A cashier’s opinion

2014-10-14 00:00

I’VE always believed in the concept of not judging a book by its cover. I think the same goes for people. I live by the reasoning that before judging a person, wait and see; get to know the person a little before making snap judgments.

Being polite and friendly to anyone regardless of cast or creed can make a world of difference and it’s the small things we do that characterises the people we are.

Walk into a shopping mall or your nearest shop-around-the-corner, you have to pay for your goods sometime or the other, well, unless you’re a thief but that’s a whole other matter. Getting back to the point — who do you see? You’re met with the sight of a cashier tasked and ready to scan your goods, and waiting for you to hand over your hard-earned money.

You’re judging that cashier. I know you are. You’re looking at the cashier’s clothes and nails, and you’re wondering how old exactly this stranger is, handling your precious rands. You’re probably taking bets on whether or not you get given the correct amount of change on your purchase.

Do you think you’re the one doing all the judging?

As a cashier myself I think you better think again, because whatever you’re thinking you can count on it that we’re sizing you up, too, and judging you a whole lot more than you’re judging us.

In my opinion, you really need to be careful about how you treat us or you just might end up with a shirt without a button or a loaf of bread that resembles the consistency of scrambled eggs.

Before you start beating me with said loaves of bread, I’m kidding. I really am. No, we don’t do those horrible things I’ve mentioned above but you do have to watch out for some serious negative karma coming your way. Every good cashier will smile and treat you with nothing but politeness and sincerity but if you’re mean to us, we’re definitely hoping the universe sends out something to help get you to act like a decent person towards others again.

I’ve been a cashier for close to seven years now. In that time I finished high school, went to the local university, got a degree and decided to study towards a second degree. Sorry to burst that stereotypical bubble that some have in their minds, but no, I am educated and I am a competent person, as are all the cashiers whom I’ve worked with over the years. Some of my fellow cashiers have masters degrees and have completed years of studying, only to be unable to find a job best suited for their chosen profession. They’ve ended up as cashiers out of necessity, not because they’re stupid and deserve a minimum-wage paying job. So don’t think you can guess how intelligent people are just by what they do. We’re all regular people and regardless of profession, from cashier to street-sweeper to managing director, everyone deserves to be treated equally.

I’ve had customers through the years wave business cards in my face proclaiming how important they are, I’ve had customers demanding why payment is cash only — as if I’m management and have control over payment options. I’ve had customers hold up the queue and shout and sneer at me, customers who’ve demanded why the stock has finished — something I definitely have no control over. Sure sometimes I make mistakes, and customers do too, but do I shout and belittle you in front of strangers? If you sometimes wonder why a cashier is so grumpy you just might be the reason. A little politeness and civility go a long way — trust me.

I love this small town I grew up in. I love the fact that it’s small enough that everyone knows everyone and that some customers tend to linger at the checkpoint talking about their grandchildren and who recently got married to whom, I know who’s sick and I can tell you who recently got their hair cut and dyed before your own grapevine can. I don’t need to know people’s names to remember their faces and it’s easy to recognise the regular customers.

I do remember people’s names though, and I do remember which brand of cigarette they smoke and I can tell whether or not they’d want a chocolate treat today. A good cashier can see the difference between a person having a good day, someone having a bad day and a person purposefully being rude and we try — or at least I try — to smile and help them on their way.

So tell me, when last did you speak to a cashier you’ve encountered using his or her name?

• Emie Govender: “I’m a strong believer in speaking my mind. I live in the world inside my head, where I’m obsessed with reading and spend entirely too much time browsing online. I think ice cream should be a food group, I’m allergic to selfies and I’m hopeless at texting. Right now, I’m a student who daydreams in class of the life I’m going to live. I plan on travelling the world, where adventure awaits on each continent and eventually, one day, I’ll come back to the city I call home.”

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