I was in Winners during my lunch break today. Just looking of course. Not that I’d actually buy anything from there. Huh!
Anyway, I was in line at the cash and the woman in front of me plunked a printed dress down, pointed out an inky smudge on the fabric, and demanded a discount from the cashier. Fortunately this caused little delay because the cashier simply told her to go to the customer service counter for that kind of thing.
Although the entire transaction took less than twenty seconds, I still found myself annoyed. Not due to anything the cashier said, but because the shopper assumed the cashier had the authority to offer on-the-spot (so to speak) discounts. The lady was in her 50s, so it’s not like she’s never gone shopping before.
OK, lady, in case you’re reading, it’s like this: if cashiers in large retail chain stores had that kind of authority you would end up with a lot of bored and underpaid teenagers giving big discounts to their friends and family. “The price tag is ripped? Half off!” “It looks dark in this light? $40 off!” “There’s a full moon tonight? Two for one!”
Now before you complain that I’m being unkind to the cashiering profession, consider the nature of the job. Cashiering presents a number of challenges, including physical (standing all day), mental (staying focused customer after damn customer), and emotional (staying polite, calm, and unrattled in the face of endless stupid questions and dumb behaviour).
That said, I’ll bet most cashiers don’t want the extra burden of being responsible for learning, understanding, implementing, and being accountable for store policies involving such issues. Not to mention that doing so would also cause delays and lineups and would irritate other customers. Why would they want the extra hassle in a minimum wage job with no chance of upward mobility?
Most retail cashiers probably don’t see their jobs as a career. In this I exclude cashiers in large grocery stores — where the pay tends to be better and there are benefits and unions and advantages to long and dedicated service. But retail stores — particularly clothing stores — are something else. They usually have high turnover rates and the cashiers are young, underpaid, and disposable. There is very little at stake for such employees aside from the next paycheque. Retail cashier jobs are not hard to find or get, so they are unlikely to want, or be granted, any extra responsibility.
And that’s what it comes down to with most issues in life. When you want to know why a thing is the way it is, or why people are motivated — or not — to behave certain ways, simply ask what’s at stake?
Postscript: Alright, I admit this post is a bit of a ramble. Bleh, don’t blame me, blame this mild flu I’m trying to get over…