Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Checkout Line

The following are all true experiences I have had at checkout lines. My memory isn’t perfect and therefore I might not recall the conversations verbatim, but for all intents and purposes everything you read here actually happened… believe it or not.

Office Depot:

A male customer in his 30s places a Palm Pilot / Pocket PC (I didn’t see the exact model at the time) on the counter and reaches for his wallet.

Cashier (male): [Examining device] Oh wow have I got a great deal for you man – you can add a 3 year warranty onto this for only like 75 bucks.

Customer: No thanks.

Cashier: Really? – I mean these things are really expensive.

Customer: Well IF it breaks, I’ll just buy a new one. I’m not interested in the warranty.

Cashier: Wow….you must have a lot more money than I do if you are willing to buy a new one every time it breaks.

Me thinking to myself: Yes genius, he is buying a $350 Pocket PC and sporting what appears to be about a $1200 watch while you are a cashier at Office Depot…..I’m pretty sure he does in fact have more money than you do.

Then again suggesting the item the customer is purchasing might actually be prone to breakage probably isn't the best way to instill confidence in the buyer.


Black Friday 2008. There are at least 100 customers in line waiting to checkout with a wait time of about 15 minutes to get to a register. A young male cashier who had an accent and dark skin color which suggested he immigrated from Africa in the last few years is checking out a woman in her mid to upper 40s who had an obvious problem with weight management. The woman has a cart full of various items, but one of them is a vacuum cleaner with a retail price somewhere around $100.

Cashier: I’d like to offer you a protection plan on this item. The total cost is only $19.99 and it covers the vacuum for three full years.

Woman: I’m just not sure…..what does it cover?

Cashier: (Reading verbatim from the very same product documentation the woman is holding in her own hands) The protection plan covers…

Woman: (interrupting) Can I return the protection plan if I don’t need it?

*long uncomfortable silence as the cashier tries to decide if he is on a hidden camera show*

Cashier: I’m not sure….nobody has ever asked if they could return one. Let me check.

At this point – with still over 100 people in line waiting to check out, the cashier walks away from his register and goes to find a manager at the customer service desk. After a period of about two minutes he returns.

Cashier: You have 14 days to decide if you want to keep it. If you change your mind in that period you can return it.

Woman: Ok let me think…..

At this point – both the woman and the cashier as well as the woman’s daughter (which appeared to be in the 13 year old range) stand in complete silence for no less than a full 60 seconds while staring at one another.

I was about three seconds away from blurting out “Go ahead take your time….it is a very important decision and surely the 112 people behind you have nothing better to do today than watch you consider a purchase of an extended warranty on your frigging vacuum cleaner!”, but thankfully after her extended silence she finally said she would take it.

Congratulations Mr. Cashier….you sold a $20 protection plan on a $100 vacuum to a woman with no common sense and a complete disregard for her fellow human being. It is things like this that make me want to slam my head into a brick wall in a vain effort to "dumb me down" to the level where I felt this was normal behavior.

Why do I think this sort of thing plays out at least 25 times a day in Wal-Marts all across the nation?

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