Old 07-15-2004, 08:49 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Saskatchewan
Posts: 4,052
Advice for stressed out newbie cashier

I just started my first retail job, and to say the least, I'm not coping well. I'm fine when it isn't busy, but when the busy times start, I freak. I usually make most of my mistakes then, so it all piles up and I feel overwhelmed and start to cry. Yes, both of my first days I've started crying. I've managed to get away from the till in time, but still. This can't continue.

Everyone tells me to relax, but it is so hard to do when you feel rushed. I do take my time, but still. I'm always on edge.

I know I've just started and things will get better, but how do I cope in the meantime? I'm not one that easily puts things out of my mind or anything (I've been obsessing over this outside work).

Help, please?
Old 07-15-2004, 09:42 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Orlando
Posts: 2,659
This sounds crazy because you're outnumbered by the people in your line, but you're the one in charge. People know that they're in line and that the cashier is working to get them taken care of.

My first summer job was in a produce store where I did the cliche stock boy to cashier and while I was cashier I learned from the 70 year old great-grandmom as she was free flowing with the advice, after running registers for thirty five years. And as she said it,

"Look son, you're behinid the counter, you're the one with the ringing machine which signals they can walk out the door and not get trounced, you're the one who has to make sure they pay. Take your time, do it right. Doing it wrong takes more time when you have to fix it, and if you don't fix it - someone's going to be mad."

So there you have it, words from Ms. Miller via ME
Old 07-15-2004, 09:47 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Kookamunga
Posts: 1,501
Maybe you can swap shifts with someone who has a less busy shift?

I guess the thing to do is just to concentrate on the person you are serving at the moment. Everyone else behind that person doesn't matter until it's their turn. Try treating each person you serve during a rush as if they are the first person you've seen in a hour and that there's not another person in sight. Smile (even if you don't feel like it) because people will smile back, which will make you feel better. A line or two of small talk will also take your mind off the rush and make you more relaxed.

It will get easier, and will soon be second nature.
Old 07-15-2004, 09:51 PM
2012 SDMB NFL Salary Cap Champ
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 11,158
You don't say what kind of retail you're doing, but the basic advice should be the same. Slow down if you need to. Most people are willing to give someone a break, especially if they're new. If they won't, they're jerks and screw them. If you're not sure what something is or how it might be coded, slow down and either look it up or think about it for a bit. Like anything else, it's a bit of a skill to remember codes, procedures, and the like.

And I know other people have said this, but give yourself a break. Leave work at work, especially retail work. You'll pick it up soon. Most importantly, a mistake is over. Don't ignore it; remember what you did so you don't do it the next time, but don't obsess about it either.
Old 07-15-2004, 10:01 PM
Kat Kat is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Curled up in a sunny spot
Posts: 8,840
Back when I worked as a cashier, at one point I was training a new employee, and after a run of particularly difficult customers, she asked me how I was able to remain calm and polite with them...I answered that I swore at them in my head.

Coincidentally enough, I was at the grocery store today, and the cash register was acting up the entire time I was in line. She made it a point to smile at each person as they reached the front of the line and apologize for the wait. No one gave her a hard time about it. Try to "beat them to the punch" with a friendly greeting and maybe it'll diffuse any irritation and give you the breathing space to keep from feeling rushed.
Old 07-15-2004, 10:13 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: ibpka
Posts: 3,854
I think it's great that you care so much about providing a good customer service experience. Cashiers like you are few and far between anymore. Unfortunately.

I remember my first "real" job was working as a cashier/customer service desk person at a popular department store. Man, when back-to-school season hit and the line was 10-12 people deep... and I had to ring things up... and fold and bag stuff... man, oh, man. It stressed me out because I didn't want people angry at me or thinking that I was an idiot. The above advice about treating each customer as your first customer of the day really helped me. That, and taking a deep breath and focusing. Be yourself, be friendly. Mistakes happen. Be sincere in apologizing for the delay and confident in getting it fixed/resolved. (Even if you have to fake it.) The greater majority of people, while they're standing there in line, will see a friendly human being dealing with the people in front of them, and be primed to also be positive with you. If you project a confident, friendly, willingness to provide good customer service, you will find the majority of people you deal with will be fine with beginner's mistakes. (And the one's that aren't? Well, screw 'em. They're just a good reminder of what kind of person you are not.)

And then, one day you'll find you can ring people up almost on auto-pilot, and the majority of your interaction will be talking to customers instead of trying to remember procedures. And you'll be amazed that this ever stressed you out!!

Also worked in a really busy restaurant in college where I was the lone cashier/order taker. At first, I suffered the same stress. But I discovered that attitude has it all over proficiency. You've obviously got the attitude. The proficiency will come, and then you will rock!
Old 07-15-2004, 10:23 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: N/A
Posts: 5,368
I just started my first real job a couple weeks ago (working at Subway). I nearly quit on the first day - it's in the food court of a mall and gets ridiculously busy around lunch hour from local offices. I'm talking about a dozen people in line, some getting upwards of three sandwiches.

First thing: take it one order at a time. In my situation, a lot of people try to give specifics for one big order at once (eg, lettuce and mayo on the first, no mayo on the second, mustard on the third...). Take it one at a time, and just ask them to repeat it if needed.

Secondly (and yeah, all this has been said already): smile. Be pleasant. if you force yourself to act like you're not having a miserable time, then you may find you're not actually miserable.

Also, ask for help. Ask your coworkers who've been working there for longer how they deal with it.

If you make mistakes, it's not a big deal (unless your boss is an evil ogre who will literally eat you if you screw up.) Apologize to the customer, correct it, and move on.
Old 07-15-2004, 10:24 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Saskatchewan
Posts: 4,052
Thanks for the great advice, everyone!

I just have to remember to have the right attitude, and be happy! I've noticed that people seem to ignore my greetings, but oh well. I always make it a point to say 'hello ma'am/sir'. I also just need to slow down. I do things slow right now, but it feels rushed to me.

Seperating work from home is hard for me to do, but I guess I'll get used to it. I just need time, and to remember it isn't that big of a deal, not enough to cry over.
Old 07-20-2004, 08:12 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Saskatchewan
Posts: 4,052
Haven't cried for the last two shifts, but find I hate cashiering. I want a change to a department - going to ask for one. I'm more suited to being on the floor than on cash.
Old 07-20-2004, 09:11 PM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Puget Sound basin
Posts: 2,640
There's been lots of great advice here. I second everything said.

Don't take it personally when a customer ignores your greeting. Their minds might be elsewhere or it could be their parents didn't bother to teach them manners. Either way, you've made an effort to be polite and considerate. If they don't react or react badly, just remember that you did the right thing and you are a good person. Remember that, no matter what happens!

If you need help or have a question, don't be afraid to ask a co-worker or your supervisor. I'm sure my stress level would have been lower if I'd done that when I was younger.

I highly recommend Customers Suck. You will find lots of friendly folks who were or are in your shoes. It's a good place to vent, ask advice and read about nutty or painful misadventures in retail land. The number one rule there is to not drink anything while reading the posts because you will never know when some crazy story will make you burst out laughing. It might just make you feel better.
Old 07-21-2004, 12:09 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Posts: 343
Hey kushiel, until you get a change in department, just hang in there. I had several jobs before last summer when I worked at a golf course and ran the register, and it was stressful for me too! There's a lot to remember at first, and it's so hard to not get anxious when the line is growing. Just remember people can wait their turn. Good luck
Old 07-21-2004, 01:37 AM
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Back in California.
Posts: 9,237
Some good advice here, especially the part about you being in control. Also, remember that nothing can be done but keep plugging away. The line is as long as it is, and that's not your fault. You didn't force the people to come and wait in line. They are there and you will get to them when you get to them.

I remember working at the register during an extremely busy Christmas sale. The line was long and I was the only one at the register. I was relatively experienced at the register at this point, but still, that long line full of exhausted Christmas shoppers was daunting. But then I realized, there was no reason to feel stressed. Nothing I could do to improve the situation but just work. The line was the length that it was, and I was doing the best I could, so why worry? I was cheerful to everyone and just took it in stride.

One of the regular customers said to me (when it was her turn in line), "How do you manage to stay so cheerful?" I can't remember what my answer was, but I assume it was something along the line of, "What are ya gonna do?" Everyone was pretty patient with me because I was trying my best (and yes, sometimes I made mistakes), and I was cheerful about it.

Some people are going to be pricks no matter what and there's nothing you can do about that. But most people will be cool.
Old 07-21-2004, 02:23 AM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Chattanooga
Posts: 14,037
If you find that you hate cashiering then do try to transfer and as quickly as possible otherwise you will probably wind up disenfranchised with your job and probably unemployed after your dissatisfaction starts showing. It happened to me when I was a cashier and it's happened to numerous friends as well.

Otherwise, all the advice given in this thread is spot on.

Good luck.
Old 07-21-2004, 08:49 AM
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Cincinnati
Posts: 2,184
Don't look at the line. Don't think about the line. Your job is the same whether there's one person in the line or fifteen, so just focus on the person standing at the counter. Be as efficient as you can, but rushing yourself won't be efficient, because you'll drop things, make mistakes, and slow yourself down. Just do your best for the one who is standing there and don't think about any of the others.
Old 07-21-2004, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Saskatchewan
Posts: 4,052
I'm getting used to the lines, and I'm much less stressed about them. However, like I said above, cashiering sucks and I want a change to a department. Not sure if they'll do it since I've only been there 2 weeks.
Old 07-21-2004, 10:16 AM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,330
When you get a particularly angry customer, kill them with kindness. It drives them a lot more crazy when you smile and sweettalk than when you stoop to their level and get mad back. (This also works in traffic-someone flips you off, smile and wave. They honk their horn? Blow them a kiss!)

Cust-I've been waiting 45 minutes! What are you, stupid or something??
Cashier-Oh my goodness, I'm SO sorry you have had to wait, but thank you for being so patient! (big smile) I'm just doing the very best I can, it's just hard to give everyone great service when you're rushing through them...

At this point, either the angry customer sighs heavily and waits some more, or they leave (one less link in the line), or the rest of the customers pile up on him, and he really feels like an idiot.

Other than that, just take it one customer at a time, as I instruct all my new cashiers to do. The line is what it is-if you worry about the guy leaning against a wall and looking at his watch 30 people in, the first 29 are going to get lesser service.

Be patient, go at your own pace. Once you learn the register, the job will be a hundred times easier. Until then, smile, and apologize if you make a mistake. Your customers are all human-they've all been new at something at some point in their lives, and most will cut you some slack.

Oh, one last thing-if you do get that particularly angry customer who wants to get up in your face and yell, get a manager over there. You probably don't get paid enough to take that crap. That's why managers make the big bucks-we get to deal with the hard stuff. And, managers usually have more power to make them happy again, to keep the customer. Pass the buck. It will make your life a whole lot stressful.
Old 07-21-2004, 02:09 PM
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 187
I just want to second Pam's advice above...

The nastier the customer gets, the sweeter you should. It truly is the best way to get under their skin. Also pass the buck. "Oh you have a problem? Well let me get someone to listen to it." Makes me smile just thinking of all those stupid people I shrugged off...
Old 07-21-2004, 02:58 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 4,706
You have a ton of good advice there. I am hoping it really helps.

Also, I bet you'll find that there are some custmers who are memorable for being horrible, but others who are memorable for being really really sweet, or saying "oh, you're new here - hey, slow down, don't let it worry you". Thus I recall I'd go from furious, upset and feeling tearful to "Oh, aren't people NICe?" in the space of a few minutes.

I'm glad not to be in your shoes, I must say: I am sure I see what you mean by wishing to be rather less in the public eye/direct line of fire, but, as others have said - it will get better. And if they won't transfer you, perhaps the experience there will help you move to a different shop.

Hang on in there!

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