A Day in the Life

by The Cowl Editor on January 18, 2018


Photo courtesy of businessinsider.con

by Marisa DelFarno ’18


We have all had an unfortunate encounter with one of those disgruntled retail employees. You know, the one that does the transaction swiftly and wordlessly with zero eye contact. The one that rolls their eyes the second you mention that you have a coupon. The one that makes the unintelligible zombie grunt when you ask if a product is on sale. The one whose agenda is to shoo you out the door as fast as possible. Well, this is a testimony proclaiming why we retail employees are the most dispirited creatures to ever roam the face of the Earth.

We weren’t always the Morlocks of society. I like to think of most of us as just normal people trying to get by. But after having to deal with certain customers over a certain period of time, it does truly shape a smiley, happy-go-lucky, wide-eyed Peggy Sue into the most miserable brute there is. Here is Exhibit A of why I am affiliated with the class of nasty, disgruntled employees. Here is my retail horror story.

It is my first work shift of 2018. How exciting. I glide through the automatic doors, holding my coffee like I’m Lady Liberty holding her torch. My work shirt is still wrinkled from my last shift, my matted hair resembles a Brillo Pad, and dark circles shadow my eyes. I am tired—a zombie in essence—but I am somehow ready to immerse myself in labor for the next seven daunting hours. I make eye contact with my co-worker, Lauren, whose baggy eyes immediately light up with delight. She is already bundled up in her winter coat—a clear indicator that she is ready to get out the door. We do the quick changing of the guards, and I plop my styrofoam cup onto the counter.

Still cocooned in my coat, I clock in at the register. Suddenly, a lone customer with a packed carriage stands there like a bull, staring me down like I am some matador waving a red flag. Overcome with the odd medley of awkwardness and guilt, I remove my coat and fling it to the abandoned, broken register next to me. It is time to work. I shove the sign that says “Next Register Please” under the drawer and gesture for the customer to come to my register.

“Hey. How are you? Do you have your CVS card on you?” I say in my usual robotic voice.

“I have the number. Can I punch it in?” the customer replies.


She hovers over the credit card reader and clandestinely punches in her number.

“Is the Christmas stuff still 50 percent off?” she asks.

“Yes, it’s—”

“When will it be 75 percent off?”

“I have no idea to be honest. Maybe starting next Sunday.”

“Oh. Well, it should be 75 percent off by now. It’s January.”

“Uh, yeah.” I shrug my shoulders indifferently.

I start to scan her shampoo, toiletries, and all the other things laid out on the counter. Fun fact about cashiers: We never notice what a customer buys nor do we care. Everything is just a shapeless blob with a barcode on it. You could put a live tarantula on the counter, and I would probably still try to locate a barcode on it.

“I have coupons,” the customer says before handing me a stack that mirrors a deck of playing cards. “And I have a 40 percent coupon too. Make sure you scan that.”

“Of course.” I scan the assortment of coupons one at a time and watch the price go down. The customer picks up the pen from the signature pad and begins to audit the transaction.

“Okay, so your total with the coupons will be $11.20.”

The customer furrows her brows. “The 40 percent off coupon…it’s wrong. It was supposed to take a lot more off.”

“It is an automated system. It already deducted it from the total price. Plus it does exclude sale items—”

“It’s wrong. Let me calculate it. It should’ve taken off more than $7.40!”

She yanks her phone from her coat pocket and begins computing the price like a NASA engineer. I am forced to stand there awkwardly and watch while she reviews her calculations.

“Oh, I guess it is $7.40. It still doesn’t look right. It should’ve taken more off.”

“Oh. Like I said before, it does it automatically, and the coupon does exclude sale items.”

The customer sighs and pops her credit card into the chip reader.

A scroll of receipt paper shoots out.

“Ooo, look! You got ExtraBucks!” I say in fake excitement.

“I know,” she replies before ripping the receipt from my hand and tearing the ExtraBucks off. “I have another transaction.”

Behind the lady, five pairs of eyes stare hard at me.

I pinch my headset to page one of my coworkers.

“Uh, Amber, I need backup,” I say monotonously.

The customer drops a few cases of Boost onto the counter. I start to scan the drinks.

“No. No. The prices are showing up wrong. It is supposed to be $6.99, not $11.99,” the customer barks at me.

I sigh. “Okay. Let me quickly verify the price.”

I slap the price verify button and, of course, the drinks still show up as $11.99.

“Sadly, it is still $11.99,” I reluctantly announce.

“No. That is not right!”

“I just verified it. It is saying that it is $11.99.” I swing the flat register screen towards her.

“Well, that is not what the sign said.”

I quickly begin to fumble around the register looking for a flyer to no avail.

“Let me check the aisle,” I sigh before beginning my excursion to the back of the store. I click my headset and page Amber.

“This lady is being so ridiculous!”

“I know. I don’t know how you are tolerating her. I would’ve already snapped,” Amber responds.

“Trust me. She is pushing me.”

I find myself in front of the display of Boost, Ensure, and all those other drinks. The customer got the bigger cases of the Boost, marked as $11.99, and no little yellow stickers are found near them. Only the smaller cases are marked as $6.99. I make my return to the register.

“I am sorry. The smaller cases are $6.99, not the bigger ones. But I will modify the price for you,” I say, deciding to be a good soul. I void the transaction, and go through the whole process of having her punch in her number, etc., and I start rescanning the Boost and modifying the price.

“Now, it is showing up at $6.99. I told you!” the customer says smugly.

“That is because I am modifying the price for you right now,” I reply.

After manually fixing the price for each case of Boost, I nervously tug my collar and declare the grand total.

“Okay, so that will be $29.80.”

“That is not right. Did you scan my CVS card?”

“You entered your phone number.”

“But you didn’t scan my card.”

“It doesn’t really matter. If your number is linked to your card, entering your number is the same as scanning the card. Plus I am manually modifying the prices for you so—”

“Void the transaction.”

“But…the price is going to show up the same. I just modified everyt—”

“Void it and scan my card.”

“But there is no use for that. The total is still going to come up the same, especially if I am modifying the prices by hand.”

“Void it.”

I reluctantly hit the void button, and I inhale with a phony smile, “Can I please scan your card?”

The customer fumbles around in her Coach bag before whipping out her keys. She flips through various cards, from Walgreens to Planet Fitness, until she finds the little red ExtraCare card.

“Thanks,” I say after scanning it, and I once again go through the headache of modifying all the prices.

“Okay, your total is $29.80.”

“I don’t think that is right still.” the customer replies.

“I-I modified the prices for you. Twice. Though they weren’t even on sale. It is still coming up as $29.80. I don’t know what you want me to tell you. I can void a case out or somethi—”

“No.” She shakes her head, inserting her credit card into the reader.

And finally, the transaction is complete, and my hair did not turn grey. I clear the flimsy plastic bags off the counter, and I quietly hand the receipt over to her.

“And I am expecting $10 in ExtraBucks.”

“What?” I am completely caught off guard.

“Yeah, I am supposed to get $10 if I spend $25 on Boost. That is what the sign said.”

Though I didn’t even see said sign in the aisle when I had to mow my way over there earlier, it has been made official—I am defeated. I have raised the white flag. I decide to override the system and issue the $10 ExtraBucks, hoping to send her away.

“Okay, have a good day now.”

“No, wait! I have my mother with me.” She points to an older woman with a carriage filled to the brim. “She needs to get a few things too.” The customer hurls her keys onto the counter. “Here. Scan my card again.”