Tips and Secrets from your Retail Cashier

Like many other unfortunate souls this year, I signed up for a seasonal retail job, just to pick up some hours and holiday cash. It’s not all bad. I work at a shop you probably have been in before that sells mostly scented products, so I don’t have to deal with folding clothes or changing rooms, and I don’t have to stand in front of a hot grill all day. Sometimes, I get to shop with people, which is kind of fun. There are few things more rewarding than the look of relief in a man’s eyes when you find him something his wife/girlfriend/sister/mom will like, after he’s been staring at the same bottle of perfume for a good ten minutes with a bewildered and slightly frightened look in his wide puppy-dog eyes.

On the other hand, it’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life. My feet hurt, My hands and arms are cut to ribbons with papercuts from bags and cardboard boxes. There have been some less than pleasant customers, and my days are pretty repetitive, which makes them feel long. I’m happy to have my job, but I’m glad that there is a definitive end date too.

Why do I care about your minimum wage retail job? You ask. Well, as someone who has gone through the black gates of 10 hours at the mall on Black Friday and come out the other side, and has been there almost every day since, I can give you some tips from the inside about how to make your shopping trips less of a military operation and more of a fun outing.

Make a list. You don’t have to stick to it, but if you know where you’re going, who you have to buy for, and how much you have to spend for each person/at each place, it makes the day a whole lot less stressful. Going in with a few ideas gives you something to work with, and if you know exactly what you want, any decent sales associate can probably run around the store faster than you and cut your shopping time in half.

Ditch the giant purse, big coat and shopping cart. On busy shopping days, you don’t want to be constantly bumping into people or saying “excuse me” 900 times an hour while squeezing yourself through small aisles. Bring a small cross-body bag with your coupons/discount cards, favorite method of payment, your list, and some lipgloss. You probably won’t need anything else for that particular trip, and it will save you rifling through your bottomless pit of a tote bag every time you get to the cash. It’ll also be less of a pain to maneuver through the crowds. Leave the big coat too, if you can. Ditch it in the car or leave it with a buddy (see below). Malls get hot with so many desperate and sweaty people in them. You’ll be comfier and feel less bulky without it.

Another bulk-reducing tip to keep you light, happy, and agile on your shopping mission is to bring a friend and/or man to bag-sit. Buy them a smoothie and a couple of magazines, and get them to sit in the food court while you go about your business. You can stop in for a drink and to drop off your bags when you need to, and then don’t have to worry about carrying your purchases around or forgetting one when you drop them all to pay. If you can’t do that, at least try to make arrangements to put stuff in your trunk periodically. It’s hard to shop when all your hands are holding bags!

Don’t do Christmas shopping for yourself until boxing day. Yeah, the sales are great, and you’re already in the store, and you kind of need that eyeliner- but that’s what the stores are counting on. All of these limited time offers will come around again post-Christmas, and you will likely get a better deal. Big companies know that before the big holiday, you feel obligated to buy their stuff because you’re gifting. After the big holiday, they have to motivate you themselves. Plus, it really cuts back on  having to return things because someone’s gifted you the same stuff. Resisting temptation now is worth it!

I’m not personally offended when you don’t want to share your personal information at cash. Also, I’m not an idiot. I know why you wouldn’t want random companies to spam your email or know your phone number or address. But, if you’re under 30 and have barely put the phone down long enough to let me ring up your purchase, I’m not going to believe that you don’t have an email. My grandma has an email. There’s no way you can convince me that you don’t have a personal email address in this day and age. You would be surprised at how many people try that line. “No” is okay, but if you lie to me, I will judge you just a little.

If you’re in line for more than a minute, use that time. Count your items, take one last look around the store, and get out your coupons. It’ll save both you and me a lot of time. I want to get you out of there as fast as possible, you want to get out and get on with your day, help me help you. When there’s 50 people behind you holding lots of heavy stuff, that’s not the time to realize you don’t know where you put your credit card, or realize you forgot something. It’s definitely not the time to put all your stuff down at the till, walk away, and continue shopping. This happens several times a day at my workplace, and it’s never a cute look on anyone. I don’t expect everyone to always have everything out and ready like you’re boarding a plane, but it helps to use your time in line wisely.

Double check your receipts before you leave the mall. If I’m doing a hundred transactions an hour on an outdated and inefficient point-of-sale system (which is the norm during holiday shopping season), I’m bound to screw up. I have to type in every coupon manually, I have to make sure I didn’t accidentally scan something twice, I have to make sure the sale price rang up right instead of the normal price. A few people a day are going to inevitably have something messed up, and it’s worth it to double check your receipts to make sure. Most reasonable sales associates will understand and be able to fix the problem, especially if you bring it in only a couple hours later.


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