Saturday, March 10, 2012

Making Fiends: Condoms and Cashiers

Today in Detroit, Michigan, an argument over condoms ended with a homicide at a local Gas Station.  When a 24 year old customer purchased his prophylactics only to conclude his protection was overpriced, the Fueling Station's Cashier refused the Newly Protected but Now Shortchanged Man a refund.  In retaliation, the Angry Customer began "shoving items from shelves".  The Cool Headed Cashier responded to this disturbance by retrieving a shotgun and opening fire in the store. A later report indicated that this Gun Nut only meant to scare, not kill, the Man and His Rubbers.  Unfortunately, the Trigger Happy Clerk hit the Condom Customer on his way out of the store thus, ending the Angry Young Man's Life.  The story is tragic, but for anyone who has worked behind a cash register its not shocking.  Tension, frustration, and even violence between poorly paid clerks and irritable customers is sometimes inevitable.

From May until October of 2006, I worked as a cashier at the People's Walmart of Terre Haute, Indiana (i.e., the Dirty One located off Highway 41 that sells Bakery Items with Bugs Dancing inside the Packaging)  For 38 hours a week I toiled away at Wally World while attempting to balance this Insufferable Wage Work with my job as a Teaching Assistant and Full Time Grad Student at Indiana State University.  In those few of months, I witnessed customers stealing, screaming, spitting, and one even solicited me for sex. (What about my Walmart Vest said: "I turn tricks?")  Surviving as a cashier, I learned, took some creativity and determination.  Now, don't get me wrong here.  I'm not suggesting pulling a gun on a customer is anything short of murder.  Why a shotgun was allowed into the store is beyond me.  That having been said, cashiers, who have little power, can and should employ Weapons of the Weak in order to combat both their Customers and their Employers.  In other words, similar to the cartoon Making Fiends (which centers around the characters of Vendetta and Charlotte), when a Cashier runs into a Vendetta, who wants to destroy her, she must meet this challenge head on.  Charlottes should always appear harmless, sweet, and helpful while manipulating the system to punish their enemies and bring justice to the Walmart masses.

Handling Vendettas Charlotte Style: Eventually, All Cashiers Run Across Two Types of Vendettas, Customer-Related and Employer-Created. Below are my Four Tips for Defying these Agents of Persecution While Still Maintaining a Cheery Disposition.

Charlotte and Vendetta
1.) Price Checking: When Dealing with Customer-Related Vendettas the Price Check is a Charlotte's most Potent Weapon.  Just to clarify, running a price check adds a wait time of anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes.  Now, Chain Stores authorize Cashiers to alter prices up to a certain amount without performing a check.  However, Store Managers often warn their Cashiers to use discretion when changing prices and herein lies a Charlotte's power.   When a Nice Customer requests a change, the Cashier should do so without question (i.e., positive reinforcement for good behavior).  However, when a Vendetta walks up barking order and treating a Charlotte like shit, the time has come to teach this Nasty Individual a Lesson ("Do you see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass, Larry?").  Price Check!  Example: August of 2006, I'm working at Walmart during the Back to School Rush.  The checkout lines are backed up all the way up to the candy wall.  With time, the chaos begins to sound like a deafening roar of wailing babies, whining children, and screaming parents.  Customers are waiting between 35 and 40 minutes to check out and I'm on a 12 hour shift.

As I ring up a padlock, a Rude Mother makes an ugly face at me and shouts: That lock costs $2.35 NOT $3.50!!  Fine.  If that's how she wants to behave, then she'll pay.

Me: "Is that right?  Oh, well, I'll just take care of that for you.  Let me run a price check."  I grin, pick up the phone, and make the call.  22 minutes later, I am informed that those locks are, indeed, two dollars and thirty five cents.  With an even bigger grin, I look at the Nasty Lady and say: "You know what?  You're RIGHT!  They are $2.35.  I'm just going to change that for you this instant.  Wonderful!!"  Words cannot describe the look on her bloated face but I thought she might explode.  It was beautiful to watch.  Behold the Power of the Price Check.

2.) A Sweet and Cheery Disposition: The key to committing malevolent crimes against Evil Customers is attitude my dear Charlottes.  Why didn't I get in trouble for running that price check? Well, I'll tell you: Because not only was I following store policy, but I also remained polite and friendly throughout the transaction.  During that 22 minutes wait, as the woman cursed, mumbled, and seethed, I pretended to be oblivious, a willing servant to the Walmart gods.  I smiled, nodded, and seemed oh so helpful all the while knowing I was purposely making that Bitch miserable for yelling at me.  With the proper attitude my Darlings, the cliche "Kill them with Kindness" becomes empowering.

3.) Make it a Game: Now my Charlottes, remember, a Force of Nature (and all Charlottes are Forces of Nature catching up bystanders, loved ones, and enemies in their storms) can use her powers for both Good and Evil.  Working as a cashier is a mindless, thankless job that monkeys ought to be trained to do thereby reliving individuals of the curse.  As if the monotony and long hours weren't enough of a punishment, corporations, like Walmart, actually calculate the number of items a cashier rings up every hour, praising those with the highest averages and shaming the rest.  Yes, the system itself is a Vendetta and its your job to buck it!  The first way, a Charlotte can fight the power is by rewarding Well Behaved Customers with "Bargains".  What do I mean by bargains?  Let me explain.  Bestowing Bargain Prices is more than simply believing a customer when he or she claims an item is cheaper than your register suggests.  That's a given.  And sure, doing this allows a Charlotte to wield a certain amount of power.  However, there is another way my Young Padawan.  It is the way of the Force.  Listen to a former Jedi: Sometimes items either lack a price tag or the bar code is faulty.  Now, Charlottes, here is your chance.  Take a deep breathe, feel the Force Flowing through You, Let Go of Conscious Your Self and Act on Instinct....and then Play a Game I like to call: "Let's Pick a Price".  Most registers have a Miscellaneous Function which will allow a Clever Cashier to type in an item's name and preferred cost.  Now, technically, one should run a check before ringing up any commodity.  Skip that step.  Instead do it like this: One evening a Nice Customer walked up with a Giant Cherry Tree in her cart which didn't have a price tag.

Me: "How much would you like to pay for this?"

Nice Customer: "Oh dear, I don't remember how much it was.  I just don't know what it costs. I was hoping you could tell me because I'd really like to buy this tree."

Me: "Would you pay 5 dollars for this?"  From her confused expression, it was clear my customer had yet to catch on so I tried again: "Okay, how about $2.50?  Would you pay that?"

Nice Customer: <now smiling with understanding>: "Oh yes certainly.  That would be just fine."

Me: "Splendid!"  Then I typed "plant" into my register, marked it $2.50, and patted myself on the back for making that nice lady's day...and breaking the rules.  (Important Note: Remember be vague when you sell something for a fraction of the price) Take that Walmart Demons!  Charlottes use the Force to turn their responsibilities into Fun and Justice for All*

4.) Insurrection: Chain stores are forever changing policies and rules.  Let's be honest, Cashiers have NO control over these alterations.  We are pawns in the Chess Game of Life.  But keep in mind my Sweet Charlottes that pawns are not powerless pieces.  With the proper amount of creativity, they can buck the system.  Oh, Vendetta will survive your torture, no doubt about that, but making waves will help you feel better about your role in the corporation.  Again allow me to offer an example.  When I was working at Walmart, the Company began returning customer's checks (thus, making the paper copy rather obsolete)  While Younger Customers handled this new policy with little to no reaction, the Senior Citizens went bananas.  I had men and women, ages 65 to 80, yelling at me night and day.  Each time I handed back one of their checks, it was taken as a personal insult.  The Old People vented their frustration by lecturing me on the impertinence and general cockiness of young people today.  In response, I began spreading conspiracy theories.

Old Lady: "I do not understand why Walmart won't keep my check.  They've ALWAYS kept my check, young lady."

Me: "I understand your concern.  It's a plot, you know."

Old Lady: "Really?  What do you mean?"

Me: "The Walmart Corporation believes handing you back your check will coerce you into obtaining a debit card."  <Whispering now> "They're trying to make you change. Don't do it.  Its a conspiracy. Fight the Man!"  And then the Old Lady walked away looking suspiciously around the store.  I watched her go and waited for the next person I could alarm with my theory.

Finally, my Sweet Charlottes, remember that Cashiering is a Game which turns Nice Girls from Southern Indiana into Evil Little Fiends who give away trees, punish customers, and spread wild rumors.  That being the case, you must always keep in mind that fighting a Vendetta means Waging War while Pretending to Play Nice.  Now Go my Young Padawan and become Fiends.

*Normally, a cashier will be asked to "watch the doors" while the Greeter takes a lunch break.  Like any Good Charlotte, I used my time watching the doors at Walmart to ignore those nasty alarms going off.  I never recorded one item in the log or took anything back.  Any reader from Terre Haute should know that back in 2006, you could have stolen a TV and I'd have waved you on with a grin!

**If my confessions about the crimes I committed while I toiled under the Wal-Mart Yoke have left you wondering about the definition of capitalism or you'd like a more informative point of view than I'm likely to offer then click here for an entertaining and illuminating series of articles on the subject (i.e., capitalism).

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