Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

How You Treat Cashiers Says A Lot About You…(A Rant)

with 6 comments

I decided to write this, to explain what I saw, as an exercise in narrative framing…and I hope it will make sense to all of you.

Folks, I was out shopping a few days ago, laying in supplies for myself and my Mom due to the incoming snowstorm. And I witnessed a terrible man lighting into a cashier for no reason at all…so I thought I might talk about this, and why it showed so much of this man’s negative personality.

First, it was busy in the store. The shelves were bare in some places. It was cold outside, we were anticipating snow in the next six to eight hours, and most folks with any planning sense at all were in the store. Which means the cashiers were overworked, harried, and tired.

How do I know this? I’m a former cashier. I also have some common sense. And I know that if you’ve been dealing with a lot of people with big orders for hours, you are tired, you are stressed, and you haven’t had any down time to even grouse to fellow cashiers about how cold the weather is, how worried you are that your car won’t start, or that you won’t make it home until the storm is well underway.

But you can’t help but think this. You do what you can to shove it away, and give the best customer service you can. You tell yourself that no one can control the weather, and that it’s not your fault all these people are cranky (oft-times, crankier than you are), and you do your best to be ultra-polite and get them out of the store as fast as you can.

Anyway, I was in line, paying for a large amount of groceries (especially by my standards), and heard a man behind me yelling at a cashier in the next lane over. (I turned to get a description. He was fortyish, with graying-brown hair, rather short, with a combative expression.) He’d just asked her if anyone had called in sick; she said no, and had turned her light off as she was about to go home. (I know this because the manager had just been over telling her to go home a minute or so prior.) He apparently took great exception to this, and started yelling at her about her “unprofessional behavior,” “bad attitude,” and suchlike. All he did was rant at this poor young woman, who did nothing wrong, and then insisted that a manager be called. All delaying her in going home, and souring her experience of working hard and well during a difficult day.

This guy had no reason at all to do this. She had tried to de-escalate the situation after he started yelling, asking if there was anything she could do. He said he wanted a manager, and he kept yelling and making an ass out of himself.

Look. I know it’s frustrating when the weather is bad, and you’re worried about driving, and you have kids (he had two, I think), and maybe you couldn’t find everything you needed. But yelling at a cashier who did nothing wrong says more about you than it does about her.

And none of it — none — is flattering.

As I am a former cashier, I decided to stick around and talk with the folks at the service desk to give them a better idea of what had happened. I didn’t have to do this. But I didn’t want them thinking this young woman had done anything wrong. (She was probably under twenty.)

I wanted to give that angry man a piece of my mind. But by the time I got out of my line, he was already with the manager. Then he stormed out, his kids in tow…there was no point to engaging with him, not under those circumstances.

Had he not been the final person in this cashier’s line, and had I been behind him, I might’ve asked him why he was getting all upset over nothing. (Then again, I might’ve just waited and then told the cashier she did nothing wrong, and that I was sorry she had to put up with asinine people like that.)

But he was. And he behaved very badly, so badly that he gave his two kids a lesson in bullying. Not to mention rudeness, completely misunderstanding the situation, and a show of just how obnoxious this particular individual can be on any given day.

I did what I could to repair the situation for the cashier. (She’d already gone home by then, or at least was counting her drawer somewhere I couldn’t see her.) But I don’t know how many other patrons would do that.

So I am here to ask you: If you are in a bad mood, please do not take it out on an innocent person like a cashier. Do not make a spectacle of yourself in public, and give bad examples for your kids (or other people’s kids).

And if you have a legitimate beef, be calm. Be courteous. Be respectful. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

That’s the only way to be an adult. And don’t you want to be one? Especially if you have two kids looking up to you, trying to learn decent behavior from you?

Finally, I will tell you this: Any guy who behaves like this to a blameless cashier is not one I want to spend any time with whatsoever. Period.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 29, 2019 at 1:36 am

6 Responses

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  1. How sexist of you. 😉

    What does him being a man have to do with anything?

    Any Person who behaves like this to a blameless cashier is not one I want to spend any time with whatsoever.

    Oh, I’m making a bad joke about “sexist” but blame it on Not Enough Coffee.

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    January 29, 2019 at 9:22 am

    • LOL

      Paul, I’m with you there. I’ve seen very rude women in the store, too. Also in front of their kids, doing somewhat of the same thing…they treat cashiers like non-persons, and it annoys me.

      The only reason I talked about this one was because it was so egregiously awful…and because I wanted to write about something different that still was somewhat relevant. 🙂

      And your joke is just fine. I understood! 😀

      Barb Caffrey

      January 29, 2019 at 9:29 am

      • Thanks.

        On the other hand, to be fair the average male is larger/bigger than the average female so besides the “asshole behavior” there’s physical intimidation (even if he doesn’t lay a hand on her).

        On the gripping hand, a male cashier may want to “punch that asshole” but IMO punching a woman would be seen as worse than punching an asshole man.

        Of course, in any case it’s a no-win situation for a cashier when dealing with an asshole customer. 😦

        Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        January 29, 2019 at 9:42 am

      • Yep. It’s a bad situation no matter what. And you have very little power…it’s just not fun whatsoever.

        Barb Caffrey

        January 30, 2019 at 12:59 am

  2. Female aggression and male aggression is generally night and day. It’s how we’re socialized, not biological. My MMA instructor says I’m terrifying, not because I’m especially skilled or strong (t’m not), but because I’ll smile wide and happy right in your face while breaking bones. Men don’t do that when they’re pissed, in my experience. Instead, they act like this guy did. (Urgh, my dad always demanded to see a manager when he was angry at a person, too. Dude. Confront the problem where it is. Passing it up the chain usually makes *everyone* around you suffer.)

    What’s nice about MMA is that it gives you a lot of perspective in terms of handling a situation. De-escalation of conflict is part of the training, because:

    (1) You can fight.
    (2) This does not mean fighting is a good option.

    This applies to emotional stress as well. A technique I’ve found works well is called “finding the pin.” If someone is behaving in a way that is disrespectful, impolite, or just plain awful, realize that it’s coming from somewhere. Financial anxiety. Stress. Pain. You don’t need to know what it is; you just need to know that it’s there. That’s usually how I refrain from kicking assholes’ faces in. That, and arrest for assault is a thing, and stopping people from being an asshole doesn’t count as self-defense. 😛

    Poor cashier. I do think they know it’s not their fault, but a little respect goes a long way.


    January 29, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    • I appreciate your assessment, Jenni. I also agree with the whole idea of “this does not mean fighting is a good option.” Sometimes the best option is just to wait it out.

      And yes, this guy probably had other things on his mind. I figured that out right away. But taking it out on someone completely blameless is just beyond the pale…it’s classless, shoddy, and rude.

      There are some women who act this badly in the store, too — though of course you’re right that the way men and women behave is all different due to early socialization. (Later socialization basically builds on whatever is already there, and can be gotten around more easily.)

      So, a rude woman does the same thing, but you don’t think it’s likely she’s going to beat up the poor cashier (male or female). Whereas when a rude man does this, there’s certainly more fear that he’ll overstep and hit someone or something. And this guy in particular was pugnacious, to say the least.

      Anyway, sometimes when you’re tired/overstressed/unhappy you can’t help but show that. (After my husband died, I know I showed that for years.) But you can and should refrain from any verbal abuse, no matter what…and if it does come out anyway, apologize profusely and vow to do better.

      That’s my advice.

      Barb Caffrey

      January 30, 2019 at 1:04 am

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