I work at a supermarket, and whilst that sounds incredibly bland and mundane, I’ve noticed that it’s an incredibly amazing place to people watch. This is an environment where people come to buy items necessary for life, though do not wish to part with their hard earned cash. It is not like entering a boutique store where you inspect items, consider whether it is worthy of your money and then choose to buy or not buy the item and your final decision not impacting the grand scheme of your life. No, you go to a supermarket to buy essentials – bread, milk, chocolate etc – all crucial to existence. This makes the supermarket floor a grape-ridden, detergent-reeking battlefield between customers and staff.
There are a few different kinds of customers we encounter on a daily basis. Firstly, there’s the Perfectionist. These are the people that are overly picky about the quality of products. If there is a scratch on a box, they won’t look at it. If the roots of a carrot are not adequately bushy, there will be pandemonium. They are the ones that will request that you look ‘out back’ to check if there is another item in stock, and if not, demand a discount.
Related to the Perfectionist is the Troll. These are the people that will go out of their way to get every item for free. They know that there is nothing wrong with the item, but still try and call out the staff to manipulate a deal. I’ve heard lines like “That apple is an odd colour, can I get it for free?” No, you can’t. There are other apples. It’s not the last apple on earth. Just go and pick out another one.
The Mad-Packer is one that is quite difficult to deal with. They demand for their bags to be packed in a certain way, ensuring that all items are cushioned and put in no danger. They are under the impression that we as cashiers are determined to destroy all of their items. After handing us their enviro-friendly bags they will begin their commands. “Don’t pack the grapes next the kiwi-fruit, they’ll get squashed!!” or “Keep the tomatoes separate from the light globes! They might develop Chlamydia!!” (I may have exaggerated).
Then there are the Germaphobes who believe that everyone and everything is carrying some kind of disease. They are the ones who wrap their hands in plastic bags when exchanging money, or attempt to scan their loyalty cards themselves by reaching over the counter (often unsuccessfully, I must add).
The Kidders, whilst not actually being any sort of nuisance, can be so at times. They are the ones that will, upon an item not scanning properly, make the joke “Oh well it must be free then!” If you’re having a good day, these are the people that will make your day better. But if you’re six hours in to a nine-hour shift, these people are just annoying.
The Demanders are some of the most irritating customers. They are generally disguised as nice, friendly people, so you don’t see them coming. But after they leave you realize you have just spent thirty minutes attending to just that customer’s needs. One such regular comes to mind – every Thursday she comes in and asks for already cut pumpkins to be cut to her specifications, she asks for chickens to be cooked in a certain way and for bags to be packed containing certain things. There is a point when customer service moves from a cashier-customer relationship to a master-servant one.
Last, but not least, are the Turtles. These people generally live in their own world and forget that others are shopping at the same time. They travel around the store, pushing their trolleys and traveling at speeds of half-a-metre/ hour. They take their time loading the conveyor belt at the checkout, and often call out “Oh I forgot something, I’ll just be a second…” then go off across the store to find more items, holding up everyone else in line. They are the ones that take out their wallets after the cost has been announced to them and only begin the search for their loyalty cards when asked.
Don’t get me wrong – working at a supermarket isn’t that bad. Whilst there are the odd angry and annoying customers, you always get plenty of really friendly people come through that make you day. Also, working with some of the nicest people around helps a lot too. One thing you always know is that at the end of the day, you’re always going to have a story to tell.