I went to the grocery store yesterday and like a good little girl, I brought in my reusable grocery bags. I should have realized the checkout process was going to be difficult when I got into an empty line and the clerk took about 5 minutes to stop chatting with her coworkers and actually look at me.
Then I started hearing her mumble under her breath, "I ain't using those." Eventually, she got around to addressing me directly and said, "There's stuff on those bags. I ain't touching them." The stuff was mostly grass from their being set down in the front yard, but also a bit of dog hair. I said as much and she replied, "No, I ain't using them. That might be cat hair." "But I don't have a cat!" "I ain't touchin' them." These are bags that I bought at this store and which they encourage the use of.
"Okay, can you ring up the groceries? I'll bag them." It's my firm opinion that although she might have had a cat allergy the main concern was not with any pet dander, but with the fact that the reusable bags do not fit on the bag holder and are therefore somewhat harder to bag. She started ringing up my groceries and sticking them in plastic bags.
I again said I'd bag them. She dropped my nectarines on the floor and said, "You wanna go get yerself some new ones?" No offer to get them for me or call someone in the produce department to exchange them. Pregnant ladies love to waddle across to the other side of the store to replace their produce. I opted not to. Miss Thang the Checkout Lady continued to scan my groceries so fast that I couldn't keep up with the bagging, which irritated her.
Eventually I made it out of the store, silently fuming over the clerk, who is one of the few I've seen there who are not helpful or friendly. I suppose I could have complained to the manager, although complaining in person (as opposed to in complaining to the whole world via a blog post) is not generally in my nature. Looking back though, one can see the difference between those who go far in life and those who do not.
First, customers are actually the reason one is employed -- not coworkers and friends. I might be at your mercy when I stand in line, but just because I wait patiently does not mean ignoring the customer is a good idea.
Second, politeness wins friends; attitude does not. With a flick of her head and a snippy tone, declaring what she won't do, made me angry. Had a clerk said, "Oh, I'm sorry, but I'm really allergic to pets and those bags look like they have pet hair on them. Would you mind my not touching them?" who would have been upset? No one. I'd be glad to accommodate the problem and commiserate at the same time.
Third, if you make a mistake -- in this instance, dropping my fruit on the floor, take the time to rectify the error. Offering to let the customer fix the problem is not the same thing.
Fourth, when someone has already gone out of their way to accommodate you -- bagging groceries that are your job to bag, not complaining that you dropped her groceries on the floor and waiting patiently for you to finish conversations with your buddies -- try not to get impatient when that person moves a little more slowly than you do.
I suppose looking back, one can also see that I'm a bit of a pushover. I might have been treated better by this individual had I not been polite, however in general the principle holds. Politeness and kindness will help you along in the world. Attitude and a sense that the world owes you something will not. In my neighborhood, I suspect a lot of people would really like to have a grocery store job like that and I won't be surprised if they find someone else soon. As for me, I'll wait in a longer line to get a different clerk, take deep breaths and smile politely. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
5 years ago