Cashier Jobs: The Truth About Working in Retail
I Am a Former Cashier
I have worked as a retail cashier a couple of times in my life. I did enjoy it...well, for the most part, anyway. The truth of the matter is, it's pretty much a thankless job, and it can be incredibly repetitive and sometimes very boring. I have worked for a "big box" store and a department store. Both offered different experiences, but it pretty much boils down to the same thing:
POS, or point of sale (aka cashier) jobs, are not for everyone. Like every job, there are benefits and drawbacks. Unfortunately, the benefits of working retail are often far outweighed by the drawbacks, but in today's economy, a job is a job is a job!
The Benefits of Working Retail
Ok, as I said, there are not a lot of benefits to working retail. But, there are a few!
Employee Discounts. The biggest, and by far, the best benefit to working as a cashier, or any retail job, for that matter, is the employee discount! This is an added plus if you happen to like shopping at the store that you work for! Take an electronics store, for example. Electronics stores mark up their prices on smaller items a lot more than they do for the larger ticket items. So, cables, batteries, etc. for all those electronic devices are marked up a lot more than the televisions and computers. This is a great savings when you have to purchase cables, or various other smaller items, that you need to run your bigger ticket items, like your televisions or computers.
Advance Sales. Employees of retail stores also have a heads up on what is being marked down, when it's being marked down, and how good of a deal it really is. This is helpful if you are on a budget! You know when to buy things, and what is really a good deal, and what only looks like a good deal. I remember working at a department store, and they advertised a big sale on one particular clothing item. Truth was, this clothing item was always on sale, and always at that same price. So, it wasn't really that great of a deal. If something is always on sale, at the same price, is it really on sale? I am not going to point fingers, because I am sure a lot of stores do the same thing.
Clearance. Another benefit of working retail is the clearance items. You know where to find them, you know when they are marked down further, and you know the lowest price that the item is going to be marked down to. Some stores mark their clearance items down to a certain point, and then mark it down further later on, in order to get it moving out of the store as fast as possible. That way, they have room for new merchandise. It is very helpful to know when this happens, how often it happens, and when is the best time to buy these clearance items.
Interaction With Customers. I know a lot of people claim to be a "people person", but far fewer really are. If you ARE a people person, then a job as a cashier is a great fit for you! You are always around other people, whether it be co-workers or customers, and you are constantly interacting with other people. This can be a great part-time job for a parent, who is usually stuck at home. It gives them the opportunity to get out, and interact with other adults. Even if it's just a few hours a week, just to get out of the house and have something to do can be a wonderful thing.
Experience. The biggest long-term benefit to working a retail job is the experience. I know...working retail doesn't sound like great job experience, but it can be if you sell it right. Almost every job you work in, requires some amount of interaction with customers or clients. Customer service experience is valuable! Think about it for a second...even doctors and nurses deal with customers (the patients). Learning how to deal with people, how to talk to people and how to treat people with respect is a valuable skill that will carry you far in any career, and in your everyday life.
The Downside of Being a Cashier
There is always a downside, right? There are, of course, a few disadvantages to working as a cashier, no matter how great the job is, and no matter how wonderful the company is to work for.
Physical Discomfort. First of all, you are on your feet for many hours at a time. You stand in one place for hours. I did work as a cashier for a total of about two years. Once, I did it while I was pregnant. Trust me, standing on your feet for hours at a time, while carrying around thirty to forty extra pounds is not as much fun as it sounds. I know, it doesn't sound like any fun at all.
Footwear Requirements. Some stores allow you to wear sneakers, or tennis shoes. But, a lot of them, mostly higher end, or boutique shops, require you to dress nicer, and thus wear nicer shoes. These shoes are usually harder on your feet than a decent pair of sneakers, but they are required. Where I worked, I was required to wear black dress shoes, but since I was pregnant, I was allowed to wear my sneakers. Why the requirement for nice shoes? No one sees your feet behind a counter, right? This is true, and I never understood it, either. Don't ask me to explain something that obviously makes no sense.
Low Pay. The pay isn't great. As a cashier, you are lucky to make a little bit above minimum wage. So, unless you are desperate for any job that actually pays you money, you just need a little extra income every month, or you don't really need the money, a job as a cashier may not be right for you. It's hard to make ends meet when you make minimum wage. But, then again, sometimes, it's that little bit of extra money that is just what you need.
Job Insecurity. On top of that, cashier jobs, and any other retail jobs, are not recession proof. Retail stores across the country are downsizing, closing down stores, or going out of business all together. Drive down the street and you will see what I mean. Businesses around me are closing, or laying off employees. Several stores have gone out of business since I first wrote this hub. Job security is not very high in the retail environment. On the other hand, turn overrate in the retail environment is often rather high, so the need for cashiers is usually pretty steady.
Interactions With Customers. Lastly, people can be MEAN!!! No matter what, you will take the blame for everything from an unhappy customer. You will have to listen, and often be berated, for some policy, or problem that is not your fault. I have dealt with numerous customers who were unhappy for one reason or another, that had nothing to do with me, yet I had to hear about it, and somehow, in their minds, it was all my fault.
Cashier: "I am sorry, you cannot use this coupon along with this discount. You have to choose one or the other."
Unhappy customer: "What??!! How is that fair? I qualify for this discount, and I have this coupon! Why can't I use them both?? This is crap!"
Cashier: "I am sorry. It is store policy. You cannot use two different percent off discounts together. It says it right there on your coupon. Percent off discount cannot be used with another discount."
Unhappy customer: "I have never heard of such a thing. This is ridiculous! I am never shopping here again. I thought I would be getting a good deal, and all I have gotten is lied to. I want to speak to your manager."
Cashier: "I can get my manager for you, if you would like. Give me a moment."
Unhappy customer: "Ugh! I don't have time for this!"
I can't tell you the number of times I have had to go through something almost exactly like that. If you don't give a customer everything they want, even if it's against policy, and would mean you might get into serious trouble, or even loose your job, they can get very nasty! Being insulted by an angry customer is never fun, and it isn't for the overly sensitive. I was almost brought to tears once by an irate customer. Who yells at a pregnant woman, anyway?
People try all kinds of ways to cheat stores out of money. From trying to combine discounts that they can't, to trying to pass off coupons from an entirely different store chain, to attempting to returning items purchased at another store chain, to all manners of deceitful practices. Being able to sniff out these tricks, and resolving them without potentially insulting a customer, who may have just made an innocent mistake, is difficult.
Decide for Yourself
I hear countless stories of great things, and equally awful things, that have happened during a person's time working retail. I have heard amusing stories and horrifying ones, as well. If you know someone who works, or has worked, retail, ask them if they have any interesting tales to tell. I am sure they have at least one.
Whether you choose to work retail yourself is entirely up to you. It can be a lot of fun, and I have met a lot of great people doing it. For now, though, I think I will stay where I am at, right in front of this computer, fingers happily typing away on the keys, in the quiet of my own living room. To each his own, I guess.
I Am Once Again a Retail Cashier
Since writing this, I have once again ventured into a job as a cashier. Reading through what I have written, you would think that I hated working retail. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just wanted to portray an accurate idea of what it really is like to work as a retail cashier. It isn't easy, and it isn't for everyone.
I found myself in a position where I needed to supplement my income, and venture out of the house a few hours a week. Being a stay-at-home mom is wonderful, but sometimes you need some adult interaction. I am loving my current job at a large retail chain, and even though it is only seasonal, I hope they decide to keep me on long term. I love where I work, and love what I do. I know that may seem strange to some people, especially after reading this, but it's true. I guess I am a people person after all.
So, You Want to Work Retail?
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2009 Anna Marie Bowman