idea ...
posted by kmel to Work & Money (61 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not a grocery store clerk, but I was a barista for a while and noticed that I could usually guess what someone was going to get before they ordered. Women in business suits from 10am-4pm usually ordered a yogurt/frozen fruit smoothie to go. Pregnant women came in around 3pm for soy lattes, men over 50 wanted just plain coffee, flyboys from the air base who were 20-35 yrs old liked double lattes with vanilla with a plain cup of joe afterwards, high school kids liked the frozen frappes and jet teas (fruity frozen drink).
posted by idiotfactory at 8:52 AM on July 29, 2005


I was a cashier in high school.
I noticed that, whenever someone came up with nothing more than a package of condoms, if they had to wait in line they would end up adding another $15 or so in impulse buys. Packages of gum, magazines, playing cards, candy. Whatever was at the checkout and could cover the rubbers.

I'll try and think of more later. It's been quite a few years...
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:52 AM on July 29, 2005


OK, this is a while back but when I was in high school I worked one summer as a cashier for a pretty big grocery store. A few things I noticed was:
1. Friday night was date night because you would get guys buying 2 steaks, 2 potatoes, frozen veggie and condoms. It never failed, there was at least 4 or 5 guys who would do that.
2. The local news anchor was caught stealing condoms.
3. There was this one "crazy" person who would come in on Sunday and open bottles of ketchup and walk off. That is all they would do, go to the ketchup aisle and open bottles of ketchup.
4. I had to go to the security office one time so I could be a witness while they searched this woman who had stuffed a rather large size ham down her pants.

I am sure if I thought about it I would remember more. Hope those help!
posted by govtdrone at 8:56 AM on July 29, 2005


This guy bought a single grain of sugar with a $100 bill.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2005


I'll bet you could mine some decent stuff over at Customerssuck.com.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 9:03 AM on July 29, 2005


I used to work at a food co-op. One of my favorite stories comes from when we were switching over from an old four digit membership number to a new barcode (which still only used about four digits, but was scalable).
A guy came to the register (who now happens to be one of my neighbors) and started to talk about the barcodes.
"So, these new barcodes, did the government make you put them in? They're here to tell who's buying what, so that we can be reported, right? I know that it's just a matter of time before the barcodes go on our IDs and you send people threatening letters if they don't buy the same things. You're going to tell the police what I buy, and that's why you have the barcodes. I'm going to tell you my number, but I'm not going to let you scan it."
I just looked at him and told him that the barcodes were just a temporary measure, until we could get every one of the members outfitted with radio chips under their scalps. Then we'll be able to tell what you want, when you buy it, and if you're thinking illegal thoughts.
He turned sheet-white, paid and left. Now I live half a block down from him and see him at our housing co-op meetings, protesting against the police's plan to track everyone that lives here.
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 AM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend used to be a cashier at a grocery store. Once a week, a well-dressed man with a Burberry wallet would come in and buy at least 30 little cans of pork and beans. Nothing else, just pork and beans.
posted by hamster at 9:04 AM on July 29, 2005


From the customer side: No matter what store I go to, if I show up early in the morning and buy any combination of saltines, ginger ale, bananas, and applesauce, the clerk always says "Somebody sick at home, eh?" And they're always right.
posted by expialidocious at 9:07 AM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


But mostly, my time as the night shift supervisor was spent getting high and trying to deal with all of the messes that my retarded staff would create.
posted by klangklangston at 9:08 AM on July 29, 2005



My boyfriend used to be a cashier at a grocery store. Once a week, a well-dressed man with a Burberry wallet would come in and buy at least 30 little cans of pork and beans. Nothing else, just pork and beans.


This is me. Except I buy Chili and Beef Stew...and give it to the homeless.
posted by m@ at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2005


govtdrone, if all those guys were cooking was steak, potatoes, and frozen veg, I'm sure they wouldn't get to use the condoms at all that night. Sheesh.
posted by matildaben at 9:26 AM on July 29, 2005


When I worked as a cashier at a home decorating store (not a grocery store, but maybe you'll find it useful an yway) we asked customers for their zip codes, I guess to track where the company should build new stores. If they didn't want to answer it was fine. But no one ever just politely declined to give it. They either gave the zip code, or got extremely offended that I asked for their personal information.

Also, there was this one lady who once or twice a week came in and made enormous purchases of luxurious glassware and candles and stuff, only to return the things - still wrapped in the protective paper - a couple of weeks later. She always payed with a sparkly platinum Discover card.
posted by leapingsheep at 9:29 AM on July 29, 2005


Rule 15 of cashiering, the longer the line, the more likely people are to write checks.
posted by drezdn at 9:29 AM on July 29, 2005


We had a customer who would put everything she bought into the plastic bags from the produce section, even stuff like canned soup. And because she didn't trust the scanners she would make the cashiers key in the entire UPC for everything. Fortunately she would only go through two people's lines in the store, and I wasn't one of them. The day she came in and they were both off she burst into tears and ran from the store.
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:36 AM on July 29, 2005


Once a week, a well-dressed man with a Burberry wallet would come in and buy at least 30 little cans of pork and beans. Nothing else, just pork and beans.

Dollars to donuts he was donating it to a soup kitchen or church pantry.
posted by Doohickie at 9:50 AM on July 29, 2005


or what m@ said.

Note to self: Read ALL comments before posting.
posted by Doohickie at 9:52 AM on July 29, 2005


Once in a ShopRite, I was headed for the checkout with a rotisserie chicken and a head of red leaf lettuce in my basket. There was no one else in the aisle except me and two teenaged girls coming toward me. One said to the other, "That's all them people ever buy."
posted by scratch at 10:07 AM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


It ain't quite grocery store, but an interesting view on customers nonetheless: go here and hit the Evil Customer link.
posted by forallmankind at 10:12 AM on July 29, 2005


I dunno if this is the case for every "customer courtesy clerk," but when I was a bag boy my peers and I all loathed bagging things in paper bags, so much so that we would learn which customers always asked for paper and ocassionally abandon the poor cashier stuck with their groceries.

more often than not, when someone would come through the line with a WIC voucher, they would get a free carton of milk and juice, and a free box of cereal and then pull out a twenty dollar bill and buy a carton of cigarettes.

every now and then I would get stuck on a register and it never failed to amaze me how many people would cruise past my empty line to go stand in a line with a female cashier (I'm a fella). this has happened at every kind of customer courtesy job I've ever had.

the strangest combo I've ever rang up was two boxes of condoms and some cool whip to a gentleman with a big gold necklace.

once, a guy tried to steal a baby bottle by stuffing it down the front of pants. when a manager stopped him and asked him about the bulge, the guy replied: "um dude, that's my dick!"

if you're interested in crazy library stories, I could give you a 26 volume encyclopedia's worth.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:23 AM on July 29, 2005


I worked at a small-town grocery store for 3+ years. There was an older man who used to tell me that he wanted double paper for the 16 pop bottles he would buy (and they had to go in the bag in a very specific way), and no plastic because the plastic could contain particles from dinosaurs. Then there was the woman who always came in, took two chicken wings from the deli, ate them on her way around the store, and "forgot" to pay -- every time. The things people did that annoyed me the most were to complain to me about the prices of things, or the way the store did coupons. I was a /cashier/. I had no control over any of that!

Oh, and my store had a policy which meant that cashiers had to ask "how are you?" to every customer upon arrival in their line, and say "have a great day!" when they left. Customers who didn't even acknowledge that I had spoken were also a big annoyance.

I could go on, but I'll leave it at that. ;)
posted by rosethorn at 10:31 AM on July 29, 2005


Once when I told a woman that her order came to $6.66, she quickly added a pack of gum, because 666 was the number of the beast.
posted by rfs at 10:45 AM on July 29, 2005


i used to work night shift at a convenience store and met some very interesting people ... the funniest thing i ever saw was the night when this rather drunk old man with a couple of young girls on each arm came in to buy a pack of newports ... he was having considerable trouble getting his wallet out of his jeans pocket to pay for the "squares" ... the girls were giggling and i was trying to be polite and just take his money ... then he realised that his jeans were unzipped and fumbled with them for a couple of minutes trying to fix his open fly ... but no matter how he tried, he just couldn't seem to get them zipped

it would have helped considerably if he hadn't been wearing them inside out ... how i ever kept a straight face during all that, i don't know
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 AM on July 29, 2005


I never worked in a grocery store, but did spend many years in retail. At one particular large sporting goods store, whenever we had a sale, invariably people would look at the items on the sale rack/table and ask "Do you have everything out that is on sale?" We always wanted to answer "No! We're keeping the really good stuff in back so no one can buy it!"
So during one sale, a coworker and I "hid" three or four really ugly sweaters. When the inevitable happened, we said "Oh, actually there are a few more in back, let me go get them." The sweaters sold on the spot - I guess because they were "special" (as opposed to "ugly as sin"). We got a good laugh over that (you had to be there).
posted by dbmcd at 10:52 AM on July 29, 2005 [2 favorites]


In high school, I was a cashier at a warehouse-type grocery store in Arizona that straddled an upper middle-class neighborhood and some poorer areas. I came to notice that almost every hispanic customer paid with cash - and usually for upwards of $300 - $400 per trip. No one else paid cash for anything more than $20 or so and rarely rang up more than $200. I was pretty young and it was one of the first times that I really started to notice real social and economic divisions.
posted by mullacc at 10:52 AM on July 29, 2005


We have a small neighborhood bakery. Some generalizations:

* Women always look for exact change. Men rarely do.
*If a well-dressed middle aged woman driving an SUV comes in, she's gonna buy at least one scone.
* The more questions someone asks the less they buy.
* We sell more cinnamon rolls to men than women.
* Women are much more likely to use a card for a purchase under $3.
* If a man is sent in to buy a cake, he will buy any cake. Flavor doesn't matter. He's leaving with a cake. A woman will ask a hundred questions about the varieties and may or may not leave with a cake.
* Men love pie.
* Chocolate cakes with dark chocolate frosting sell every time. Ones with mocha icing, not so much.
* Anything red sells. Linzers, raspberry bars, cherry danish, etc.
* We sell more brownies in the summer.
* There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like coconut and those who cannot stand it. No one can just take or leave coconut.
posted by Atom12 at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


I used to work at a convience store.

I loooooved customers that would pay with exact change, and hated hated hated people that would buy a newspaper ($.75) or small coffee with a $20.

There was one man that would come in every afternoon and buy 2 20oz Ice House beers. From what I could deduce, he was a construction worker. He invited me to "go for a ride" with him once. He also pierced his own nipples with safety pins and showed them to me one night when he came in particularly drunk.

At the risk of sounding racist, the Mexican / Hispanic constrution workers almost always bought beer, cigarettes (Marlboro Reds), and phone cards.

There was one kid who would come in every afternoon and buy slurpees, one at a time, with his change collection. Often in pennies. He would stand there and count out $1.20 in pennies, drink the slurpee, get another slurpee, count out more pennies.. etc etc. I usually wanted to punch him.

The potheads always bought Camel cigarrettes.

Looks can be decieving. I caught a 10 year old shop lifting. I figured it was just a dare or something, but the first thing out of her mother's mouth was, "I am so sorry. I thought we broke her of this habit."

There was one man that came in every day and bought $50 to $100 in daily pick lottery tickets. Every now and then he would win a few hundred dollars, and would give each of the cashiers $20.
posted by geeky at 10:58 AM on July 29, 2005


When they ask for your zip, always say 90210. It freezes something in the cashier's brain.
posted by joseppi7 at 11:11 AM on July 29, 2005


geeky: I'm totally sympathetic to all the annoyances you list - but I don't understand why it's annoying to buy a $.75 coffee with a $20 bill? If someone used a card, that would be infuriating. But cash comes out of ATMs in $20s, so it seems reasonable to me. In fact, it would be insane if people were to get change for $20s for no reason other than to avoid paying with $20s for small items.
posted by mullacc at 11:29 AM on July 29, 2005


If a man is sent in to buy a cake, he will buy any cake. Flavor doesn't matter. He's leaving with a cake. A woman will ask a hundred questions about the varieties and may or may not leave with a cake.

I first read this as "If a man is sent it to buy a COKE, he will buy any cake..." and I totally agreed. But, I really love cake.
posted by mullacc at 11:30 AM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


An old friend of mine worked as a cashier in our small-town grocery store. She said that every time she worked on a Saturday night, a male couple that owned a hair salon would always do this just before closing: purchase an industrial-size jar of mayo, pay with a twenty dollar bill, and request all the change in pennies. She said that they always had a smirk on their faces, but nobody could ever figure out exactly what they did with the mayo and pennies.
posted by MrZero at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2005


I once worked at a SavOn Drugstore in Vegas, which is a popular retirement city for crazy old women. We had this one lady come in 10 minutes before closing who proceeded to very slowly fill two whole goddamn shopping carts. We stayed open and waited for her to finish, and when she finally pulled up to my cashier, she whipped out one of those coupon portfolio things, which would have been fine but they were expired coupons for items that were not in her cart. She was very insistent that if Folger's Coffee had been on "special" 3 weeks ago, then goddamnit this cannister of Maxwell house should be on sale too. This hell went on for over an hour till finally I caved and rung up the stuff like she wanted.

So at this point we've stayed open nearly 2 hours after close for her, endured ridiculous requests, and random insults and when I finally give her the total (about $200 with her random "special" discounts) and then she realizes.... she forgot her goddamn wallet. Priceless.
posted by mrs.pants at 11:42 AM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


I used to work at a Safeway where the dress code was either a Safeway polo shirt or a button-up shirt and tie. Now, I'm a pretty average looking girl, but I tell you what, the boys love a girl in a tie. I got hit on more in my uniform than the rest of my life combined. Men gave me tips (cash money) when I toook out their groceries, would write their number on reciepts, follow me around as I swept the produce section...I highly reccomend the look if you want to meet some guys who shop for food.
Also, I worked in a college town, so I got to see what my professors ate. My drawing teacher would come in weekday nights and buy a couple of 40's.
When I worked in liquor, I sold kegs, and the guys buying them would give me this line, "so we're having a kegger..."
Really?
posted by slimslowslider at 12:04 PM on July 29, 2005


We got a good laugh over that (you had to be there).

No, you didn't need to be there. I'm cracking up. This is a fun thread. Keep the stories coming.
posted by ericb at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2005


I worked in a Tim Hortons donut shop. I learned quickly: when someone orders a dozen donuts, never ask them to pick each one. "And you want those assorted, right?"

Also, POS (point of sale) ads sell anything. Put up a banner for the strawberry dessert, and sales double. It's not that people are stupid, but that the brain has better things to consider than what's for dessert, so any tasty suggestion, like a big cardboard display, can influence it.

One lady ordered six ice waters twice a week. We started telling her we were out of water. Some free water's ok, but when you order nothing else, every other day?

During the Atkins craze, people (mostly women) wanted something low-carb -- in a donut, bagel, and sandwich shop. Some got sandwiches without the bread.

Coffee is dirt cheap. The cup costs more than the drink. And Tim Hortons brews a fresh pot every 20 minutes, so we'll spend the overhead either way. So we loved the coffee-only orders, especially at the drive-through.

This, incidentally, is why Tim Hortons didn't take credit cards until 2005. Order sizes for fast food are too small to make a profit; only recently have chains bowed to pressure and accepted it as a loss leader.
posted by NickDouglas at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2005


Oh, we had a regular named Greg who just wanted two things in life: to win the lotto and to tell you about how Jesus had told him that he was going to win the lotto. As he'd come in nearly every day with the lotto ticket from the gas station down the street (we didn't sell the tickets), he was incredibly easy to pick out. He didn't like women wearing revealing clothing, and would make up Bible quotations (I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the Bible specifically about shorts) and tell them to women, getting louder and louder. You always just had to kinda roll with him and talk him down to earth, usually by changing the subject to his lotto picks.
I still shop there, and see him every now and then, and since I remember him and he doesn't remember me, I can always get him wound up by saying "God bless you, Greg," or asking him about his lotto tickets. (Doesn't hurt that when my beard and hair get long, I kinda look like Jesus).
posted by klangklangston at 12:12 PM on July 29, 2005


but nobody could ever figure out exactly what they did with the mayo and pennies

This brings to mind the "what four items would you buy to freak out the cashier" game that was played over at MetaChat a while ago.
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on July 29, 2005


Last year, I was standing in line at Wal-Mart behind a boy and a girl, obviously a couple, maybe about 17 years old or so. Since I'm nosy, I glanced down to see what they were buying: a 20oz diet coke, a king size snickers bar, a box of condoms, and a pregnancy test.

Now those are some solid purchases!
posted by ilovebicuspids at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2005


If you buy a coffee with a $20 bill, now the cash register has 1 less $10, 1 less $5, 4 less $1s -- and one more $20. This leads to running out of small change which is a pain in the ass for the cashier.
posted by smackfu at 12:43 PM on July 29, 2005


Betty shopped at the supermarket where I worked in high school and college. She was old and rich and had been a buyer at a major department store chain. She always shopped with a personal assistant and brought her own plastic bags. Whenever she bought something that was prepackaged in plastic or paper (such as English muffins or a steak), she would open the package, put the item in her own plastic bag, and leave the packaging (along with price tag) on the shelf. We had a price guarantee program where if the shelf price and the item price didn't match, the item was free, so folks who were dispatched to the shelf to get the discarded packaging had to also check the shelf tag, and she would often continue to haggle over the price even after the price had been confirmed. After a while we started to open a separate register just for her, and I was her favorite cashier, because my name is the same as the store she had worked for.
posted by initapplette at 12:50 PM on July 29, 2005


I have two grocery/convenience store stories that are both about condoms:

Selling: I worked in a CVS drug store for a few years in high school. Guys from high school would come in and try to find stuff to buy to mess with me. General attempts were cigarettes "No you're too young" and mega-super-sized packages of condoms. It was like a game of chicken, however, since I'd just go ahead and ring them up and then hear "um, er, I didn't really want those...."

Buying: I drove cross-country a few years back with my longhaired weirdo boyfriend back when I was more of a longhaired weirdo. We were in a supermarket in southern Mississippi and couldn't find anything we were looking for for our cooler. Some nice young man came up to us and asked if we needed help finding anything and we said -- not thinking that we weren't back in Seattle -- "Yeah, condoms and sausage!" The poor kid went pale, but he did point us in the right direction.
posted by jessamyn at 1:05 PM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


If you buy a coffee with a $20 bill, now the cash register has 1 less $10, 1 less $5, 4 less $1s -- and one more $20. This leads to running out of small change which is a pain in the ass for the cashier.

But given that ATMs only give out $20s, how is it the customer's fault for not always having a smaller bill on hand? Certainly, I always try to pay for small purchases with small bills (I worked retail/cashier/restaurant jobs for many, many years, so I sympathize deeply), but if I've just gone to the bank, a 20 is all I've got.
posted by scody at 1:07 PM on July 29, 2005


My first job at 14 was as a bag boy and a year later I became a cashier at the same grocery store.

People we loved the most were those that purched nothing more than 500 small tins of cat food. You scanned one item and you were done, and the small tins stacked so nicely in paper bags.

As a bag boy those we hated most were the ones who were over protective of their baked goods (any bagboy with half a brain is always careful not to squish the bread to begin with, it's the first thing you learn after "Will that be paper or plastic?".

The other thing we hated were those who asked for paper bags inside plastic (Paper bags are just too big for plastic bags and the corners tear at the plastic) or the odd retard who would ask for us to triple bag things.

Double-bagged paper is the way to go, you can put A LOT of stuff in double paper, and it keeps it's shape and you can risk holding it just from the top.

I always snickered when teens would buy cans of 0.5% beer (and I was only 14).

Did you know that a coffee stir stick is all you need to unlock those shopping carts that require a quarter to be unlocked?

Scams as a bag boy: taking advantage of the box knifes to generate "damaged stock" , using the trash compactor as a way of sneaking stuff outside the store (it usually has a sliding door on the inside) .Oh, and whenever someone left a cart in the lot and forgot the case of pop on the bottom (or laundry detergent) we'd always hide it under an employee car (which always had to be parked as far from the store as possible to begin with) and come back after our shift to reclaim it.

As a cashier the worst customers were those who paid with three ziplock bags worth of change. Those who demand service when you've got the "Please use next cash" sign up". Another favourite are those who give you a big wad of coupons for products of which only one or two were actually purchased, although the antics they pull when you start looking over the bags to find those items to discount is pretty funny, they'll distract you, get mad at you, say they'll miss their bus, etc.

Favourite scams of the cashier (people at big grocery stores don't get a discount): moving things over the scanner without scanning them. Using cheaper price codes (e.g. running red peppers through as green peppers), holding something while you weigh it (takes skill), "forgetting" to pass the items under the cart.

The saddest part of my job was when it was welfare wednesday (last wednesday of the month when people got their welfare cheques) and seeing someone buy groceries for a family of five and then purchase four cartons of cigarettes.
posted by furtive at 1:15 PM on July 29, 2005


People are very weird about groceries. I will never understand why the pissiest customers are the ones who have WIC and EBT. Because if I had free food, I would be a very happy girl.

I always wonder about people who come in and buy $600 of food (that's THREE shopping carts full). Why not come shopping more often? How many people are you feeding?

Here are some other sites that might be interesting:
http://www.livejournal.com/community/customers_suck/
http://www.livejournal.com/community/grocery_hell
posted by Amanda B at 1:15 PM on July 29, 2005


As a cashier for a department store, I once witnessed a pretty good attempt at shoplifting. The store was at one end of a mall, and it was probably 100 feet to the nearest exit.

The manager spotted the pair just as they dropped a bunch of Levis into a bag, and shouted for them to stop. I got on the horn to security, who said they were on their way.

Of course, the shoplifters made to get away, and the manager figured it was a bad idea to try and stop them himself (they were two very large guys who probably individually outweighed him by 40 or 50 pounds of muscle). So, rather than take matters into his own hands physically, he followed them out of the store at a polite distance with a pad of paper in his hands. Once in the parking lot, he followed them to their car, and calmly wrote down their license plate number.

The guys tried to back out, but he was in the way. Gambling that they weren't in it for more problems than a shoplifting charge, he effectively penned them in their parking lot. They started to panic when he was quickly replaced by the Mall security SUV, who kept them busy enough until the cops got on the scene.


At the same job, the assistant manager was a born-again christian, and took every pain to bring it up in casual conversation. Apparently, something told him that my general nonchalance at life was some indicator of my less-than-serious commitment to a life of religion. Well, I lived with that for a year, until it turned out that he was stealing money from the cash drawer and was fired and charged with theft. I think he ended up doing community service. Many times after that, I wanted to have a serious talk with him, outlining each of the moral gaps he found in me, and comparing and contrasting them to someone who would steal from his own employer.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:31 PM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


We had a customer who would put everything she bought into the plastic bags from the produce section, even stuff like canned soup.

Wow, I feel really sorry for this woman - sounds like a classic OCD case.
posted by agregoli at 2:06 PM on July 29, 2005


If you buy a coffee with a $20 bill, now the cash register has 1 less $10, 1 less $5, 4 less $1s -- and one more $20. This leads to running out of small change which is a pain in the ass for the cashier.

Why not just do away with the customer entirely if doing the job is such a pain? It's one thing to joke about the irrational/bitchy things customers do - but this is just lazy.
posted by mullacc at 2:07 PM on July 29, 2005


I've never worked in a grocery store, but I worked concessions in a movie theater for a year in high school. I quickly got to the point where I could guess soda selection based on age, gender and race. It got a little freaky.
posted by unsweet at 2:47 PM on July 29, 2005


Similar to DCMCD's story of the ugly sweaters-
We had some basic styled sunglasses tagged at $4.95 and couldn't sell any. So I made an "On Special" sign, priced them at $19.95 and put them next to the Ray-Bans. Of course, we sold dozens.....
posted by pgoes at 2:51 PM on July 29, 2005


Mmm, when I was 19 I worked at a Plaid Pantry (an Oregon version of 7-eleven) and every Friday night this guy would come in and buy a value pack of porno mags and a small jar of vaseline.
posted by yodelingisfun at 3:00 PM on July 29, 2005


I worked at a grocery store in a poorer part of town. A lot of people would come in and buy a lot of cheap pet food. I asked someone why people were buying so much pet food and found out that they weren't buying it for pets. Sad

If someone wasn't using food stamps I didn't pay any attention at all to what they were buying. If they were using food stamps you had to ring up essential things covered by food stamps like bread and milk separate from non essential things like ciggarettes.
posted by Justin Case at 3:04 PM on July 29, 2005


I worked in a supermarket in Edinburgh once. At the end of the day I used to mark-down the bakery goods. All the tramps would come in for the ten-pence packs of cakes, and one big old geezer had a bit of an odour about him. Any way, I swear to God one day I knew I was late marking down the cakes because I smelt the old codger coming...
posted by nthdegx at 3:43 PM on July 29, 2005


When they ask for your zip, always say 90210. It freezes something in the cashier's brain.

Except of course when you're shopping in Los Angeles...
posted by schyler523 at 3:56 PM on July 29, 2005


I will never understand why the pissiest customers are the ones who have WIC and EBT. Because if I had free food, I would be a very happy girl.

I've done both WIC and EBT, and the hassle can be very agravating. Especially WIC, the checker invariably gets annoyed if you don't arrange the foodin the proper order. Sometimes when they see the milk coming down the belt, they just sigh. Also it makes me feel lame to have to depend on the state for food (full-time student with child), so you're ready to be defensive. It's not free food, it's food with baggage.
posted by slimslowslider at 5:09 PM on July 29, 2005


If a fat person is buying cake, pizza and chocolate, the drink is diet coke.

If it's closing time, a customer is coming. If they ask if you're just closing, they'll be there for hours. If they breeze in pretending they don't know there's a minute to go, they'll be gone in 30 seconds.

Thieves take the weirdest things. What do they do with all the butter?
posted by bonaldi at 6:01 PM on July 29, 2005


the hassle can be very agravating

That I can understand. But I had a lady just absolutely flip out on the cashier when asked if she had a store savings card. Te lady became more enraged when the cashier just scanned the spare card, and screamed, "I DON'T CARE, IT'S JUST WIC!!"

Said lady is now know to employees as "Bitchy WIC lady."

So frustration I can understand, because there are a lot of regulations that go with it. But there's never any reason to freak out because the cashier won't disreguard the instructions on the back (I.E. Cheerios but not Honey Nut Cheerios).
posted by Amanda B at 2:09 AM on July 30, 2005


Richard Herring has made a large part of his stand up show out of one incident at a cashier's desk. Yes, someone likes yoghurt
posted by handee at 5:04 AM on July 30, 2005


Years ago, camera store, rich lady, OCD. (Maybe they have better meds now?)
When people buy a big, fancy, expensive lens, (in the SLR days) they want to play with it. They want to take it out of the box, mount it on a body, look through it, feel the weight, whatever.
She would buy every lens in the store, one at a time, take it out of the box and look at it, and if it had ever been opened, she'd bring it back. When she'd gone through all of them, she'd order one from the warehouse. On bad days, she'd make you open one for her to play with, then leave, come back later, and then order one, because the one we opened for her had been opened.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:52 AM on July 30, 2005


I worked at a Ben Franklin store for a few years. The store would be empty of customers, then fill up all at once, then empty out again. I decided the folks all arrived together and left on an invisible bus.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:22 AM on July 30, 2005 [1 favorite]


Thanks so much for all your stories.
posted by kmel at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2005


I'm known as "organic girl". Mainstream grocery stores with a small to medium selection of organic produce test the long time cashiers and trip up the new ones. The codes keyed in are usually memorized. I try to find the experienced checkers and avoid the ones who gripe about it.

Most people put meat products in bags the clear bags so the juices don't drip over the rest of the items in the shopping cart. I'll put in a maximum of 2 packages with their labels facing out so they can easily be scanned. S.O. stacks them in, requiring the checker to take them out of the bag to scan.
posted by Feisty at 10:57 AM on July 31, 2005


If you buy a coffee with a $20 bill, now the cash register has 1 less $10, 1 less $5, 4 less $1s -- and one more $20. This leads to running out of small change which is a pain in the ass for the cashier.
.....
But given that ATMs only give out $20s, how is it the customer's fault for not always having a smaller bill on hand? Certainly, I always try to pay for small purchases with small bills (I worked retail/cashier/restaurant jobs for many, many years, so I sympathize deeply), but if I've just gone to the bank, a 20 is all I've got.

geez, i had no idea my comment about $20s would cause such a stir! it was irritating because, as pointed out, you quickly end up with all $20s in the drawer, which means you have to get more change for the drawer, which means customers get held up, which in a convinience store causes customer bitchiness. i know sometimes it's all the customer has, but that doesn't make it any less annoying for the cashier.

Why not just do away with the customer entirely if doing the job is such a pain?

what can i say? i hated that job more than anything else in the world (and not just because of the $20s, which were a relatively minor annoyance). as they said in Clerks, "This job would be great if it wasn't for the f**king customers".
posted by geeky at 6:54 PM on July 31, 2005


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