Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Checkout Etiquete

The other week there was an article in a national paper about a checkout assistant in Sainsbury's who refused to serve a customer until she hung up her mobile phone! The customer then complained to the store which apologised and issued her with a gift voucher as a gesture of goodwill and apology. 

Jo Clarke (above), 26, was in the queue at her local Sainsbury's, in Crayford, south-east London,
when the checkout assistant refused to help her because she was on her phone

Photo credit - www.dailymail.co.uk

However, opinions seem to be split, but most people seem to be agreeing with the checkout assistant that it is rude to be chatting to someone on the phone whilst at the till. What do you think about it?

For me it is something I have to deal with each week as I actually work on a checkout at one of the main supermarkets, in fact last week marked the 6th anniversary of my starting. Being there for almost 6yrs I always find it funny when someone asks me if I'm a new starter as they haven't seen me before, but in their defence I have only worked one day a week for the past 18mths and before that I worked 2 days a week after my maternity leave with my 3yr old due to childcare issues having four children. Before I fell pregnant with her I worked 4 days a week but on the diary department stocking shelves and I only started working on the checkouts halfway through the pregnancy when I almost passed out stacking the milk and I've remained there since.

I must admit I do enjoy working on the checkouts. You see a wonderful array of people, some who are nice and enjoy chatting to you and some who are not so nice, although it could just be a bad day for them and some who are just plain rude!

However, I must admit that a pet hate of mine is people on their mobile! As checkout staff we're encouraged to be friendly and to try and make it a friendly and enjoyable visit to our store, well as much as you can make food shopping a pleasant experience! 

I'm sorry but there is just no need to be on the phone, if you must answer the phone then quickly say "I'm just at the checkout, I'll phone you back in a minute!" and then hang up. It's rude to stay on the phone and you make it harder for us to do our jobs, we have to talk to you to ask whether you want bags, or to tell you how much your shopping costs. If we were sat there on our mobiles (which incidentally we're not allowed on us) or chatting to colleagues then you'd find it rude and it would make you less likely to visit our store again. 

I remember a few years ago I was in a training meeting with my manager and we were discussing customer service and how important a friendly and helpful member of staff is. I can still remember my manager asking me which was more important, customer service or price, and I replied price. I was actually surprised to hear that a poll had shown customer service was rated more important. A few weeks later I was in a different supermarket and the checkout assistant was rude and miserable. Again it could have been something as simple as she was having a bad day, but it made it an unenjoyable experience and I found myself not wanting to visit that supermarket again, especially that lady! That was the point when I realised just how right my manager was when she told me it was very important to be polite and friendly at all times. We are the face of the company and the image that the public sees and because of that I try and overcome my natural shyness and treat the customers the way I would want to be treated!

Another pet hate of mine is people's attitude when you explain there is a 5p charge per carrier bag in Wales and people act like it's your fault! Since October 2011 it has been law in Wales that every shop charges 5p per carrier bag (although there are a few exceptions such as prescription bags). If we don't charge for the bags then we get into trouble for breaking the law. One good point to make is that the 5p does go to charity, not to the supermarket/shop or even to the Welsh Assembly Government and each shop has it's own charity. I'm sorry, but no matter how much you ask, cajole, plead or insult I cannot give you the bag for free as I would be breaking the law.

In fact, following the Sainsbury incident, the Independent newspaper decided to conduct some research by watching people at the checkout for an hour over a hot Friday afternoon to see how much customers engaged with checkout staff. 

They spent an hour observing at a Sainsbury's in Chiswick, London, watching five tills and 110 customers. Their results were interesting.

  • One woman in her 40s stayed on the phone whilst being served. She only acknowledged the cashier with a "Hi there" when she was greeted.
  • Five customers arrived at the checkout wearing headphones, of which only one removed them completely. Two removed one earphone whilst being served and the remaining two left them both in the whole time. 
  • Only about 20% of those monitored seemed to make eye contact, which includes the cashier as well as the customer.
  • Only about 1 in 10 appeared to engage in any kind of conversation beyond the initial greeting, although almost all said hello.
They then went on to print some Check-Iquette

  • Say hello
  • Make eye contact
  • Put a divider behind your shopping instead of assuming the next person will do it (sometimes they don't making it harder to tell shopping apart)
  • Have your wallet (and vouchers/loyalty card if you have them) ready instead of acting surprised when they want payment.
  • I would also add, that if you're under 30 and buying alcohol, make sure you have your ID ready, just in case you get asked for it. Most supermarkets now have a Think 25 policy for alcohol, which means we have to judge whether you look over 25 and if you look under then we have to ask for ID. This is because it's easier to judge if someone is over 25 than if they're over 18. If you're lucky enough to look under 25 (in our opinion) then you will be asked for ID. Please don't moan that you're older than 18, 25, 30 etc please take it as a compliment and show us your ID. We have to ask and if we get caught selling alcohol to an under 18yr old, then we risk a criminal conviction, a £5,000 fine and losing our job and the supermarket also risks losing it's licence to sell alcohol and a £50,000 fine.
  • Read their badge and call them by their first name (they say this is creepy, but personally it doesn't bother me).
  • Text, speak or having anything to do with your phone (unless you have your loyalty card app on there).
  • Leave you headphones on, but if you must then only leave one in.
  • Rush off and get something you forgot at the last minute.
  • Have a hissy fit when you can't open the bags (although I always open mine for the customers).
  • Again I would add, moan that you have to pay 5p for a bag. It's no good telling me you don't pay in your local supermarket because if it's in England, then yes you won't have to pay, but you're in Wales now and you have to pay. It's no good telling me that you weren't charged last time you shopped in this supermarket. You were it's just that the cashier didn't mention the bag charge and if you look at your receipt you'll find you were actually charged. I always like to mention the charge so that people can change their mind about having a bag if they want to and it give me a chance to explain that the money goes to charity and to think of it as a charity donation!
  • I would also add, moan about being asked for ID. Again it is law that we don't serve under 18s and it is hard to guess someone's age. In the past I've ID'd someone I was convinced was only 16, to find out via their ID that they were in fact 25! At the end of the day, the cashier can't afford a £5,000 fine, to lose their job and to receive a criminal conviction!
What about you? Do you agree the cashier was right to confront the woman about using her mobile? Or do you think the customer was right to complain? 

Do you agree with the points above? Is there any you would remove or anything you would add. 

What about cashiers? What would you like to see them doing more to make your shopping experience more enjoyable? What do they do which you find annoying and would like them to change?


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