What is wrong with this picture?

Version 2

What is wrong with this picture? You don’t see it? Not sure? What is wrong will become clear by the end of the post.

Several weeks ago I was taking an evening walk when I had decided to stop by my neighborhood bookstore for a quick visit. Entering the store I saw that many of my neighbors apparently had the same idea as the store seemed unusually busy for a weekday night. Wandering through the store I found latest edition of a favorite magazine of mine, a book on the Top 10 Things to Do in Paris for an upcoming trip, a used book on backpacking I had been looking for and Oliver Sack’s autobiography, On the Move. Checking my watch I realized that I needed to get home so I gathered my new found treasures and headed to the cashier line. There I joined 5 others already waiting.

Now waiting in line is rarely pleasant. Sure, stores give us things to look at or to buy impulsively; but what I prefer to look at is an appropriate number of energetic cashiers processing customers quickly and efficiently. While I am incredibly patient if the cashier(s) are working hard to send me out the door with my new purchases; I get annoyed and frustrated if a store is not working hard to take my money. On this night I was to be annoyed and frustrated.

The only cashier on duty that night was sitting comfortably on a tall stool behind the register. Her face showed signs of mild annoyance and she cashiered with no sense of urgency. Throughout my time in the line, she operated at the same lackadaisical speed, made no eye contact with anyone in line and seemed unaware that there was an ever-increasing line in front of her. As the line grew, she did not page for additional cashier, which is the usual practice in this store. (When I would work with new cashiers, I trained them to page for additional cashiers even if they knew no one was available. It demonstrated concern and attentiveness to waiting customers.)

When I first got in line there were six of us and by the time I got to the front there were 16. I had resisted the vast array of chocolates and goodies in the impulse area and was anxiously waiting my turn with the plodding, non-attentive cashier. Finally, I reached the “Wait here for the next available cashier” sign. I lined up the UPC codes of the purchases and had my cash in hand; doing anything to speed up the transaction and reduce the time my fellow buyers might have to stand in line.

Like myself, the woman ahead of me in the line paid with cash. As the cashier handed the change to the woman, the cash and coins escaped her grasp and went clattering to the floor. This annoyed the cashier even more while she made no effort to apologize or help the woman with her dilemma. Not wanting to wait any longer and being a generally helpful person, I stepped forward and helped the woman hunt down her errant cash and coins that littered the area in front of the register. The shopper thanked me for helping her out and apologized to those in line.

It was finally my turn at the cashier, so I stepped up to her register. No greeting was offered or even the obligatory “Did you find everything that you were looking for?” Slowly she scanned each item becoming even more annoyed (if that was possible) when the magazine’s price did come up and she had to enter the price by hand. She finally spoke when she told me the amount due and I handed her the cash. She handed me my change and the receipt without a “Thanks, come again” or “Have a nice night” and that is when it hit me.

Looking into my hand, I realized why the women in front of me dropped her change. It was the way the cashier passed it to her. The cashier had stacked the coins on the currency and stacked all that on top of the receipt before handing it over to me and she had done the same to previous customer. (If you have ever seen coins littering the drive way at your local drive-thru window, I would be willing to bet it is because the cashiers there pass the change back the same as our cashier in the story.)

Fortunately for me, I did not mishandle my change and was soon on my way home after what had been a painfully long time just to give the store my money.

One can only imagine the number of casual buyers that decided not to wait in line and simply left along with their money.


Teachable Moment

It may be a small thing but small things add up.

The considerate way to give a customer change is to first tell them the amount of the change and count the coins out into their hand. After allowing the customer to place the coins in their purse, wallet or pocket; pass them any bills that are part of their change. Again wait for the bills to be put away then hand them the receipt.

Managers need to train these simple yet considerate cash handling techniques to their new cashiers and then coach them until the behaviors become the norm in their store.

Many might argue that with so many people using charge/debit cards and smart phones to pay for goods, traditional cash handling is not that important. A recent article, Cash still king for many consumers, from Chain Store Age reported that cash transactions still dominate in several categories:

  • Convenience store purchases: Cash: 63%; runner-up Debit at 41%;
  • Grocery Store: Cash: 52% runner-up Debit at 51%;
  • Small business: Cash: 49%; runner-up Credit at 43%; and
  • Restaurant: Cash: 53%; runner-up Credit at 48%.

Now, what is wrong with that picture? (Bonus points if you saw it right away.)


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