Formerly published in The Other Press. Nov. 6 2012
Proper etiquette at the cash register
By Elliot Chan, Contributor
Nothing is stealthier than the month of November; every year it sneaks up and startles me. Now that it is here, that means Christmas and chaos are just around the corner. Breathe, keep calm; there is still time, but to avoid turning into a shopping mall monster, there are some lessons to learn. As a proud supporter of the “Customers are not always right” theory, I feel educated enough to teach it.
Inconsiderate people come in all shapes and sizes. But to members of the retail and customer service industry, everybody seems inconsiderate, and that’s something to keep in mind when approaching the queue. I know you’ve spent a long time at the mall, that you’re tired and frustrated from buying gifts, but the cashiers, clerks, and everyone else working have been there even longer. You chose to be at the mall—they didn’t. They were just victim to debts and the unfortunate holiday blackout schedules.
So how should you behave when the person behind the counter greets you with a friendly, yet composed smile? Smile back, of course. They aren’t the dirty squeegee guys that approach your car on the freeway exit. They are not attempting to waste your time by getting the price check or annoy you by asking if you are interested in their new promotion. They are just doing their job. Maybe not to perfection, but can you admit to never counting the hours until the end of a shift? So be a forgiving costumer, but more importantly, be a forgettable costumer.
You can learn a lot about someone by the way they handle their money. Having a good estimation of how much you have in your shopping cart before approaching the till can help you manage your wallet after the big lineup. There is a time and a place to pay with your loose change; the holiday season is not one of them. So if you’re paying more than five dollars by scattering nickels, dimes, and quarters onto the counter and expecting the cashier to count it all, you are inconsiderate. Admit it! And if you are buying anything less than 10 dollars by dropping a 100 dollar bill, well, don’t get angry when they hand you back a wad of fives. The ability to tell the difference between a bank and a store is important—recognize them before shopping.
Like bees in a hive or ants in their hills, we must all work together at a shopping mall. So please, control your children, walk at a steady pace—preferably on the right hand side—, and avoid loitering in front of entrances. Remembering these little tidbits might not make your shopping experience easier, but it’ll make everyone else’s.