Lame Excuses For Lane Butting

by admin on June 29, 2010

I have to condemn someone to EHell, but it unfortunately means also turning in a very good friend of mine as well. In her defense, she was trying to defend my honor.

Last weekend, I was out shopping with several girlfriends at a department store. Just as we got in line to check out, the registers stopped working, forcing the cashiers to start processing the debit & credit transactions manually. This slowed things down considerably. To move things along, one of the employees comes through the line asking if anyone is planning to pay in cash and can they please move to the express lane for quicker check out. (This is important for later.) Not many people move. I am the last of my friends to make my purchases, and just as I reach the head of the line, the overwhelmed cashier announces that she needs a break. After a brief discussion with another cashier, the young lady decides to close our line and have everyone move to a different register.

Now, I seem to remember learning in kindergarten about line etiquette and the importance of not “cutting” in front of another person. Apparently the women directly behind me was absent that day in class. She scurried as fast as she could to the next register and got ahead of me. Having already waited a good twenty to twenty-five minutes in line, I was pretty peeved and let out an audible sigh, hoping the woman would notice her faux pas and allow me to have my place back. She ignored me and proceeded to put her items on the counter. The more I think about it, the more I think I should have said something, but I decided to let it go and not make a fuss about it. One of my girlfriends though is not one to shy away from confrontation. She witnessed this woman’s rude behavior and spoke up. She started out nicely enough: She asked the woman if I could please go first since 1) I was already ahead of her in line to begin with, and 2) I had an entire group of people already checked-out and waiting on me. The woman refused, stating that she only had two items and it would only take her a few seconds. I myself only had two items; it would take me the same amount of time! My friend pressed the issue and said we had all been waiting quite a long time in line, but the woman countered that she had too. This is where it gets ugly. My friend calls the woman “rude” to her face and begins to mumble insults under her breath that were actually quite audible. I finally signaled to my friend to please just let it go.

When it comes time for the lady to pay, she decides to pay with cash! I didn’t know whether to be grateful (because it was quicker than debit or credit) or more infuriated (The cashiers had asked that all those paying with cash move to a different line. Had she listened, we could’ve avoided this whole ugly incident!) When she gets done and starts to leave, she approaches my friend and says, “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” My friend responds, “It would have been easier if you weren’t such a *****.” The lady tells my friend in so many words to kiss her behind and storms out.

I’m grateful to my friend for standing up for me, but I don’t approve of the way she did it. I’m really not sure whose behavior was worse. 0628-10

Ooo!  Butting ahead of the line are some of my favorite stories and my favorite faux pas to actually speak up and say something.   I’ve recounted the tale years ago of standing at the fabric cutting counter of a crafts and sewing store during lunch hour when a woman cut in front of about ten of us to get to the front of the line.

“Excuse me, the end of the line is back there,” said I as I pointed behind me.

“I only have this small amount of trim to get cut,” she replied.

“I’m so sorry but we ladies have been patiently waiting our turn and you can, too.”

“I’m on lunch break and have to hurry.”

“Our time is just as valuable as yours.  Please wait your turn like we have.”

Ten pairs of scowling eyes bored into her.   Even the gray haired, little old ladies were using their rheumy eyes to communicate like little lasers just how they felt about her lame excuses.  The cutting counter employee said nothing so Mrs. Butt-in-sky got her way.

The hubris of thinking one’s time is infinitely more valuable than others and that one’s business is profoundly more important!

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizajane June 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I’ve had a few similar experiences and when the clerk wouldn’t do anything (as in Miss Jeanne’s example), I put down my merchandise and left.

Reply

gingertwinge June 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Ok, here goes……I do believe that those who have been in line first should get to go into the next open line first. HOWEVER……it is nearly impossible to do ifyou are standing in line, with a full cart, to somehow back out of that line and be the first in the next line. It’s not do-able.

that said, I also believe that an even bigger faux pas is made when someone rudely tells another person that they are not being etiquettely correct. A bigger person is the one who smiles and realizes that in 10 minutes, none of this hassle will matter, and that no one really gets out of a store any quicker than anyone else. Nothing like this is ever worth ruining your day over.

Reply

Xtina June 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Oooh—-that’s something that really burns my rear, when people cut in line. Like you, OP, I have sometimes kept my mouth shut when I really should have spoken up to the line jumper. The sad fact of the matter is that by NOT speaking up, you are encouraging the person’s bad behavior—they probably figure no guts, no glory, and if nobody says anything, they will continue to cut in line. But I do know how hard that is to deal with! It is a lot easier when others around you have witnessed it and can “back you up”, though. Agree with Ms. Jeanne that this is an example of a time when it is OK for the situation to pull rank, so to speak, on etiquette, and defend oneself.

A message to all who work in retail: please watch your checkout/service lines. I, too, used to work in retail and have seen some shoppers try to take advantage of a very busy clerk and pull stunts like this, but please, please, please, if you witness it, call that person out. I can’t tell you how many times I told the errant customer standing in front of me, “I’m sorry, but I believe that person was ahead of you”. Nobody ever gave me any trouble; they often won’t continue to argue in the face of a witness who knows exactly what they did.

Reply

Interestingly Laura June 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Unfortunately, employees see this base behavior all the time, but are unable (not unwilling!) to do anything about it. The offender could easily just go complain to the manager about the “rude” employee who was merely trying to keep order in her line.
This frustrates the polite people in line as well as the employee.
(I am thinking back many years ago to when I was 16 and working in a grocery store…)

Reply

josie June 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm

The friend was right to speak up but her language wasn’t the most proper. Think it but don’t say it! I almost always have ladies wanting to come into my garage sales before opening because they are in a hurry or they have ice cream in their trunk or some other lame excuse. They can wait just like everyone else. And the overwhelmed clerk? You don’t abandon the register just cause you’ve had enough.

Reply

ferretrick June 29, 2010 at 3:59 pm

It is not the job of the poor clerk, who is often a teenager working for minimum wage, to enforce correct behavior in other grown adults, possibly endangering their job by angering the offender. If it bothers you that much, handle it as Miss Jeanne did and speak up for yourself.

Reply

Breezy Girl June 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Sadly, this sort of behavior happens and it takes a lot for someone to speak up that about this breach in etiquette. Most people who don’t realize they’ve commited a faux pas will usually step aside when it’s brought to their attention because they truly were unaware but the ones who get beligerent never do.

One time my mom and I were getting in line to return an item when a woman hustled up and cut us off. There was nobody in line so it wasn’t like the woman was going to have to wait long to return or exchange her item. In the woman’s rush to be the first one in line had practically run up to just about where the line normally starts to form her own line. My mom who was a bit bothered by the fact that the woman PURPOSELY cut us off in order to get a person ahead in line said something to her along the lines of “Excuse me, but the line starts behind us”.

The woman didn’t say anything, just pointed at her belly as if to say “I’m pregnant, which gives me the right to be rude and inconsiderate.” My mom just looked at me and shook her head. If the woman is this way while she’s pregnant, her child might turn out the same way. What a shame!

Reply

Simone June 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm

On the other hand, once at the busy christmas sales I stood at a counter (one of those long counters with only one serving person, when there’s only two of you you stand next to, not behind the other customer). While the clerk was performing the loooong transaction with the person beside me, a queue formed behind her (I don’t know why they stood in that formation). When my turn came I got roundly and loudly abused for cutting in line by the ‘lady’ behind me, which I did not in fact do.

She was clearly a bit of a bulldog by nature so I decided to not take her on, and instead moved to the immediately adjacent counter which was entirely free. So not only had this woman (and the about ten women in line behind her) not noticed the person standing almost directly in front of her the whole time, she had also not noticed the entirely free counter just beside her. And embarassed herself with some very unmannerly conduct in public.

I quite enjoyed that.

Reply

Andromeda June 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I’d be annoyed with the clerk – I”ve worked in retail for eight years, and yes things can get overwhelming, but you’ve got to keep your cool. Debit and credit card go down all the time – now I’m not sure where this was, as any place I’ve worked at, we can’t do these manually. We could suspend the transaction and ask the customer to use the bank machine, and when they came back, bring them up in front of the customer we hadn’t rung up yet.

For the lady who butted in line? I guess the hard thing is if one line closes, another one opens, and whoever gets there first is first in line – regardless of how long someone else waited. I’m usually pretty good about explaining lineups, and not taking people who butt in line, but when one line closes, does that mean that line shifts over, caterpillar like? Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. :(

Reply

Dawn June 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

One time I was buying something at Kohl’s, and the line got backed up for some reason, and a clerk from the jewelry counter called out “Next person in line, please!” and the customer behind me ran to the counter and plunked her merchandise down expecting to be waited on. The clerk said to her “She was next” pointing to me, and made the other lady step aside while I got waited on. I was like “ha!” in my head :)

Reply

Lisa June 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Can we add the people who get in the express checkout with a full buggy or is that another day?

Reply

andi June 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I had this happen at a sporting event a few weeks ago. There was one line and 2 registers at the concession stand, and for some reason the line (WAY before me) had formed between the 2 and the concession stand workers would take whomever was next – sorta “feeding” between the two. The line was VERY long and all of us had been waiting a while (watching the people in front go to whichever register was open next)

Suddenly a woman walks up to one register and starts to order. The woman behind me quickly tells her “Sorry, the line is BEHIND us” and points. The two guys in front of me tell her the same thing. She ignores them. The woman behind me again calls out “EXCUSE ME – we are ALL in line and the end is back there” and again points behind her, to the end of the line.

Womand who cut turns and says “no one was here, and they (pointing to the teenage cashier) said it’s open” and haughtilly turns back around to continue her order.

Womand behind me about loses it and starts YELLING “hey, b****, you CUT and you need to get to the back of the line”. At this point i’m thinking we’re gonna have a knockdown drag out as the line cutter truns and rolls her eyes at woman behind me and the two guys in front of me join in the yelling as the woman’s significant other comes over and puts in a second order!

It was soo nasty and could have been completely avoided if the cashier politely would have said “ma’am, the line is feeding to both registers, please go to the end of the line”. Or if the cutter would have swallowed some pride and accepted that she at FIRST jumped in front of about a dozen people.

Reply

TheBardess June 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm

When I was 14, my family took a two-week vacation to Italy. The day we were returning home, we were flying out of Rome, and the line to get through airport security was very, VERY long. But there wasn’t much we could do about it, so we- along with everyone else- just grinned and bore it. Except for one lady. She started out behind us, I think, but as the line crawled alone, suddenly she was alongside us. Then, without warning, there she was in front of us. Then, several spots in front of us. Before long, I think she must have cut in front of at least 20 people (she was really sneaky about it- she would sort of nudge her suitcase along the outside of the line and then follow it up and slip into a spot in line before you even noticed. Something tells me she was an experienced line-jumper. It didn’t help, either, that the line zig-zagged back and forth, which made it a little harder to keep track of where people were “supposed” to be). But what really got me was when she cut in front of- get this- a group of nuns. Not just any nuns, either- a group of Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa. I remember thinking to myself that wow, anyone who would, in the middle of the Pope’s owns city, cut in front of a group of Mother Teresa’s sweet little nuns, who spend their lives ministering to the poorest of the poor in the most miserable parts of the world must really be shameless!

Reply

Alana June 29, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Speaking from the perspective of the cashier, it is incredibly hard to keep track of lines. I currently work retail, and it irritates me to no end when people butt in line. However, when someone budges into your line, it can be extremely difficult to tactfully tell the offendor off without having him or her leave in a huff and “rat” on you to your manager. Don’t think we don’t try. On more than one occasion I have called the next patron in line to my till only to have a budger hussle over. I politely tell them that I have to assist the next customer in line and they often will move back and allow the next customer up. Unfortunately, some people think their time is much more valuable than eveyone else’s.

Reply

Kat June 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm

I just thought as a former cashier for a local chain store who got highly abused whist working there as a teenager, I need to step in defense of those criticizing the cashier. As Laura pointed out, most of the time there’s simply nothing a cashier can do (particularly if you’re young).

During my first few months on the job I was very careful about watching lines and making sure everything was fair, but after being screamed at, having thrown food at and called many horrible names including effing retarded b—h, stupid dumb wh-re, and the c word more times than I can count for (very politely) pointing out about how sorry I was, but I’m afraid so and so was in front of you, I gave up.

Also, yes, people who will generally pull inconsiderate stunts like that will gladly go and try and get you fired. For example, one EXTREMELY busy day around Christmas, I was working the express lane (16 items or less, though I don’t mind taking a little more, and even full carts when there’s no one behind them), needless to say I had a line-up though the store. Everyone was very diligent I’d like to point out in trying to keep the items close to the limit, and trying to go as fast as they could to ease the flow, and I was VERY grateful for it. Unfortunately for me, a woman in her 40’s then pulls up with TWO full carts (one pushed by I can only assume as her husband?), and these are not small carts, and they are not lowly piled. If I had to guess, I would say well into 400 items – hardly fair to all those who had acknowledged and tried to maintain the 16 and under limit. So I VERY politely pointed out to her that this was the express lane, but I’m sure the till next to me would be glad to take her. Of course cue the typical screaming/swearing belligerent tirade that they always hope will get them their way, but I just apologized again and kept serving my customers. So it turns out the woman went and complained to both my manager and store manager, saying that I had screamed at HER and called her stupid and swore at her and all this bull, and demanded that they fire me. And despite my many colleagues around me who said she was full of shit and I handled it the best way I could and a hell of a lot better than they would have, I still got yelled at, had my hours cut was put on probation for a month.

And that’s officially when I stopped butting in. So no, sometimes it’s not because a cashier doesn’t want to help – she just wants her job and her dignity a little more. Remember that, please. Just because we’re supposed to serve you doesn’t mean we’re not human, too, and don’t deserve to be treated with respect.

Reply

Alana June 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Also, to josie: you don’t know how long that cashier has been working for. She was probably due for a break and about to explode at he next customer. I know, I’ve been there. She was probably just trying to extricate herself before something unpleasant occurred. Yes, cashiers shouldn’t just abandon their posts, but usually leaving your station follows an “I’m sorry, I will be closing on this till. The cashier opening there will be able to assist you” which is what the cashier in this story did.

Reply

Margaret June 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

What gets me is when someone asks if they can get in line and the person they asked agrees, but there is a line up behind them. When I was teaching, if i caught some kid doing that, I’d tell them they had to ask all the other kids in line behind them if it was okay to cut in because they were cutting in front of ALL of them.

A related peeve is when people make messy lines and you can’t really tell how it is going, so you think you are at the end, and then it turns out that the line did some crazy zag and you are not actually in it. I always ask now where the line ends, but most of the time, you see people just randomly joining the line from two directions and it is unclear what the line is. Grrr. Again, I tell people where the line is so they don’t waste their time, but I rarely see anyone else do that.

Reply

Shalamar June 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I think my story was posted on this site before …. I was once waiting in line for the port-a-potties at a marathon, and someone approached the line with a little boy in tow. She called “Can my son go ahead of you? He really has to go.” It would have been okay with me, because I wasn’t running (I was just there to support my husband), but the other folks in line said politely (and quite reasonably) that they, too, “really had to go.” The woman looked stunned (I’m pretty sure she expected everyone to smile and say “Oh, go ahead!”). She said defensively “But he has a race to run!” “So do we,” said another lady, once again very politely and reasonably. The woman opened her mouth to argue once again, and the folks in line said wearily “Oh, fine, just GO already.”

Reply

Casey June 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm

yeah, bad on your friend for escalating it but it was nice that she defended you. I agree with gingertwinge, when a whole line is being moved it can be hard to file back into another one in the same order but everyone should do their best. What bothers me more than the line jacker are the cashiers. If there were enough cashiers on hand to close one line and open another one with another cashier the second cashier should have opened her line in the first place and taken some of the stress off the first credit only line.

Reply

Aunt Entropy June 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Laura, all you have to say to your boss is “He cut in line, and that is a disservice to our other customers.”

That is the cashier’s job, to treat all customers fairly, to serve people in the right order, and make sure they aren’t waiting too inordinately long. A cashier is not an automaton, and they shouldn’t act like it.

Reply

HonorH June 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm

When I worked retail, I had to address line-butting all the time. As a drugstore cashier, I was instructed, when I opened a register, to physically go and invite the next person in line in the previous lane to come to my station–otherwise, someone would plow in from the end and people who’d been waiting longer would get frustrated. When I worked in a bookstore with a single line and multiple stations, people would waltz right up to an open cashier, not even looking to see if there was a line. I always politely pointed out the line and asked them to please join it. Fully-grown adults *pouted* at having to actually stand in line! And then they’d be all sullen when they did eventually reach a cashier.

Seriously, just be assertive. No need to call names or get confrontational; EHell Dame has the right way to do it. The cashiers will appreciate it along with everyone else.

Reply

Princesssimmi June 29, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Ooh cutting in line gets my goat. My mum used to get me to stand in one line, my brother in another and herself in a third. Then whichever reached the cashier first she would change to that line. How’s that for rude? I never liked doing it, I thought it was so rude. Thank goodness I take after my Dad.

If I see line cutters/too many items in the express lane, etc I’ll say something. I wait my turn, but you’re not going to pull that one over on me! I’ve even been known to invite people to go ahead of me when they’re elderly or have small children and have few items. Ooh and when I see scouts bagging groceries I buy them a little chocolate frog or something as a thank you :)

Reply

Tara June 30, 2010 at 1:30 am

Back in the days when I was a cashier, I didn’t tolerate cutting. If someone cut in line, I would say, “I’m sorry, but I believe that person *points* over there was next.” And then call that person over. That’s just good business. Sure, you insult the person who cutted, but if you don’t, you’re insulting the customer who actually deserved to go next.

And when people cut in front of you, you don’t have to get rude with them. Just say “Excuse me, I was next in line,” and then move in front of them. But I wouldn’t push the case if they argued. People get shot over stupid stuff like that, and jackasses get theirs eventually.

Reply

Chunks June 30, 2010 at 1:45 am

I’d like some suggestions on how to manage quite the opposite problem. In my corner of Australia it has become fashionable over the last few years, especially in cafes, to stand as far away from the service counter as you can while waiting to be served. As a result, you walk into a cafe with five other people and an empty counter and no clue as to which people are waiting for take away coffees and which have not yet been served. However you quickly find out who’s not been served by walking straight up to the counter. Inevitably you are served and then comes the reaction: “But I was here first!” What more can I do than ask : “Then why didn’t you stand at the counter to be served?” I’m not exaggerating either. This is a pattern that has become viral here in the past two years and grows worse by the day as it’s accepted as the norm in the same way that apsotrophes now denote plural and “definite” is spelled with an “a”.

Reply

Ginger June 30, 2010 at 2:55 am

I worked in retail from when I was 14 to 22. I had no problem serving the rightful customer. I would just apologise to the cutter, say I’d be with them shortly but I needed to serve these people who had been waiting longer (and I mean ALL the people that had been waiting longer). I didn’t ask them to move, I just served the person from behind them if need be. Or, if I couldn’t keep track of the queue and I was pretty sure someone was trying to jump in front, I would loudly ask “Who was next?” and it was a very instantaneous and loud answer from those around who were very quick to point out the order even if someone did try to claim the next space unfairly.

I wish I had the courage to speak up when someone cuts in front of me as a customer. It’s happened twice in the past twelve months and both times it has a been a man. Perhaps it is time that workplaces teach their employees how to deal with these customers and back their employees because losing that rude customer is probably no where near as costly as losing the people that were furious but too polite to say something.

Reply

purple frog June 30, 2010 at 2:57 am

I used to work at a clothes shop in while in uni, I had one woman argue with me that she wasn’t Que jumping because the Que had gone in a different direction the last time she was in the,store. This took 15 minutes it was absurd. During busy times Christmas and the sales we actually had to employ people to police the que. Crazy world.

Reply

NKKingston June 30, 2010 at 3:17 am

I like my favourite line cutting story comes from notalwaysright:

Me: “I’m sorry, I have to finish serving these people first. Only then I will serve you.”
Customer: “But I have to catch a train!”
Me: “So does everybody else… this is a bloody TRAIN STATION!”

I do agree that cashiers can’t necessarily be expected to keep track of the line, especially if it’s busy and the queue runs parallel rather than perpendicular to the till (you know what I mean!). I also agree that most cashiers aren’t willing to risk their jobs to keep the peace with a polite customer over a rude one; if someone’s rude enough to cut they’re rude enough to complain to the manager without good reason.

Reply

Calliope June 30, 2010 at 4:09 am

Casey, you’re really more bothered by the cashiers than by the rude people who are cutting in line? Please remember that the cashiers aren’t in charge of staffing the store, or of scheduling shifts, or of deciding who works at which till. If the store is understaffed, it’s not the cashiers’ fault, and believe me, they’re more stressed out about it than you are. If you want to be upset at the store, be upset with the management, and write a letter. Please don’t take it out on the cashiers!

Reply

ferretrick June 30, 2010 at 5:32 am

“Laura, all you have to say to your boss is “He cut in line, and that is a disservice to our other customers.”

That is the cashier’s job, to treat all customers fairly, to serve people in the right order, and make sure they aren’t waiting too inordinately long. A cashier is not an automaton, and they shouldn’t act like it.”

None of that is the cashier’s job. And you are really, really naive if you think that’s how retail bosses work. You get complained about, you get written up, no matter what the actual right/wrong of the situation.

Reply

Amazed June 30, 2010 at 8:40 am

I would have just dumped my purchases and left.

Reply

Interestingly Laura June 30, 2010 at 8:58 am

Aunt Entropy,
Respectfully, perhaps you’ve not been a 16 yr old working in a small-town grocery store for someone who unfairly believes the fiscally responsible choice is to yell at his minimum wage teenage employee rather than possibly lose a [rude] customer. Please also note that I was speaking in past tense – I haven’t worked in retail for over a decade.

Some places/managers are supportive of their cashiers. When I worked at an ice cream shop as a summer job, we were encouraged to keep neat lines, and keep tabs on who was next. A polite cashier doing the right thing can make everyone’s transaction smoother. However, as I mentioned above, not all businesses are like that. In fact, I was fired from that grocery store after 1.5 yrs of service, for being “rude” to a customer (I told him I wouldn’t check out his cart full of items in the express lane as there were other people in line).

Reply

Casey June 30, 2010 at 9:15 am

Calliope, my point is if there were enough cashiers to be running 3 registers then all three registers should have been running in the first place. Please don’t tell me who or what I should be upset with, I think I’m capable of figuring that out for myself and I don’t think my frustration is misplaced.

You can’t expect people to cue up exactly as before when you’re asking long lines to back out of one and go to another. There are better ways of handling a situation like this than the cashier throwing up their arms and saying “I’m too stressed” and ditching the poor sap who FINALLY got to the front of the line. Usually when one cashier closes down a register for a break or end of work s/he places the closed register sign at the end of the belt or counter and finishes helping the people in her immediate line (while telling people forming a line beyond the counter to please use another register). This way we avoid situations like this. I don’t see how handling a lane hand off badly is the fault of the manager. There are plenty of store/manager problems that end up being taken out on the lowly cashiers but you can’t blame them for everything.

Reply

gramma dishes June 30, 2010 at 9:19 am

Kat ~~ Shame on your manager!!!!

Reply

C June 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

I once had a couple waiting in two lines try to pull one on me. The person in front of me had one or two items, but when she got to the front, her husband with a FULL BASKET comes running over to get ahead of us. My husband and I confronted them (loudly) and they backed down.
This is my biggest pet peeve!

Reply

LovleAnjel June 30, 2010 at 10:22 am

Some of the cutters are just looking for a fight. I was Xmas shopping in a major department sptre in the upscale shopping area of Chicago (I knew it was going to be bad, but I had to get a winter hat to match the scarf I had bought for a nephew at the same store earlier, the hats arrived later in the week). There was one of those lines that feeds two registers, and it was about 20 minutes or so before I got to the front. The woman ahead of me walked to the register to the left & put down her clothes. I assumed she was being checked out, so when the register on the right opened 30 seconds later I walked over, gave the cashier a smile and asked how her day was. She scans my hat, tells me what I owe, and I hear an “EXCUSE ME”. I turn to see the woman who had been ahead of me in line, visibly perturbed. “I was next in line.”

I actually felt bad. I never meant to cut. So I apologized and offered to let her go ahead of me (my cashier had a look of dread on her face). She just stood there, staring at me and shaking in anger. I repeated the apology and offer. Her friend touched her arm and said, “She only has one thing. It’s not a big deal.” The women stepped back, said “I just want you to know I was here first”, and turned to be checked out by the other cashier (who had been watching as her other customer had finished checking out). I got the feeling the woman was so full of frustration from Xmas shopping she was looking to take it out on someone.

Reply

yarngirl June 30, 2010 at 10:24 am

Casey-

Unless I’m mistaken, you weren’t the OP. And the OP did not say the cashier was “throwing up their arms and saying “I’m too stressed” and ditching” as you said to calliope, nor does the post say that the cashier did not follow normal store procedure for closing the line. It does not say there were 3 cashiers to man the 3 registers as you said, insinuating that the clerks weren’t working, in fact it seems to say that the cashiers were doing the best they could and that the poor cashier was being overworked.

The post does say that the cashier discussed it with the other cashier and they decided on the best way to move the line. The problem was that the store credit/debit system crashed and there weren’t enough clerks to handle the resulting slow buildup of customers.

So, yes, others can tell you that your ire against the cashiers seems misdirected because that’s frankly how it comes across, since you’ve embellished the story quite a bit. Again, it is not the cashiers fault if there are not enough clerks to cover a technical failure (which was also not their fault). Nor is it the clerks fault that they actually need a break and there are only two cashiers. Yes, it’s a bit messy to try and do that, but when there are only two people scheduled to cover the floor (again, not the cashiers fault) and there’s a line because the system crashed (not the cashiers fault) it seems strange to be mad at the cashier for taking a break.

Please also not that in many states, there are labor laws dictating when breaks must be taken.

Rude customers are not the cashiers fault either, by the way. Even a cashier who followed ideal procedure for moving the line can still get rude line-butters, and until cashiers are equipped with tasers and a license to use them there’s only so much they can do. But to blame the cashier for somehow not intuiting that the customers would be rude and finding a way to prevent it ahead of time seems to be passing the blame. People are responsible for their own behavior.

Reply

Kathryn June 30, 2010 at 11:10 am

What bugs me the most is that the people working behind the counter don’t speak up. They are the ones with the “authority” to tell this person that she has to wait her turn just like everyone else. As a summer job through college I worked at a drug store and there was one main line for two cashiers, so many people would try to butt their way to the front of the line and I would always polietly tell them where the back of the line was.

Reply

A June 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

I understand how annoying it is for someone to butt in line in front of you but, on the original story, I think the friend acted the worst. Yea, you should have had your “spot” but think of the time lost in line b/c the friend was confronting the rude woman! It would have been less stress all around to let it slide as the OP did in the first place.

Reply

yarngirl June 30, 2010 at 11:17 am

Aunt Entropy, I really wish that it did work that way. But as most retail workers will tell you, it really doesn’t. The philosophy that “the customer is always right” leads to many bosses who will scream at, cut hours from, or fire a clerk who dares to tell a customer what to do.

I have seen customers be rude, smoke, set merchandise on fire, relieve themselves on the floor, verbally abuse with profanity and racial epithets, physically assault and sexually harass cashiers and fellow customers. And yes, I’m serious, as a customer or a cashier I have actually witnessed ALL of those behaviors. What happens when the clerk in perfectly polite and calm language asked them to stop? The customer gets offended, complains to the manager about the “rude clerk”, and most managers I’ve known will then punish the cashier. The customer who was behaving so despicably will often lie to the manager, and it is a rare manager in the larger chain stores who will believe his own employees. But sometimes the customer doesn’t even have to go to the effort- I have been in a large store and seen a manager pull a clerk aside and scream at her for telling a customer not to change a child’s diaper on the conveyor belt at the checkout line, because “the customer is always right, just clean the mess later.” Or tell me that it’s in my job description that if a customer wants to make sexual advances to me in line and then spit in my face when I point to my wedding ring, that I have to take it or be fired because we are not allowed to offend the customers by reacting to such behavior negatively.

It’s an ugly world, and there are a lot of terrible managers who feel that the customer comes first means that the terribly destructive ones get their way because they scream the loudest. The cashier who speaks up to save their own and the other nice customers sanity is usually made to pay the price.

I realize this sounds cynical, and I do know that there are terrific managers out there still. But people need to realize that no-win situation many cashiers are in, especially the ones in “big-box” stores, and stop blaming the cashier just because they are there. Much as they often want to, they are often forbidden to police behavior, and are even reprimanded for trying to enforce the stores own policies.

Reply

geekgirl June 30, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Only yesterday, I was standing in a queue, and the man in front of me stepped to one of two tills to be served. An older man said loudly ‘excuse me, sir, we operate the queue system here, and I was ahead of you!’. The younger man looked confused, and the cashier leaned over and said to the older man ‘there are two queues here, sir, one for my till and one for the other till – you are in the queue for the other till.’. The older man did not apologise for his remark, or his quite frankly rude attitude, just tutted. I suppose the moral is – not all suspected ‘cutter-ins’ are actually cutter ins.

Reply

geekgirl June 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Oh, I just remembered another one. I was in the queue at the local bank, and it was a fairly long queue. We had all been waiting for at least 40 minutes, in a hot airless bank. A woman in a her 40’s came up to our queue and demanded to know where she could report her lost bank card. Being polite, the woman in front of me (despite not being a bank employee) told her it would be the customer service queue, the one we were in. The woman looked up and down the queue – at the long queue behind us, and the shorter one in front of us. Then she rudely said ‘I can’t wait that long, I’m diabetic!’, obviously hinting we should let her in front of us. The woman in front of me said ‘are you?’ politely and turned away. (This was England, so this was the same as telling her to go away, she didn’t stand a chance). She turned to me and said, loudly again ‘I could faint!’. I replied ‘I’m severely anemic, I could faint too’.

Then she left. Perhaps we should have let her in first, and if she’d been a bit more polite about it, we might have. But she was so rude in the way she demanded she be let in first because of her medical condition, despite what our medical conditions could be, that we just couldn’t.

Reply

AMC June 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Hi. I’m the OP. I just wanted to chime in on the discussion about the cashier’s responsibility in this particular situation. I don’t blame either of the cashiers at all for what happened. The first one was obviously overwhelmed, I overheard her say she was overdue for a break. I agree that, had the second cashier spoken up, she may have been putting herself at risk from the Cutter’s wrath. I also would like to clarify a couple details: There were only two check out lanes- mine and the express lane for cash customers. When the cash line cleared out, that’s when my line moved over. Neither the Cutter nor I had shopping carts; we each only had two items.

Reply

Calliope June 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Exactly, Yarngirl. Working in retail, I’ve had managers who’ve stuck up for me when customers swore and spit in my face–and that actually does happen–but I’ve had others who’ve reprimanded me for, say, asking a belligerent customer not to shout profanities and ram his cart into the legs of the elderly woman in line ahead of him, who was taking a few extra seconds to pay with a check. (That happened, too.)

What I’d like more people to understand is that working retail is stressful, difficult work, and that it’s a rare cashier who would do anything to make things more difficult on her customers, as that is only going to result in more anger aimed at the cashier. The grocery store near my house is consistently understaffed, and I frequently see customers unleashing their wrath on the cashiers, as though the cashiers had all gotten together and decided to inconvenience everyone. The managers are the ones who understaffed the store at rush hour, and they’re the ones who dictate protocol for opening and closing lines. It’s easy for people to take their frustration out on a cashier who’s right in front of them, but most of the time, that frustration would be best directed further up the chain.

Reply

Maggie June 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Wal-Mart. Something about people, nice people, as soon as they walk into Wal-Mart, get obnoxious. Wal-Mart always understaffs their registers and I was standing in a line with another line right next to me. There was a gal a few people ahead of me with a few items and a friend of hers in the adjacent line with a few items. Gal in my line got up to the register before her friend and let her friend join her…THEN waved over her two older kids I hadn’t even noticed standing by the magazine rack. THEY each had a couple items in their little hands. HELLO??? Children old enough to buy their own candy bars are old enough to wait in line so other customers can have a realistic idea of how long it is.

Reply

MeowMix June 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

With all due respect Kathryn a 16 year old cashier working for minimum wage doesn’t have “authority”. We (I’m talking past tense for me) have the right to remain silent. Should we choose to wave this right everything we say can and will be blown up in our faces when the manager is told by psycho customer that we practically beat them to the back of the line with a bag of carrots when all we did was say “Ma’am, I’m sorry but she (points to other person) is next”. I have been in this position (thank the heavens above that chapter in my life is over) and it is not fun. I have been yelled at by customers by speaking up about their cutsies and yelled at the ones who were behind them if I didn’t speak up. Our manager never backed us up. It’s hard to have any sort of authority when no one has your back. To those who think cashiers have to try to control the adults involved, how would you feel knowing these people can get fired without a second thought for “offending” a customer?

Reply

Simply Susan July 1, 2010 at 2:05 am

‘Laura, all you have to say to your boss is “He cut in line, and that is a disservice to our other customers.”’

Have you ever worked retail? I’m sorry but in a happy world that works but in the real world you still get written up.

Stop bashing the cashier. If people are upset that other cut line it’s YOUR place to say something. Why do so many people think that cashiers have any power at all? They don’t because of the mentality that “The customer is always right.” In most places – WalMart and other big chains, the cashier can get FIRED for disagreeing with a customer. Yes it is wrong but it does not stop it from happening.

I think the lot of you need to get off your high horses and fight your own battles.

Reply

Mojo July 1, 2010 at 4:34 am

I don’t know what it is about queues that turns sane people into maniacs, but unless you’re in A&E, waiting a few minutes won’t kill you.

I was in a quiet store last week, next in line to pay, when the shop manager needed to butt in and pass an important message to the cashier. She told the cashier a customer would be coming in later to pick up some medicines, and the cashier needed to know what instructions to give out. Important stuff.

They both smiled at me to apologise, and I smiled back. I don’t mind waiting a few moments. But the woman behind me started shouting at them, over my shoulder, right in my ear, “Talk on your own time! Stop chatting and get on with it! There a customers waiting!” She then turned to me, and started harranging ME that I wasn’t doing anything about the situation.

I was embarrased, the cashier and shop manager were embarrased, and the only one who wasn’t was the one who should have been! I’m so glad I got out of retail. It’s hard work, and grossly underappreciated. If every 18 year old was forced to spend 3 months behind the counter, and they’d never be rude to shop staff again!

Reply

Jenny July 1, 2010 at 5:13 am

First of all, I really believe the cashier should speak up. The fact that they don’t is why these line cutters continue to do these rude acts. If you just say to them, “I’m sorry but I believe that person was ahead of you,” and then they flip their lid, LET THEM! If they complain to your manager and you actually get fired etc. over that then it’s a ticking time bomb you were going to be fired anyways because clearly that job is totally unreasonable. Explain yourself to your employer, customer service is important and you could be losing customers by not speaking up so it’s beneficial for everyone. Yes, I understand some people can’t afford to lose their job but do your basic morals and standing up for what’s right mean nothing? Ever hear of the Ghandi quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world”? If people don’t join together and say “these are the rules and no one is above them” then we have no hope to ever change the way the world behaves. That’s the truth whether you like it or not and if you choose to say nothing then your saying it’s ok!

Now that I’ve said my peace, here’s my horror story:I was working for a retail store and every morning before the store opened I had to take the last nights earnings to deposit at the local bank. Some days the lines were really long and I felt the anxiety of being rushed because I had to open the store by a certain time but I never considered budging for even a second. Then one morning I went in and after waiting a very long time I was finally next in line. Well the teller looked right at me and then looked at the man behind me and said to him, “Oh, Hi John! How you been? Come on up.” I must have clearly had a shocked look on my face because she looked back at me and said “Oh… do you mind if I help him first? He’s a really good customer and it’ll be quick.” Before I could respond she was back into her conversation with John while she counted up his pile of dimes and nickels for rolling! (Quick my arse! not that it makes a lick of difference because it’s the principle of the situation) It doesn’t matter if he’s a good customer, it doesn’t even matter if the man gave you a kidney and saved your life, rules apply to everyone and are there for a reason. I was totally disgusted so you can imagine my disappointment when not long after that I noticed that particular cashier was never around. I inquired as to where she was and one of the nicer girls told me (with a smirk on her face) “she no longer works here.” I got the sense she was unliked by her co-workers and perhaps she was let go…. or maybe that was my evil wishful thinking at work. Now that’s a real reason to be fired for doing a poor job as a cashier!

Please stick up for other people and pass along manners to those around you. It’s not always easy but it’s really important.

Reply

ferretrick July 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

“First of all, I really believe the cashier should speak up. The fact that they don’t is why these line cutters continue to do these rude acts.”

NO, it is NOT! The people who should speak up, if they feel that passionately about it, are the people the line jumper is cutting in front of. I worked retail and I did not receive the pay, benefits, or job security of a first grade teacher. Therefore it is not my responsibility to discipline line cutters.

Reply

yarngirl July 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Jenny- Are you seriously saying that in your opinion, a cashier has the moral obligation to get fired to protect you from someone *jumping in line*? You acknowledge financial obligations and bring up Gandhi…over line jumping?

I’m sorry, but I do have bills to pay to keep a roof over my head and food over the table. I feel bad about it when I go home when things like this happen, but I’m not going to put myself in a position to lose my job because someone was rude or inconvenienced you. If it bothers you that much, complain to management and ask them to allow us to defend you, don’t demand that the cashier risk her job!

I am sorry when I can’t speak up, believe me, and if management let me I’d stop them. And if you were being hurt or harassed, I might risk my job too, because I do believe in taking a stand. But this was LINE JUMPING, people. You are adults, you can speak for yourself. You really think the girl behind the register is obligated to risk her job to do what you can do yourself?

Perhaps I’m selfish, but in my opinion the cashier having food and shelter is more important than defending you from having to wait longer in line. Cashiers are not slaves, they aren’t saints, they need a job and they’re paid to do it. They aren’t morally obligated to go above and beyond and get fired to protect the etiquette rules for the thousands of people they see everyday.

I don’t understand why this huge expectation of low paid cashiers. Do you expect people in other field to risk their jobs to defend you from the etiquette challenged? Are nurses now obligated to tell off rude doctors who employ them? Are HMO employees expected to all walk off the job because the rules are ridiculous?

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: