The Tricks You'll See A Good Cashier Using At The Grocery Store

At first glance, it looks like a grocery store cashier's job is easy. How hard can it be, when most grocery chains allow the customer to do the job at self-checkout stands without any training? And really, how much training do you need? Five or 10 minutes is enough to explain what all the buttons on the cash register do, then you're all set...right?

Wrong. Ringing up your own purchases with love and care, with no real time pressure, is not the same thing as dealing with demanding, slow, or just plain rude customers. And all the while, your cash register is constantly reporting your speed and efficiency to your boss. The job is so stressful, employees bond in online forums such as the Kroger Employee Forum or to share gripes or brags.

What do the good cashiers brag about on these sites? For one, they know a lot of PLUs, or price look-up codes. "I'm amazing at produce," a user called "bean" said in the CustomersSuck forum. "Even obscure items like ginger root (4612) or tomatillos (4801). I'm just that awesome!" Cashiers will also brag about high ring tender scores. An online newsletter for a particular Kroger store has a good explanation of ring tender: the amount of time it should take to ring up customers, divided by the time you took to ring up your customers. If your score is higher than 100 percent, that means you're going faster than the standard.

A good grocery store cashier combines urgency and Zen detachment

These online forums and grocery store newsletters offer plenty of advice about how to boost your ring tender. You'll see good cashiers who are trying to meet performance goals wait until the customer has filled up the conveyor belt before they start ringing items in. They'll ask for your rewards card at the beginning of the transaction, so they don't have to wait for you to find it at the end. They know where the barcodes are without looking. They wait until the sale is complete before bagging your groceries so that bagging time isn't added to their checkout time. They're also very fast at making change — the timer doesn't stop until the cash register drawer is closed.

Overall, a good grocery-store cashier has to be intense and urgent, while working with Zen-like detachment at the same time. "Scan with a sense of urgency and with both hands," the cashier tip newsletter advises. An employee offered the following mantra on the Kroger Employee Forum: "Be like wind and flow around any obstacle. Be like stone and remain unmoved by any opponent. Use perfect form, perfect technique for every order. Do not become distracted. Make your mind like steel, and focus!" This job isn't sounding so easy anymore, is it?

Tips for making a grocery store cashier's job easier

All this Zen talk about wind and stones and opponents stems from the fact that cashiers are expected to be checkout machines, while also being warm and friendly customer-service gods. Good cashiers will exchange pleasantries with customers, know where all items in the store can be found, and be able to recite the store's policies on returns, personal checks, and coupons off the top of their head (via Houston Chronicle).

Not only is a grocery store cashier's job difficult, the average pay is about $25,000 a year (via — or below poverty level if they are taking that paycheck home to a family of four (via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). So you might want to try to do what you can to make their job easier. HealthyWay has some suggestions: Unloading the basket is your job, not the cashier's. If you find a hole in a package of raw meat, don't leave it on a shelf next to the potato chips. Don't leave trash in the shopping cart on your way out. Don't yell at the cashier because the imported cheese is too expensive or they don't have your favorite cereal. They're not in charge of tariffs or supply chains.

"I've seen too many of my friends and coworkers cry over some nasty person who yelled at them over something minuscule as a coupon," an employee told HealthyWay. "The job is way harder than it looks."