Helpful hints for supermarket checkout operators

If a customer hands you two shopping bags, it is a clear indication that she wants her groceries packed in two bags.*

Do not put heavy bags of apples on top of loaves of bread. Instead, you should use the second bag the customer has handed to you.

When a customer hands you a dozen or so ordinary bags, all tidily folded and packed in a chiller bag, do not take all the ordinary bags out of the chiller bag, and ask the customer to unload the chilled items straight away. Chances are that she has her trolley well organised, with all the chilled items together, ready to be unloaded last of all, so that in the meantime, all the other grocery items can be packed in the ordinary bags.

When a customer hands you a dozen or so bags, and asks you to pack just a few items in each bag, so that the bags won’t be too heavy, do not cram each bag as full as possible. I swear, the next time you do this, I will delay paying you until I have repacked all the bags with just a few items in each.

Do not thrust the change into a pile in my hand, and then sigh heavily when I take 15 seconds to put it safely into my purse. My custom pays your wages. I don’t want obsequious service, but a little politeness would be nice, especially when I spend several hundred dollars at your supermarket every week.

I promise that I will continue to smile, to treat you politely, to thank you for doing the work. But FFS, could you please, please, please, treat my groceries (and everyone else’s) with a little respect.

* South Australia has outlawed the use of giveaway plastic shopping bags. We all have to bring our own. We can’t even buy biodegradable bags for 10c each anymore – the bags that supermarkets were selling as biodegradable turn out not to be biodegradable at all. These days, you have to bring your own bags, or buy some more reusable ones, or have some cardboard cartons stashed in the boot of your car, so you can load groceries from your trolley into the boot.


11 responses to “Helpful hints for supermarket checkout operators

  1. If a customer puts a bag on the conveyor belt, followed by an assortment of groceries, followed by another bag and some more groceries, chances are she wants her groceries packed in the bags they follow on the belt, in the order in which she has arranged them.

    If a customer does actually comment on the apparently universal practice of handing over notes, coins and receipt all in one handful, saying that it makes life extremely difficult for the customer, particularly if the customer has arthritis or any other dexterity-impairing condition in her hands, an enterprising employee might mention that to the management, with a view to changing the training so that customers are handed coins and notes separately as used to be universal practice.

    Do not, repeat do not, put either chocolate or ice cream in the same bag as a hot chicken.

  2. I don’t understand why bottles are packed lying down. Or why every single checkout operator seems determined to squash or bruise my carefully chosen fruit and veg.

  3. “Do not, repeat do not, put either chocolate or ice cream in the same bag as a hot chicken.”

    Or on top of wrapped packets of butter, not even plastic tubs. What a mess! Now I watch for such things very, very carefully.

    When the operator obviously takes some time and trouble to pack carefully, I express my thanks. Hopefully, some encouragement means another customer also gets the same careful treatment.

  4. Me too. And if I have time, I find the checkout manager, and tell them what an excellent job the checkout operator did.

  5. Buh? Mine always pack my bags (that I have to ambush them with lest they give me plastic, sigh) in the order I put stuff on the conveyor. Unless there is space for me to pack my own groceries.

    And yeah, putting coins on top of notes is stupid (makes the coins likely to slide out of my hand). I’m not quick enough to start putting my notes away before they give me my coins.

  6. Any supermarket is a Red Zone for the heart, mind, and psyche. While we wonder if the pears are from China, the operator is getting $9 per hour, never 38 of them a week, and rude idiocy from many shoppers. Those places are flashpoint meltdown runways, aided by the lighting and the music.
    The bags thing is a nightmare.

    The cash change handover horror, reaches it’s peak in ALDI stores. I am sure there has been an increase in shoppers carrying a stiff drink in a hip flask for carpark recovery.

  7. Odd. I really like Aldi because they seem to have the whole checking out process under control. All you have to worry about is them firing stuff into the trolley so enthusiastically that things bruise, and I haven’t had that happen (admittedly I buy very little bruisable stuff there because it’s all wrapped in plastic and polystyrene). Their staff are also astonishingly good at saying “you have a sealed box of X marked “contents 24 X”, and one X for me to scan, aren’t you a nice man” rather than “open the box I will scan each item individually then refuse to let you have the remains of the box”.
    I do like the suggestion of repacking the bags to my satisfaction while they wait. It seems like a fitting punishment, mostly because I can see the supervisor coming over and harassing the serf with the huge queue.

  8. I often wonder how much training a cashier undergoes when they get the job and if any additional training is offered on the job afterwards

  9. It seems I am always de-lurking on any post related to supermarket checkout operators!

    My experience is NZ-based, and it is generally also appalling how people pack things here! Aside from the fact that most stuff is common sense (raw meat separate from cooked, etc), when you start a checkout job they actually train you how to pack: in the case of the place I worked at, this meant a detailed list of what couldn’t go together, and, if using plastic bags, how much of certain things was ok for a single bag without being too heavy and breaking it. And they made each new person stay on ‘packing duty’ (so no learning to operate the checkout yet), initially with another staff member to supervise, for at least a few weeks. So you would expect even people without the common sense to know that a heavy bag of apples shouldn’t go on the bread would have that idea drummed into them a bit. But no, so many of the people I worked with were terrible! They would pack a bag full of loaves of bread, then stick it in the bottom of the trolley and end up putting heavy boxes of beer on top! I could never believe how many people I worked with just never seemed to think about it, or maybe just didn’t care that they were essentially ruining someone’s groceries.

    It was always with a warped sense of pride that I put a lot of care into packing bags, embarrassingly! Bag packing is probably my secret weird talent.

    When I shop now (with reusable bags), I hate that lots of people seem to assume that bringing my own bags means I want as much crammed in one as possible instead of things being evenly distributed. It usually ends up being too heavy for me to even lift.

  10. Great to hear from you, Steph of Lady News! I’m loving your blog, and reading every post, and planning to include a big shout-out to it in the Down Under Feminists Carnival this month.

  11. Thanks Deborah 🙂 I am trying to get into the habit of commenting on all the awesome blogs I like to read, so hopefully I will be popping up again soon. It would be nice to give the impression that I know about more than the inner workings of supermarket checkouts, haha.