Kina waited patiently for her new trainee to come to the store. She had been a cashier there for the past six years and was finally put in charge of training the new cashiers. This was her first trainee and she could not wait. The training room was apart from the store. It was a room in the basement where they had a cash register set up and some clothing and other accessories that they could scan and go through the motions of what a cashier does. Kina would train them for three days before they get “thrown to the wolves” as Kina calls it. Some survive and some don’t. And since it was the season to be jolly this was going to be a test to see if her trainee could cut it. Cashiering is not as easy as it looks. Kina learned that the hard way.
Her first day on the job was filled with customers yelling at her for various reasons but the best reason was that day that one lady lost her shoe in the dressing room and thought that Kina had stolen it. She wanted to say, “Woman are you freaking nuts? Why would I want your funky old shoe?” but of course she couldn’t and she told her supervisor to help her. Her second hour she was there she got accused of charging one customer the wrong price on a blouse. Kina tried to explain that the blouse was no longer on sale but the woman just yelled and called her all kinds of names and told her she was not even competent to be a cashier. Those were the customers that Kina wanted to tell off but there were some really nice ones too. She hoped that her new trainee would have the nicer ones this holiday season. Halloween had just ended so the holiday season was about to get into full force. People were going to come in from all over town looking for gifts and making a mess in the store and some of the grumpier ones will be in rare form.
Kina looked at the clock on the wall and noticed that her trainee was running a few minutes late. She hoped that someone had told her where to go and that she was not lost. She remembered her first training session where she actually got off of the elevator at the wrong floor and was wandering around in the office part of the store for five minutes until someone told her she was at the wrong place. She felt like an idiot. She decided to try to find her new trainee. She knew very little about her except that her name was Marge Simms and she never worked as a cashier before. She was an older woman and retired and wanted to work over the holiday season to earn some extra cash. Kina loved working with older people. Some people might even say she was an older person at 43. She loved getting older too and would not go back to her 20’s if you paid her ten million dollars.
Kina took the elevator to the first floor of the store and looked to see if she saw anyone looking lost who may be starting their first day. She knew the look well. She scanned the front door and then the first cash register and there was Marge. She looked like she was definitely asking for directions to the basement. Kina walked over to her and introduced herself.
“Hello, I am Kina, are you Marge?” Kina said.
“Yes, I am. This is my first day. I think that they told me that you were going to train me. Is that correct?” Marge said.
Marge had on a bright green blouse and black slacks with some black flats. Her lips had just the right of pink lipstick and her dark brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun. Marge had a warm smile and a pleasant attitude. Kina knew that she would be just fine.
“Yes, I will be the one training you. Do you want any coffee or tea or water before we start?” Kina asked.
“No, I am too nervous to drink anything. I have never been a cashier before. I retired two years ago and have been sitting at home bored ever since. I do see my grandkids twice a month and I go to the senior center three times per week but since my husband, Henry passed last year I really don’t have much to do. So, when my friend, Betty, told me that you were hiring for the holiday season I said what do I have to lose except boredom and applied. I was thrilled that they hired me. I honestly thought they would not want to hire some old broad like me.” Marge laughed.
“Oh they hire lots of old broads here. I am one of them.” Kina laughed.
“You are not that old. Wait until you reach my age. Don’t tell anyone but I turned 67 last month.” Marge said.
“That’s not old. Don’t tell anyone but I turned 43 last week. I still tell people I am in my 30’s.” Kina laughed.
Marge and Kina walked down the stairs to the basement. Marge handed her coat to Kina who hung it up on a small coat rack in the back of the basement. Kina smiled at Marge and Marge smiled her warm smile back.
“Before we begin there is something that you need to know.” Kina said to Marge.
“Oh, what’s that.?” Marge asked.
“As long as you keep smiling when you are telling off a customer in a nice way they will never know what hit them. And with your smile they will honestly never know.” Kina laughed.
“I will keep that in mind.” Marge said.
Kina showed Marge how to scan the price tags on the practice clothes and earrings that were provided for them and told her what to do if they didn’t scan. Marge was a quick learner and Kina liked that. They spent the next two hours scanning and talking before it was break time.
“Kina, do you want to go and get some coffee with me?” Marge asked.
“Sure. There is a place around the corner. We can run there and come back in no time. And no time is what we have. Twenty minutes goes by fast. I like to order ahead so that we can go in and pick up our coffee and have time to actually drink it. You know, avoid the line.” Kina said.
“Sounds good to me. I will have black coffee.” Marge said.
The women got their coffees and sat at a table near the window. It was an unusually warm day on the first of November and Kina was loving it. She was not a fan of cold weather which she knew was coming soon.
“Kina, do you mind if I ask you a question?” Marge asked as she sipped on her hot coffee.
“No, ask away.” Kina replied.
“Why did you take the job as the cashier?” Marge asked.
“Well, that is a long story. Well, not too long. I hate when people say that and the story is not really long. But, in a nutshell, I was working in an office before this job. I guess you would call it an assistant but I called it “Kina get everything for everybody's job.” I was constantly doing things for everyone from getting coffee in the morning for a group of six people who all wanted different types of coffee which drove me bananas to working the front desk to making travel arrangements for the executives. I was doing all of that for little pay. When I asked for a raise they turned me down. So, I quit. I found this job two weeks later and honestly I like it a whole lot better than what I was doing. I know that I am getting less pay but in reality not much less. So, I have been a cashier for about six years and now I get to train lovely people like you.” Kina said.
“Speaking of training, we better get back before we both get fired and me on my first day.” Marge laughed.
The women walked back to the store and down to the basement. Kina decided it was time that Marge knew the unstated rules of cashiering at that store. Marge had learned the mechanical stuff very well but there was more to the job than just scanning items and smiling at customers. She was going to tell Marge the things that nobody told her which they should have.
“Marge, let's sit for a minute. I have some things to tell you that you should know about the job. I wish someone had told me these things before I got to the floor and the cash register. Being a cashier is not as easy or as fun as it looks. There are some good things about the job but some bad too. So, I am going to tell you about Cashiering 101. Are you ready?” Kina asked.
“Yes, I am.” Marge said.
“First of all, you gotta keep a sense of humor. These customers will ask you things about things
that will make you wonder if they ever shopped before. And they will be rude about it like you should know everything and anything about the store and what they want. There are going to be times when you will be shaking your head and thinking ``is this person serious?” When I first started working here it was my first week and I was happily doing my usual scanning and chatting with customers at the register and this woman came through my line. She is a nice older woman around my age. She is dressed very nicely and reminded me of a church woman dressed in her Sunday best. I really didn’t think she was going to be a problem. I was wrong. I rang up all of her items, and she had a ton. She handed me her credit card, the store credit card, and it declined. So, here we both were looking at a ton of bags and clothes in the bags and her card was declined. I politely told her she needed to talk to customer service which at that time was a desk across from us and the woman went off on me. She called me every name in the book except my own. I was surprised that she knew all those cuss words.” Kina laughed.
“Kina I feel for you.” Marge laughed.
“Well, it was one of those times where I had to hold my tongue and not say what I was thinking, which was, “Woman if you don’t get out of my face I am going to drop kick you next week.” Now that would not have been right but I was thinking about it and more.” Kina laughed. “I explained to her again about customer service and finally she went over there.” Kina continued.
“Oh my goodness. That’s bad.” Marge laughed.
“So, rule one is have a sense of humor because you are going to need it. Rule two is not to take it personally. Most of the time when people go off on you it is not you it is them. Something crappy happened in their lives or day and they need someone to take it out on and unfortunately that might be you.” Kina continued.
“Been on both the receiving and giving end of that one.” Marge said.
“When you feel like throwing something at them try to think of something funny like them standing there naked and laughing in your mind's eye or think of what time you get your next break. That works for me.” Kina said.
“That’s good advice.” Marge said.
“Rule three is patience. You don’t know how many times I wanted to tell the customer who kept asking me if we had a blouse, pants, or whatever in another color and I wanted to ask them did they see another color on the rack before they picked up whatever color of the item in their hands? Please no we don’t have another color or another size or have it with turtles on it because your grandson likes turtles from whatever show.” Kina said.
Marge laughed so hard that she thought she was going to pee in her pants. She was holding
her sides and tears streamed out of her eyes, almost making her mascara run. She wished she had worn waterproof mascara.
“And above all if you need anything you can always ask me. But, don’t ask Karen K. She has an attitude. She will roll her eyes at you and frown and ask why didn’t someone train you better. She has been with her the longest and I think that the customers wore her down.” Kina said.
“Well, that’s a lot to remember. But, I will do my best.” Marge said.
“Oh and the last and most important rule is never ever use the customer bathroom. I made that mistake once and I won’t tell you the horror that was in there. Just trust me always use the employee bathroom. You never ever want to walk into a bathroom and see what I saw. It gives me nightmares to this day.” Karen chuckled.
“What did you see?” Marge asked.
“I shouldn’t tell you this but what I saw I never want to see again. I went inside to do my business because I couldn’t get to the employee bathroom in time and I opened the door and there it was. There was a man and a woman, who both worked for her, standing by the sink. Well, the woman was bending over the sink and they were doing things that should never be done in a public bathroom. That is all I can say about that.” Kina said.
Marge laughed again at the thought. She and Kina did a few more rounds of scanning and reading the employee manual over the next couple of days. Then it was time for Marge to jump into what Kina liked to call the “pit.” Marge was a wiz dealing with the customers even the not so nice ones. Kina watched her and all she could do was smile.
Over the next several years Marge and Kina became good friends. Their cashiering training day had been just what both the women needed in their lives, good people and good friendship.