Queuing Up To The Till

by admin on February 6, 2012

This is less a story submission, more a curious question based upon my time in retail, as to what the correct etiquette is in this situation.

I work in for a retail chain in England, and most of our stores are have between ten and fourteen tills available. Customers join one queue, and when they reach the front, they are called down to the next open till and it flashes up a number and an arrow to point them along the way. So far, so simple.

My question is regarding correct etiquette for pairs of people queuing. To explain my query better, I will offer an example from last Saturday. I happened to be serving on till number eleven that day – the first customer is the queue will be level with till number three. I have pressed the buzzer to call down a customer to my till, and two women have begun to walk down to me. When they are level with about till number nine, the customer at till number seven walked away, and the lady operating that till hit her buzzer to call down a customer – a gentleman left the front of the till to approach her.

At this point, one of the two women who had been approaching me broke away, saying to her friend ‘Oh, it will be quicker if I just go here’, and her friend came down to me to be served – however, the gentleman also arrived at this point, and was put out to find that he’d been called to a till that was already occupied. The member of staff on this till tried to ask the lady to continue down to me, explaining that she had assumed the two of them were together, and therefore called this gentleman and would now be serving this gentleman. The woman then got very shirty, arguing she had been ‘first’ in the till, and became extremely argumentative.

I’ve had situation happen like this numerous times, and sometimes been quite worried by how confrontational customers will get about being told that since they started to go to one till, they need to continue to that till, rather than grabbing the next free one regardless of if another customer has been called – and I wanted more of an opinion.

My personal thought, and indeed, my company’s policy, has always been if you walk toward the till as a pair, you have effectively signaled you are paying together, either as one transaction or two separate ones put through at the same till. If you were that concerned about getting through quickly, you ought to have one of you go to the first till, while the other stays at the front of the queue and waits to be called – but if you walk away together, effectively leaving the queue, you cannot though split up after another customer has been called. But I have had, on many occasions, people get very angry at being told this is the message they’ve been sent, to the point where I have feared violence – and indeed, sometimes the people behind them, who have walked down to the till and found somebody else there, have often been extremely angry.

So – are we out of line with our policy?  1216-11

In the US, we have a similar set up inTJ Maxx/Homegoods stores and I am sure other stores as well.

What is happening is that a pair of customers have agreed to expedite their payment time by going together to the same till/cashier.   If the intent is to check out at one cashier’s till as a twosome then by all means, they should have the integrity to carry through with their original intent regardless of whether some new opportunity arises.   Their body language assures the cashiers and the waiting customers behind them that they are moving in the direction of one till in order to finish their purchases.   But if midway to the intended till they separate, one to the originally targeted till and the other to the newly opened till, the intent all along was to exploit the situation to their best advantage, i.e the fastest method of checking out possible.    They broke the unspoken contract observers assumed they were committed to doing.

When caught in their selfishness, is it really surprising that the reaction is a tantrum?  The only recourse to firmly direct the person to the originally intended till and carry forth with the transaction with the appropriate customer.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Sway February 6, 2012 at 11:13 am

I worked as a cashier in the US. The store that I worked at had a queue at each till and a policy that if there were more than 3 customers in a queue, then additional cashiers would open registers. Each “new” cashier would ask for the next customer in the line nearest them. At times, I faced the situation where other customers would try to get to my till *before* the customer I had directed to come to me. My standard response was “I’m sorry. I asked this person to come to me. I have to take care of them first.” In your situation, I suspect that something like that might be better received…rather than “No, You have to use that till now.” Chances are that the “extra” person will go with their friend, but if not, then the next available cashier can ring them up and get them out before resuming the proper routine.

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alex February 6, 2012 at 11:19 am

I think you are completely right in how you do it. That is how it works here in the US and if I saw two customers walking together I would assume they were paying together. If they wanted to pay separately than the second lady should have stayed in the till line until the next one was available.

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Xtina February 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

Admin, this was just the store I was thinking of as well—haha!

This is akin to line-jumping and space-saving in a checkout line, in my opinion—situations in which ONE customer should be waited on at a time, and at the last minute, a second person has decided to jump in for service with the checkout clerk, much to the ire of waiting customers. The jumpers know they are doing wrong and that it will probably anger everyone behind them, but they do so because they know that as customers, they are in a power position over the cashier and plan to “push things” should the cashier tell them they can’t do that. It’s simply taking advantage of a situation to suit your own selfishness and it’s WRONG. Woe to the store who does not allow its cashiers and managers to enforce a first-come-first-served policy. Fairness to all customers should be standard policy in a place of business. OP, hopefully a manager will back you up in a situation like that, but call those people out—they are breaking protocol and should not be “rewarded” with being waited on as they want to be—they should be waited on as they come through the line. I would rather lose those two bad customers than annoy/lose the whole rest of the line behind them who are waiting their turn.

A side note to this—even when I shop with someone else and we could check out together, I still view that as two separate customers/transactions and will separate from my shopping partner to wait my turn at the next available register. Only when one of the two of us is paying will I go through the checkout line with someone else.

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TheVapors February 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

Your policy sounds fine. These people try to exploit the situation, and get fussy when they don’t get their way. They’re being rude to everyone in line behind them by breaking off to try and get ahead.

This looks to me like one of those “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” situations.

Customer: But, I got here first! *foot stamping*
Cashier (always sincerely): I’m sorry, I’m afraid I won’t be able to check you out at this till. Co-worker would be glad to help you at register #1.

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Ashley February 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

I encountered a similar problem this weekend, but I was a customer in the situation. I was waved over to a line that had just opened up, after having stood in another line for a bit, and as I was next in line, I was the one waved over to the opening register. A woman with a cart saw that the line had opened up, and practically SPRINTED with her cart to get to the cashier. I was two feet away and she was about 10 feet away when she started sprinting. Obviously I got there first, but she didn’t like that, and started complaining. Other customers in line started taking my side rather than hers, and she REALLY didn’t like that, and wound up leaving her cart right there and leaving the store without her purchase.

I’m with admin on this one. Your store has policies for a reason. Follow them.

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Cat February 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

I’d add a sign to let people know that only one customer will be served at a time so that the “pairs” who decide on a quick split can be directed to the instructions that it’s one customer, one service at a time. It won’t stop everyone from trying it, but it will make the policy more sensible than taking pairs under certain conditions-like shopping together as a unit and then splitting up.

I can get annoyed at those with thirty items who head for the ten items or less counter and are angry if someone points out that thirty is more than ten.

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Politrix February 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

I agree with the OP and the Admin… technically, once someone proceeds towards a till, that person has left the queue, correct? So either they proceed to the till they originally intended to go to, or they should go to the back of the line since they effectively forfeited their turn by leaving the queue in the first place.

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L.J. February 6, 2012 at 11:59 am

I agree that if they leave the queue at the same time, they should be treated as one unit.

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Kitty Lizard February 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm

During my time in retail, I frequently observed this behavior. What surprised me was the near violent
reaction. I was called stupid, ignorant, a moron, and other titles too rude to put down here, when
people were called on their own bad behavior. Unfortunately, the elderly were the worst offenders
and the worst potty mouths. I caught one elderly woman flat-footed when, after a long, obscene
tirade, I asked her, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” The customers who were standing
behind her nearly died laughing.

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Luna February 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Ugh, when I worked retail, I was always annoyed by these situations – it’s one of the reasons I learned to be very fast on resister, I found I could preempt a lot of problems if I was handing the customer their bag and reciept before they put together that there was a problem. I myself always insist that if I am paying for myself, I take my own transaction at my own register; if I’m part of a group shopping by consensus, then we all stick together, start to finish, no matter what. Like schools of fish!

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David February 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Your company policy is correct – two people who walk together towards a till have signaled their intent to pay at that till and are effectively cutting ahead in line if one then splits off to a newly opened till.

Part of me wishes that cutting ahead like this meant that you were directed to the end of the line, but sending them on to the original till they were walking towards is probably the best option for a business to follow.

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Huh February 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

People apparently believe that waiting in lines is for other people. Every time I come upon a group of checkouts like that, where there is one line for people to wait for the next available cashier, someone always swans up and gets in line behind the person checking out, like everyone else in the line was waiting for some random reason.

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Jared Bascomb February 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm

The only problem with directing them to the next till is what if they become recalcitrant and start loading their items at the till? The clerk would then balk in return, get into a (justified) argument) but thereby creating even more of a wait for those in the main queue while there’s a standoff between customer and clerk. The only other option is to sigh, roll one’s eyes, and proceed with the checkout. Yes, the clerk would be rewarding rude behavior but believe me, everyone else in the main queue — along with the clerk — are thinking some very nasty thoughts about the line-jumper and perhaps even making some not-too-quiet comments among themselves.

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LonelyHound February 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I only saw this happen once, most of the time a cashier says nothing, but this happened at my hometown DMV so it floored me. Everyone knows that DVM lines move so slow they go backwards and in my hometown, which is in Alaska (this is important later), we have the same system. Get in line and wait for an open till to buzz you to them. All the till are equiped to handle all types of DMV transactions so they can expedite the process. Now, like I mentioned, we are in Alaska, and the DMV covers boats, ATVs, RVs, cars, trucks and even hunting/fishing licenses. I was there one day to renew my license when the next person in line was called to the cashier. Two men went up. They both had packets full of documents and having, unfortunately, been privy to their very loud conversation they were registering and transferring titles of multiple vehicles as well as renewing registrations and acquiring licenses. They had a lot to be done. The next free teller buzzed for the next person and one of the two guys broke off and went to that teller. The guy was miffed that she refused to serve him and continually told him that the man standing patiently behine him was called, not him. The man started to argue and the teller called over her manager. Now, our DMV is right next to a police station. The manager firmly told the man that the gentleman behind him was next and if he would take a number he would be served just as soon as they could get to him. If that was unacceptable he could have one of the workers go next door and ask the police for assistance. The man grumbled but went to the number dispenser and took a number. Had he just done that in the beginning he would not have had a problem or ended up being last in line!!

Iguess, OP, it is a long way of saying that no one person in line has time more valuable than anyone else’s and to cut like that suggests a level of entitlement. You and your coworkers are well within your right to, not only follow store policy, but show, through your actions, that you value the time of all of your customers.

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Etta Kett February 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Yes, the cashier should be aware of who has been summoned to his or her register and politely tell the line crasher that the next person in line is who has been directed to the register in question, and she’ll have to either go to the register with her friend or wait behind the customer that was called. You have to treat it like line cutting. “Oh I’m sorry, but this gentlemen was told my station was free and is on his way here right now.”

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Radred February 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I prefer setups like this because I always seem to choose the slowest till or the customer in front wants to dispute every single price. When shopping with my friends we usually discuss, whilst waiting in the queue, who will go first. I don’t understand how that is a challenge for some people.

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C.W. February 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm

While I agree that it SOUNDS like such a simple solution to just tell the customer what they SHOULD be doing, the OP is correct in saying customers throw tantrums. It seems like common sense to do it the proper way (both women going to the same till since they were together), but there are quite often customers who are very self-centered and selfish when it comes to getting what they want or what they think they are entitled to. The more a “lowly salesperson” tries to rectify the situation, the more likely the customer will a) walk out without buying anything or b) yell more to get a manager to give in a give them a discount for their perceived inconvenience. That’s not to say all customers act this way but it’s sad how common it really is. My advice would be to continue to tell customers what the store policy is and be as calm and friendly as possible. People throwing tantrums hate it when you’re calm.

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Cat Whisperer February 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

When I was in grad school, I worked part-time as a cashier, and it’s incidents like this that made me very highly motivated to finish grad school.

Because of my experiences, I have to respectfully disagree with Administrator on her response “…The only recourse to firmly direct the person to the originally intended till and carry forth with the transaction with the appropriate customer.” While this may be the ideal answer where etiquette is concerned, it just doesn’t work very well if you’re the cashier caught up in this situation.

First and foremost, what I learned is that when there are a bunch of customers in line behind the customers who are causing the dispute, those are the people you need to think about. Those people are not interested in store policy, or rules, or etiquette, or justice. They are interested in GETTING THROUGH THE LINE WITH AS LITTLE DELAY AS POSSIBLE. And if you are holding them up while you argue with a customer about doing the “right” thing, they are going to get mad. Not at the customer who is causing the problem: they’re going to get mad at you, the cashier, for not doing what they perceive to be your job: getting them all through the line with as little delay as possible.

So what are your options if you’re the cashier?

If the line-cutter has only a couple of items, you give them a stern look and say in a loud, clear but polite voice, “Sir/ma’am, it was that lady/gentleman’s turn,” while pointedly indicating the customer who they are cutting off. If the line-cutter doesn’t back off and starts to make a fuss, you don’t argue with them. You tell them “I’ll let you through JUST THIS ONCE,” and as quickly as possible check them through and get rid of them. And you clearly and plainly apologize to the customer who got cut off. “I’m sorry sir/ma’am, I know you were next, but this seemed quicker than arguing. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

This way of dealing with the miscreant has the advantage of keeping people moving through the line as quickly as possible, which is what everyone wants, while acknowledging to the person who is most directly inconvenienced, the customer who got cut in front of, and apologizing to them for the injustice.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, if you deal with the situation this way, you’re going to get the situation ironed out with the least amount of delay and everyone is going to be happy.

If the customer cutting in the line has a lot of items or the transaction looks like it’s going to take extra time for whatever reason (items to be returned, price checks, coupons, etc.), or if someone is starting to make a fuss, IMMEDIATELY CALL THE MANAGER. Remember, your job isn’t to adjudicate disputes or act as a judge of etiquette. Your job is to get those customers who are standing in line, waiting for you to settle the problem, through as quickly as possible. Get the manager there to deal with the problem customer so that you can keep the line moving.

When I worked as a cashier, I had to deal with issues where a customer was inconveniencing other customers all the time: the person who is trying to get 15 items through the 8-items-or-less line; the customer who wants to use a coupon for an item that doesn’t qualify for the discount; the customer who wants to pay for $27 worth of purchases with change counted out from a coffee can full of nickels, dimes and pennies; the customer who wants to buy a dozen items where there is a limit of three to a customer; the person who wants you to take a check that for some reason is unacceptable under store policy. When you’re the cashier and there are other people in line behind this person, you always have to think about what they really want: which is to get through the line with as little delay as possible.

Admin’s answer assumes that the customer who is causing the dispute is going to cave to the demand to let the other customer through without arguing or causing a delay, or (worse) complaining to the manager about you. And in my experience, that’s just not true.

As a cashier, you are the front-line of customer service. Your job is to keep customers moving as smoothly as possible without delay, and preferably without causing complaints. I can guarantee you that if you are a cashier and you hold up the line while you argue with someone who is behaving unreasonably, you will not be a cashier for long. Management will acknowledge that yes, the customer you were arguing with was absolutely wrong and you were right. But management will also point out (correctly) that while you are adjudicating right and wrong with this customer, you had a bunch of other customer in line behind this person who were kept waiting while you disputed– and that isn’t fair to them.

In the world of retail sales where you’re working a cash register, you’re almost never dealing with just one person in a dispute. There are usually a bunch of other customers who aren’t party to the dispute who are going to be inconvenienced if you try to do the “right” thing. That’s why sometimes you have to let someone get away with an etiquette misdemeanor– because you don’t want to compound the crime by inconveniencing innocent people who aren’t interested in who is right and who is wrong, they just want to get through the line and get on with their business.

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MeganAmy February 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I completely agree with the admin. And I think a way to avoid this in the future would be for a worker at a till to not hit the buzzer until all the people walking toward the last open till have arrived at that till. So, the lady working at number seven would wait until the two women arrived at eleven before she hit her buzzer. That way, they’d look even more ridiculous if one tried to walk back to seven. And it would have given the gentleman more time to make it to number seven before the rude woman could make it back there.

People working at the tills shouldn’t have to do this, because it does waste time but the only other solution I can see is to hire bouncers/officers to kick people out of the store like the woman who tried to go back to number seven. Perhaps there should be a sign located where people enter the line/queue explaining the policy. Just as a backup measure.

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PrincessSimmi February 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Ooh, this is a pet peeve of mine! Stores that have a row of tills and one line are fine – as long as people follow through with the intention of using the till they were approaching.

One night I went through with my parents. I was paying separately and proceeded to wait in the queue while they went to the second of two open tills. I advised the gentleman behind me that I was with my parents and he went through to the first till as soon as it was free. Mum and StepDad decided to re-pack their goods into different bags, argue with each other, argue with the cashier and generally be a very noisy nuisance and hold up the queue until I walked up to them and told them to go outside if they were going to make a scene. Mum then got angry with me for coming through when they hadn’t cleared the till yet. I didn’t have the heart to point out that while they were busy being obnoxious, 8 people had gone through the other till. Fortunately my StepDad took her outside to calm down and we managed to get the queue moving again. I feel sorry for the poor cashier.

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JennJenn68 February 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Cat Whisperer, you are absolutely correct. I worked retail in a bookstore for many years, both as cashier and middle management, and I know for a fact that upper management isn’t interested in fairness or etiquette issues; they only want the line to keep moving and if that means bending over backward and caving in to someone behaving like a boor, then that’s what must be done. Anything else and the cashier will be looking for another job. Sadly, in retail as far as management is concerned, the customer is always right (even if the customer has told a checkable falsehood that other cashiers dispute, the customer will be believed because cashiers are easy come and easy go, but customers are giving the store their money) and cashiers are generally treated as drones and replaceable cogs in the machinery.

In a perfect world, Admin’s solution would be the obvious one. In the reality of retail, it would very soon come to the cashier’s losing his or her job, especially in the current financial climate when employers can be very choosy because there are always hundreds of applicants for any job opening. It’s upsetting, but it’s a fact of life, that the philosophy of the retail worker on the whole has to be, “Suck it up, Buttercup!”

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Stacey Frith-Smith February 7, 2012 at 3:04 am

I really sympathize with people whose jobs require them to act like referees for adults who should know how to behave. And for the customers who are inconvenienced when store policies aren’t followed. Superbowl weekend found us in line behind a gentlemen in the “20 items or less” category whose cart exceeded that. Not a quality that would endear you to other shoppers, getting in the short line with a greater quantity of goods than permitted. I will admit to wondering about the possibility of a “stop at 20 items” limit on the software used by cashiers in those lines. Thereafter, please take your extras and line up again. (Not going to happen, I know. But it passed the time while we waited).

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Susan T-O February 7, 2012 at 8:58 am

I used to work in a shop that had the one-line-for-all-tills set-up. I never ran into the situation described, thank goodness, but may I just make one request here? If you happen to be in one of those lines, and a till opens up, please WAIT for the cashier to call you over. It’s possible that he/she isn’t ready for you–needs to do a cash drop, has been instructed by management to take their break or clock out for the day, needs to tidy the wad of cash handed to them by the previous customer (oh, and PLEASE don’t hand the cashier a wad of cash; we were required to put the bills in the till all facing the same way, and it’s a pain in the butt if everything is all wadded together every which way)–and you may end up waiting longer for him/her to finish than you would have standing in line for the next truly available till.

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Enna February 7, 2012 at 9:12 am

I agree with the OP. Cat Whisper does make a good point that it is important to keep the queue moving but I sitll think that the customer who is held up could get nasty just as much as the rude customer could. When I go with a firend to use the same till I don’t jump the queue and go to the free till. Strictly speaking if a customer who has gone to one till and then tired to do to a new one has lost their place in the queue and should go to the end.

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VltGrantham February 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

There’s no reason for a cashier to ever have to argue with a customer. If the customer is clearly in the wrong as in the situation above, what the admin suggested is fine. If the customer becomes argumentative, the cashier simply carries on checking out the appropriate customer and signals for the manager.

I really appreciate it when the store employees follow their own policies and refer troublesome clients to the manager for assistance. I especially appreciate it when a cashier refuses to take the first person who rushes up to them and instead takes the next person in line as requested.

If really pressed, one can always say “I’ll be happy to explain our policies and discuss this further with you as soon as I’ve finished ringing up this customer.” while still taking care of the customer in line and then firmly ignoring the individual until finished.

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Jones February 7, 2012 at 10:37 am

The first and only time I have been in a store of this setup there were no signs or announcements. I didn’t realize what was going on and took myself to the cashier to wait behind the current customer. When things were explained to me I was thoroughly embarrassed and I haven’t been back, because I am sure they will recognize me.
Please have compassion to those who “swan up” to the front, they may be country bumpkins like me who have never been to a place like that before.

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Margaret February 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I would love to see a cashier take the out of order person’s items, bag them without scanning them, and then place them under the til or back into a shopping cart and send them to be restocked. After all, the customer doesn’t own the items until she has paid for them.

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Cat Whisperer February 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Enna, my experience as a cashier is that if you have someone cut in front of another person in the line, the person who has been cut in front of wants two things: (1) acknowledgement that they have been wronged; and (2) to not be further delayed.

If you argue with the customer who cut in front, you’re delaying everyone. If you can check out the customer who did the cutting quicker than you can argue with them about getting back into line, that’s the appropriate action to take– AS LONG AS YOU APOLOGIZE TO THE CUSTOMER THEY CUT IN FRONT OF. Big letters for emphasis.

I never, ever had a customer who was cut in front of or otherwise inconvenienced by someone who “broke the rules” who got mad and fussed if I checked the rule-breaker out and got rid of them fast, as long as I acknowledged that they had been wronged and apologized to them. Most people aren’t idiots, and they want to get through the line as fast as possible. “I’m sorry sir/ma’am, I know you were ahead of him, but this is the quickest way to get you through.”

The point is, this kind of drama rarely ever plays out with just the customer who did the cutting and the customer they cut in front of. There are usually other people in the the line as well, and they don’t want to be kept waiting while the checker makes a delay arguing about who came first: they want to pay for their purchases and get out of the store ASAP.

Also, as JennJenn68 verified, if you’re the cashier, management isn’t interested in having you engage customers in extended discussions of who came first or who has good manners and who has bad. They want you to complete as many transactions as quickly and accurately as you can. If that means that you sometimes have to let someone get away with being rude, so be it; you apologize to the customers who are inconvenienced and they understand that you’re trying to get them through as quickly as possible. In every case that I can remember where a situation like this came up, I was supported by the customer who got cut in front of. I would apologize for what happened, acknowledge they should have been next. And the customer would almost always say something like “Yeah, that guy/woman was a real jerk,” and that would end the issue. Most customers are smart enough to see when another customer is being rude and aren’t going to blame the cashier for taking the quickest way to get rid of them.

One of my sweetest memories of being a cashier was the day two young men came through my line buying beer. I was working the express checkout when they came through. The beer came to about $27, and when I rang it up, they clunked a coffee can full of change down on the counter and stood there smirking at me. “Sorry this is going to take so long,” one of them said. They literally expected me to count out $27 worth of nickels, dimes and pennies.

There were at least 8 people in line behind them. I told the guys with the coffee can of change, “Oh, don’t apologize to me, I get paid by the hour. The people you want to apologize to are the people in line behind you. They’re the ones you’re inconveniencing. ” And you better believe everyone in line behind them was glaring murder at these guys. You could almost feel the resentment in the air.

Without another word, one of the guys pulled his wallet out and handed me a $20 and a $10. I made change, bagged up the beer, and wished him a nice day. They went slinking out with their coffee can of change and the beer. And every single customer who was in line behind them thanked me.

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Kendra February 8, 2012 at 12:18 am

There are a couple of stores that I have shopped at that do this type of lining up for the cashiers, but most are the type that you line up at the individual cashier. Is it possible that the woman didn’t know the policy and thought that it would be ok? I’ve sort of seen this type of situation before when customers are standing in line at one cashier and the customer at the cashier next to them leaves, so they just go over to the free cashier instead of waiting in line for the cashier they are in line for to finish with the customer in front of them. This is completely acceptable if the cashier hasn’t already called for a customer. Not that this excuses her bad behavior, but she might not have known the policy, I wouldn’t have. I understood that it was acceptable that if another cashier opened up, and you weren’t paying together, that it was ok to go to that cashier. In fact, there were many times that I would be shopping with others at Border’s and we would be heading to a cashier, when another cashier would say that if we weren’t paying together, the cashier would be happy to take care of one of us, so I thought this was policy, and I might have done the exact same thing out of ignorance. Not the getting “shirty” part, but the going to the open till part. So maybe the woman was embarrased, and sadly, sometimes when we get embarrased, we behave badly. Again, not excusing her behavior, just saying that there could be a reason for her behavior that we could be more charitable toward her and other’s like her. My own little story: I used to shop at a particular grocery store on Wednesdays midmorning because the store was usually pretty quiet then. Because it was their slow time, they only had one register open and that was the 10 items or less line. Now, I did the shopping for the whole family for the whole week on those trips and Never (Bold, Underline, Underline) had “10 items or less”. In fact, I was totally overflowing cart, things falling off it was so full, cart girl. The first time I shopped there, I asked multiple times if it was ok to go through the express line, because it was the only line open, and I was told that, Of course they don’t enforce that when it’s the only register open. I don’t know why they only opened that particular register during their slow periods, I never asked. The only thing I could figure was that it was closest to the manager’s office and the door. Anyway, after I had been shopping there weekly for a couple of years, I was in the the 10 items or less line with my usual groaning cart, just starting to unload, chatting with the cashier that I saw every week at that time, when this woman comes up behind me, takes one look at my cart and goes balistic! She starts screaming at me “Can’t I read? There are way more than 10 things in my cart! (obviously) Well, what can you expect from ignorant hicks in *my hometown* can’t read or count?!?” and so on. I’m trying to explain that this is the only register open, the cashier is trying to explain that this is the only cashier open, the woman wasn’t having any of it. So I offer to let the woman go ahead of me, instead of calming down and going through, as I had hoped, that’s when she got really nasty. She was so worked up that she was actually spitting as she was screaming obscenities at me. The manager came out of his office to see what was going on, told the woman to calm down. She didn’t. Told her to leave, she got worse. Finally, he threatened to call the police. She threw her hand basket with all her stuff in it AT me and stormed out. I was shaking and crying, the cashier was shaking and crying, I almost felt sorry for the manager — what are you supposed to do with two traumatized and crying women? He did what any good man would do, got us coffee from the deli, sat us down on the bench by his office, unloaded my cart and scanned and bagged my groceries, ran my card, helped me out to my car, made sure I was ok to drive and sent me on my way. I can only assume the woman had some sort of mental health issue because normal people don’t behave that way. Before that day, I was a loyal customer of the store, but after that day, because of the manager, that became the only store I would shop at.

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Ringo February 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

@Stacey Frith-Smith I’ve thought about that kind of software solution to enfocing limits before as well, as our self scan tills are supposed to have a 20 item limit. The problem would be in the inconsistency of how the number of items were counted. Take a bag of 20 apples for instance. Is that one item or twenty? If it is weighed by the pound as a single bag it would count as one, but if the apples were three for a dollar, say, they would count as twenty.

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Mabel February 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I had this happen to me once at Toys R Us. I was in there buying a present, and got waved to an empty register. A couple with a cart full of baby stuff cut in front of me and I just stopped, aghast, and stared at the cashier. I mean, they manhandled their cart right across my path. I didn’t stop because I was miffed, but to avoid getting run over!

The cashier gave me a sympathetic look but then she rang them up. I think she should have said “I’m sorry but that lady was first. You’ll have to wait.” That was totally rude. I didn’t say anything to them but boy did I, inside my head.

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Steph February 9, 2012 at 1:31 am

If possible, yes, the best solution is to serve the correct customer. But the way some places are set up, if a crustomer (misspelling intended) really wanted to they can block the till. Then the shouting starts, which slows down everything in the store (as the other cashiers and customers are looking at the scene). Maybe the correct customer will stay calm, maybe they’ll turn into a crustomer. Oh, here comes the manager. If the cashier is lucky they have a manager who will support them. If not, the manager could write them up or fire them.

Meanwhile, everyone is getting in a sour mood. The cashiers are a little on edge, the customers are tired of waiting, and/or they’re angry that the jerk got their way. Everyone is snippy with each other which can lead to more complaints. Some may be emboldened by the crustomer to pull their own shenanigans.

It can be a tricky situation, and if it’s the holiday season it can turn extraordinarily volatile with the crowds and the desperation to have the last turkey or Furby. The point of all this is to ask for everyone to please take pity on retail workers – sometimes there isn’t much they can do.

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drzim February 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. I don’t think the woman was rude, clueless maybe…

Logically, she WAS the next in the line. Before the gentleman that got called to the window, right?
I’m shocked at all the people who have vehemently chastised her for “cutting in line” when she really did no such thing.

Think about it…if she hadn’t gone to the window with her friend, and stayed in line, she would have been rightfully served at the next open window. So she walked with her friend, and then stopped at the window to be served….which is the exact same thing that would have happened if she had stayed standing in line. She didn’t cut, folks!!! In either scenario, she would have been served before the gentleman because she was ahead of him in line.

I can see it being inconsiderate, because the gentleman behind her did assume that she was going with the other woman, and he went to the window as called, but when she stopped to check out at the window, did it not occur to him that she was, actually ahead of him in line? I think his behavior was definitely uncalled for.

To me, it seems harsh if someone, who has clearly been waiting in line, steps out of line for a moment…and then tries to resume their place and is told off for “cutting”. Do people really believe that person should have to go to the end of the line?

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Allie February 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

In a similar problem, things can backfire if you go to a till that opens up without being called there, and it turns out that cashier is closing or has to go do something else. The person behind you may be called to another till after you, but be served before of you. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. I always wait to be specifically summoned, but once I am, I would not appreciate someone trying to butt in, regardless of whether they were ahead of me or not. That said, there’s no reason to get ‘shirty’ about it (love that expression!).

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