If you’ve ever worked at a supermarket, you’ll relate to these tips to help customers understand our point of view. And if you’re a customer, read on as well. We cashiers love nothing more than a customer who knows how to get the best deals while still being polite!
1. If you need help, DO ask.
My grandmother and great-aunt used to do their shopping together. Grandma refused to ask for help and insisted on taking an hour to get through the store, squinting at prices she couldn’t see. She’d be grumpy by the end of the trip and would yell at the employees.
Her sister, on the other hand, asked for help as soon as she walked in. Most of the time, someone personally escorted her through the aisles, making sure she got what she needed. She and the cashier both had a better time at checkout.
Grocery stores emphasize customer service, and if asked to help, we will. Don’t be embarrassed; that’s why we’re here.
2. DON’T haggle here — usually.
Cashiers rarely have the authority to lower the price for you unless it’s ringing up wrong, and most managers won’t give in either. The prices at grocery stores are set for a reason, yet I’ve seen customers doing anything from ripping open a box and insisting that it was already damaged to telling me a long story about how poor they are in an attempt to get lower prices. It just doesn’t work that way.
However, if you do find a damaged package, you can ask for a lower price. In some cases the store won’t be permitted to sell a damaged item, but my local Wal-Mart regularly sells cans of soda that were taken from the package for a quarter each. Most of the time, you can also take a rain check for any sale item that ran out.
3. DO ignore our requests for donations. It’s okay, we don’t care.
At one of my stores, we’d have a promotion every few months where we had to ask each customer if they wanted to donate to a charity at the end of their transaction. We’d get written up if we didn’t ask.
I know it’s embarrassing to be put on the spot like that. I’m not a fan of soliciting donations — I believe it’s preying upon our human sense of guilt. However, I am not willing to lose my job. So I have to ask.
Don’t feel bad. I’m not going to think you’re stingy if you don’t donate. If you want, you can say you already donated this time, or just politely say no thank you. You can even ignore it completely. Please don’t glare or yell at the cashier. We hate it just as much as you do.
4. If you can help it, DON’T shop at busy times.
In my experience, grocery stores are busiest in the late afternoons and weekend mid-mornings. Don’t shop then. The store will be packed, the lines will be long, we’ll be out of stock on tons of items, and you have little chance of getting any personal attention if you need it.
If you have to shop during a busy period and you can’t seem to get a manager’s attention about a problem, note any details you can about the incident (such as time, prices, and the names of any involved employees) and call back later. You’ll get what you need much faster than you would have if you’d stayed there fighting the crowds.
5. DO compliment good employees.
I spent most of my time cashiering in a small Florida town where the majority of customers wanted their groceries checked out slowly and carefully, no coupon left behind. They’d often tell me that I was the only cashier who checked them out the way they liked it. Yet because none of them ever mentioned to a manager that they appreciated my service, I got in trouble several times for working too slowly.
If your cashier or bagger does a good job, tell the manager. It’ll make you feel good, and that employee is sure to take extra care with your business in the future. And although it’s officially not allowed and shouldn’t be expected, I have seen employees use their own discount card or another special deal for a favorite customer.
6. DON’T leave groceries you don’t want sitting out.
Of all my grocery store pet peeves, this one gets to me the most. I understand that if you’ve decided you don’t want something, you don’t want to run it back across the store. But please, hand it to the cashier. Most stores have someone round up unwanted items and return them to their proper places every hour or so. It’s expected.
But when you leave items around the store, it creates extra work for us. Worse, if the item needed to be refrigerated or frozen, it probably won’t be found until it’s too late and needs to be thrown out. It’s no better than stealing.
7. DO find the right register.
We’ve all found ourselves with a few too many items in the express lane once in a while. It’s okay, it happens, and most cashiers will understand that. But please try to pay attention to the checkout lane you’re about to enter. At some stores, if you enter an express lane or one that’s closing, you can be turned away and forced to join a longer line.
I also understand how frustrating it can be when there are few registers open with lines across the store, yet you can see employees just standing around. I promise there’s a good reason for this. Not everyone is trained to use the registers, and considering the amount of money you’re responsible for when you use one, I wouldn’t hand a register over to someone untrained.
Additionally, it’s not legal to work before or after your shift starts, or when you’re taking a break. Anyone who does that is likely to be fired, and then the store would be even more shorthanded.
I hope I’ve helped those of you who have never worked in a grocery store understand why we employees do some things that seem to make no sense if you don’t know the policy behind them. Please let me know if you have any tips coming from a shopper’s perspective. I’m sure plenty of cashiers out there could use a Do’s and Don’ts list of their own.