The ugly truth about your grocery store


Bella Coulter, Staff Writer

By Bella Coulter

I plaster a smile on my face as I walk around my register to greet my newest customer.

“Were you able to find everything alright?” I look up and our eyes meet, and I just know. The anger in her eyes is evident and I see a glint of satisfaction as she gets ready to ruin my day. I prepare myself for the worst and desperately think once again why I couldn’t have chosen a different job. Maybe one where people don’t yell at me constantly? Is that too much to ask?

Throughout internet history, there have always been memes and posts making fun of angry customers at various grocery stores across America. The infamous can-I-speak-to-the-manager haircut has become easily identifiable among white moms everywhere, and everyone always looks warily at people in line in front of them who raise their voice a little too loudly because their coupon won’t scan.

Well, as a professional cashier myself, let me tell you it is all that and so much worse.

I honestly didn’t realize the amount of crazy that grocery store employees have to face  on a daily basis until I was there myself, right behind the register that serves as a thin barrier between myself and the dreaded angry customer. 

I don’t work in the thick of it with those courageous Walmart employees, and I’m pretty sure my Harris Teeter is the smallest store in the city; yet, we still get our fair share of vicious customers, yelling at this poor 17-year-old girl who’s just trying to make money for college.

One of those unbelievable incidents happened recently with a man trying to buy an item that was listed as “buy one, get one free.” Now, we all know how these BOGO events work (or so I thought). You buy the item, and then get a second one for free, or you buy one item and it’s 50 percent off. 

However, I guess not everyone is aware of this seemingly universal concept, because on the same day my coworker encountered a man who was extremely confused.

I was first alerted of the incident when I heard him raising his voice at her and gesticulating wildly with his receipt in hand. It was clear that he had already checked out, but something about what was printed on the receipt wasn’t right. 

One of the bosses, a kind woman who works at customer service, had just walked in from her lunch, and immediately the man pounced, demanding that she needed to look at his receipt so he could get his total fixed.

I walked over to my coworker to try and figure out what happened. She explained that he was trying to get the BOGO deal on a product and that she had tried to explain to him that he needed to purchase a second item in order to get it free (he had only purchased one product). I was confused at first, and asked if he had gotten 50 percent off of the one product he bought.

He had.

This man was trying to argue that buy one get one free meant that he should just get the product free. Despite only having purchased ONE product. I stood there in shock as I tried to wrap my head around it. Had he ever shopped in a real store before?

So then I watched as two of my bosses exchanged amused and slightly exasperated looks with one another, as this man loudly tried to defend his idiotic claim. I still have no idea what happened, but I sincerely hope he didn’t get the item free because he’s in for a rude awakening if he really thinks that a BOGO deal means free stuff.

Another recent incident happened just last week as I was checking out what looked like a kind, reasonable woman. I asked her if she was able to find everything all right, and she responded, saying she had trouble finding the peanut butter. I laughed and agreed that our store layout didn’t make sense (because it actually doesn’t), and that a lot of people had trouble finding the peanut butter. Side note: She had, in fact, found the peanut butter and it was in her cart.

She then asked if I was going to change the signs above the aisles (you know, the ones that list the categories of products on each aisle), which I thought was kind of weird. I measured my response, not really sure where she was going with that. I simply answered truthfully: I didn’t know of any plans to change the signs.

“So you’re just supposed to ask me if I had trouble finding things, but you’re not supposed to do anything about it?”

Hold on. What?

Now I really had no idea what was going on, so I tried explaining to her that if she still hadn’t found it then I would go get it for her, but beyond that there wasn’t much I could do.

So she started a very passionate rant about how the store layout was so confusing that she was actually considering never shopping there again. Furthermore, she claimed that she did not see a single employee the entire time she was shopping (considering the size of her order and the amount of time she must have spent in our store if the layout was so confusing, I found that hard to believe), and that the store altogether was just poorly managed and poorly organized.

So, let’s take a step back from the situation, shall we?

She wants me, a 17-year-old cashier who’s barely been working there for six months, to single-handedly change the store signs for her so she can find her beloved peanut butter. 

To this day, I’m still not 100 percent sure why she was so angry, because her request was simply so ridiculous that I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and think that’s not what she was asking. 

These two stories are just ones that have happened in the last week. I haven’t even begun to unpack the atrocities that take place at the front of a grocery store, and how I’ve slowly lost faith in humanity from the second I walked through those frail sliding doors. On the bright side I guess, it gives me some funny stories to tell.

Anyways, if you’re going to take anything from this, please be nice to your cashier! That’s right, this was all a propaganda technique to get you to be a decent human being at your local grocery store. 

Please. We’re begging you.