June 4th, 2009

Be nice to cashiers!!

Well, it’s another happening night at the Rose-coloured ranch. I’ve been down on the floor sorting manuscript pages for the last while, and after getting dismayed by the slipshod sweeping job I do, I decided what I needed was write a blog post about the latest upsetting trend at the grocery store.

On Monday, a new Toronto law kicked in, requiring stores to charge 5 cents for each single-use bag they distribute. Not, perhaps, the most thrilling news ever to have hit the streets, but I assumed that if even I knew about it, everyone did (being as I spend my evenings on my living room floor, covered in paper and dust, not watching or reading the news).

But apparently, the people of Toronto don’t *all* know, and when the cashier at their local grocery/drug/clothing/porn shop informs them of the charge, some don’t take it too well. I have witnessed a couple meltdowns in the three short days the law has been in effect; apparently, the most logical interpretation in some people’s minds is that cashiers are lying about the nickel charge in order to…steal? Piss customers off? Make their own already hard jobs that much harder? I really don’t know what is going on in these furious consumers’ minds.

I haven’t worked in customer service for nearly two years, but I still remember viscerally the bottom-of-the-belly fear I felt when I realized that the person I was serving was angry with me. As far as I am concerned, unless your customer service personnel has been sexist/racist/homophobic, anger is never an acceptable emotion in that context. Frustration, irritation, desire to speak with a manager; fine. I did, at various points, suck at various jobs, and I can see why many many people were a little snarky with me. But anger is a somewhat crazy thing to bring to the checkout line, and to see people lashing out at squirming teenagers and exhausted ladies in smocks makes me so sad.

So…have you seen the 5-cent meltdown yet? What did you do? I can’t imagine it would help for me to raise my paw and say, “It is a real law, you know.” Or, like, “That woman make $10 an hour, flat, not commission off her bag sales, therefore she has no reason to lie to you.” Or…what? In my days in service, I was always comforted by raised eyebrows and smiles from other customers following a confrontation, so that’s all I’ve offered so far. But if this nickel thing is going to be a major tipping point in stores citywide, perhaps I should formulate a better response.


Do you know your enemy?

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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