People watching is the best show on earth...

Dec 11, 2007

Conditional Love

. Dec 11, 2007


I'm overjoyed at finding a perfect gift for a good friend and stand in line to pay. After five minutes, I see that I have once again chosen the slowest line in the register bank. Inching forward, I'm finally three customers away from payment. A young Hispanic girl is at my register. She is perhaps 17, wears a red sweater and a Christmas tree pin with blinky lights. Two girlfriends chat in line in front of me, behind the customer currently paying. They are white, one redhead and one blond. Suddenly, the man paying speaks loudly, drawing my attention:

Man: That's not the right change.
Cashier: Uh, I put the wrong amount.
Man: Well, yeah. But the change is still wrong.
Cashier: Huh?
Man: I'm a buck short on my change.
Cashier: Um, I put $200 instead of $20 that you gave me.
Man: I know, I know. I see that. But you still gave me the wrong change. Just take the zero off and do it in your head .
(The girl looks blankly at the monitor screen and bites her lip. The man shakes his head.)
Cashier: Uh, so do what now?
Man: Geez, honey. It's $20 take away $11.79.... So?
(Red blotches form on the cashier's face. She looks nervously at her coworker, who finally steps in to assist her.)
Cashier 2: He gets $8.21 back. Just open the drawer with a void and give him the dollar.

The cashier does as she's told and the man stomps away, again shaking his head. The redhead in front of me elbows her friend and whispers, "God. I hope I don't have a dumb kid. I really do. I wouldn't have the patience. I mean, seriously." She looks about seven months pregnant.

23 Whispers:

AJ said...

It's really sad how arrogant and conceited people can be.
Love your blog by the way; there's nothing more interesting than human interaction. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

You know, situations like these are tough, because I can personally relate to all of them. I have worked in retail before and have had experiences with impatient customers when I've hit a wrong key on something before and wasn't sure what to do to fix it and the customer rolling their eyes and stamping their feet just made me more nervous and I blanked out and started to panick. Things like that can ruin your day as a retail worker.

Then, i've been on the customer side as well. You had a crappy day, you get in the slowest line, your kid is hanging off of your arm and whining, and your not feeling like the most patient person on the planet. However, having worked in retail I think that helps keep me patient.

As for the pregnant chick..LOL I ha no words.

Vienne said...

HI A.J., thanks a lot! I agree, I'm addicted to human interaction. I could people watch/listen all day, any day.

Alycat, that's great perspective you give to the story. The cashier was clearly very frazzled by the guy firing arithmatic at her. He was pretty obnoxious. I'm pretty sure she's a new employee, maybe seasonal help. I wonder if she came back to work the next day.

AntiBarbie said...

If you are working with the public you need to learn to have some really tough skin. You also need to have some decent math skills to run a register. Even though the register displays totals for you, stuff happens all the time where you ask to have bills broken and all kinds of stuff (like this) inevitably happen.

As for the pregnant lady I can't help but to say, it's NOT easy dealing with a child who's slow. I have a child with developmental problems and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It tests your patience on a daily basis. I don't blame her at all for saying it.

Steph Waller said...

People are so thoughtless sometimes. I suppose the guy was in such a big hurry because he had something very important (cough, cough) to do elsewhere.

I've worked retail and those kind of people are poison. You never forget their unkindness.

With each word or action, we create the world around us.

Vienne said...

Hi Antibarbie, I know what you mean about tough skin. I developed a nice coat of it myself while waitressing for years. It comes in quite handy for life in general, too. That's some powerful insight you provide on living with challenged children. It's easy for me to scowel at the lady's comment; I've never been there.

Greetings Steph, it's true what you say. I try to remember that I leave people I interact with better, the same or worse than before I spoke with them. I try for better but don't always make it.

clairec23 said...

That was a bit mean...I'd never get annoyed if the person was only new and still learning - but I always seem to be in less of a hurry than other people. She was obviously embarrassed herself by it though, it wasn't as if she was intentionally slow because she was too busy chatting to her mates or anything. Poor kid. I don't like hearing pregnant women say things like that, it sometimes sounds like they won't love the child if it isn't perfect and that scares me on the child's behalf. I know that's silly but it just chills me...

JenWriter said...

Love your blog. I just discovered this today. It's a great idea. Some of the conversations I overhear sometimes...wild stuff.

mikster said...

This is a tough time of year to work in retail. But cash registers have negated the need for math skills too.

Leann I Am said...

Wow! Younger people today just aren't taught to figure change out on their own. It's sad, but true! They don't have the same opportunities to use their own common sense as do previous generations.

And that lady...I'm more afraid for her child than the one who can't count change!

Lovebabz said...

First of all Happy Holidays!
I am always baffled by the level at which folks will go to be mean and nasty as if it cost them so much to be kind. It's a job and we all suffer through little jobs. It is not life or death or even that serious. Are we so bereft of human kindness that we have to tear down others in order to feel superior? How small.

Vienne said...

Hi Claire, I was also concerned about the lady's comment; maybe I'm making too much of it. Maybe she's got a sarcastic wit. Who knows.

Welcome JenWriter, I hope you continue to find my posts interesting!

Mikster, it's true about technology helping and hurting us at the same time. I see a lot of examples of sheer panic when PDAs and other electronics fail in work meetings and other venues when human beings are forced to use their own brains. Somehow I always have to stifle an inappropriate cackle. Joke's on me, too, though. I've been lost when my scientific calc died during a budget meeting.

LeAnn, ditto!

Holiday wishes to you, too, LoveBabz. I agree that kindness is the cheapest and most meaningful gift to give.

Jamie said...

Cashiers do tend to become too dependent on the register and less dependent on their math skills. I've seen it a dozen times.

As for the pregnant lady, I'd take a "dumb" child over an unhealthy one any day! It's not fun visiting your baby in the hospital for the first year of her life! (Didn't happen to me, but did to my cousin).

Suburbian Queen

Breezie said...

I worked at a cash register for just one summer at the local race track and I know how ignorant and rude some people can be. One summer of it was all I needed or wanted.

Alycat26 said...

I am 27 and HORRIBLE with math. HORRIBLE. I always have been. I'm sure I could probably have figured out the error if I had stayed calm, but I bet if i was in her position I would have panaicked and not known what to do. I have a touch of social anxiety and I would have just blanked out. It's sad because I'm sure the guy huffed and puffed about it for a bout two seconds on his way home and then went about his day. That poor girl was probably ruined for the rest of the day and probably wanted to quit after that.

I myself worked at a Hannaford in Maine and refused to be a cashier because my math skills suck so bad. Everyone was like "oh come on, the machine does all the work". When in reality, there is an error every five minutes and someone is always having to call the shift leader over to fix it.

I was like no thanks. I bagged groceries, worked in the bottleroom(This one sucked really really bad but still better than cashier)did janitorial duties, helped with produce sometimes, etc. I was happy doing anything that kept me busy as long as it was not cashiering. No one could understand why I would rather clean the bathrooms than Cashier.

I'd explain it like this. It's bad enough when your bagging peoples groceries and they are watching you like a hawk to make sure you don't squish anything (Either that or they ignore you like you don't exhist because your just a lowly bagger and not a cashier lol)but it's another thing entirely dealing with people's money.

Reno said...

This very well could have been the cashiers first day on the job. Sometimes the brain freezes up when we are nervous. Unfortunately, I am a retail management slave right now at a home improvement store. Let me tell ya, the public is usually in "jerk mode" during the holidays. It is very sad considering everyone should be cheery right now with x-mas rapidly approaching.

--pandi merdeka nurdiansyah-- said...

hehehe nice blog but can't comment yet i already get ur rss maybe latter oke

Vienne said...

Hi Aly, many customers don't realize how much their reactions affect retail workers. Of course, just as many customers might say the opposite. But having worked retail myself and had more than a spoonful of rude served up to me, I think the scales are stacked against the workers. If you don't feel comfortable with a certain task, you should look for another responsibility just as you did. I hope you are happy with whatever you do now! I also think you are right about the girl's experience in my post. I am sure she felt terrible about herself for hours.

Hi Reno, yes the short-fused holiday shoppers are definintely out and about. Shop with caution.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Standing in lines tends to bring out the worst in people... we can't seem to think past the moment and remember other people have feelings too.

cardiogirl said...

Your posts are ALWAYS priceless!

Anonymous said...

Long lines and public in a bad mood trying to get stuff real quick...that's what i see all around...but I guess it's part of the game, like they say, no pain, no gain :)

Home business ideas

your mom said...

this makes me angry. not only as an employee but as a dyslexic employee. i know exactly how this young lady felt. people are so impatient these days. had he not been so abrasive she may have not had so much trouble with the change. i just don't understand why people get so work up over a simple mistake. or for that matter, a dollar. it is pathetic! be patient, be a little more sensitive for god's sake!

and the expectant mother.. i am a mother. yes, i was concerned that my daughter would be dyslexic. my concern was that she would be outcasted like i was or that she would struggle in school like i did. i crossed my fingers and prayed to the creator that she would be smarter than i am. i think that is understandable. what i cannot believe is the implication of that woman's comments. it is like she is saying that she would not love her child if they were not oxford scholar!

people continue to let me down as soon as i regain my faith in them.

CCCP said...

I'm 16 and because of pressure put on me when I was younger to perform maths correctly (I was a sensitive kid), it's almost impossible for me to do sums, especially whilst being timed or in a situation where I must do it quickly. Even figuring 20-11 is hard.

I try to be nice to people when they're having trouble doing a normal task, because hell, you don't know their story.
They could have way worse things to worry about than you getting your change promptly.


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