Sick Days and the Joys of Working Retail

My grandfather on my mother’s side died the other day. The funeral’s this Friday. I managed to get my shift for that day covered, but my aunt says she’s worried about getting her shift covered where she works.

What I have gleaned from the few conversations we’ve had about her workplace is mostly that the manager in charge of writing the schedules must hate my aunt. On several occasions now, my aunt has requested to have certain days off, and then the manager books her for those days, without fail. Now, I’m pretty sure she should be able to get her Friday shift covered, because it is in Canada’s labour laws that employees get time off to attend family funerals. If not, then I’m convinced that my aunt’s manager is possibly related to the devil and I never want to work where she does. Ever.

On the topic of getting days off work, that seems to be a difficult thing to do where I work lately. The reason for this is that, it being cold & flu season, everybody’s getting sick. This includes one of the older cashiers who seems to have contracted a nasty case of pneumonia, if my sources are accurate, and has doctor’s orders to not go to work for the next I-don’t-know-how-many weeks and we are thus always short one spare cashier. I’m pretty sure she’d be back by now if she didn’t keep going outside to help her husband with whatever it is that he does and just stayed in bed like the doctor keeps telling her to do.

I’ll be honest, at this point, I’m starting to wonder if she shouldn’t just quit. She was off work for an extended period not too long ago as well; back problems, I think. She’s one of the oldest cashiers working there (I can’t say for sure where on the scale, though, as I’m not familiar with all the cashier’s ages), so she’s also usually got some complaint of a pain somewhere. Usually her back.

I get aches and pains too because of my fallen arches, but they’re not so bad as long as I keep moving and remember to wear my orthotics (doesn’t that make me sound so old?). The worst things about working cash in a grocery store is having to deal with all the obstinate customers that come in. Of course, most of them aren’t so bad, maybe they do one or two things that bug me a little but nothing major. What I’m talking about are the customers who are just so rude or clueless that you wonder why there isn’t a day that lets you be rude back to them without consequences. Because a day like that would be SO satisfying. 

Anyway, one of the smaller things these customers will do is ignore me when I say ‘hello’ to them, or just make some obnoxious comment about something or other. I always hate the bad jokes some of them try to give me. I don’t get dry humour half the time, and the times I do get it, it’s usually not funny anyway. 

At the grocery store where I work, it’s pretty small, we have the customer service desk combined with one of the tills and the lotto centre. That till is my least favourite to work on, but it’s always the first one we have to go on during the day (everyone shuffles down as each shift starts) to make sure it stays open throughout opening hours. It only ever closes when the scale or the debit machine go on the fritz. The biggest problem with this till, though, is not the presence of the lotto checking machine, nor the fact that it’s usually the one people go to when they’re looking for something, but the fact that it’s the only till without a conveyor belt. 

I can’t really draw it, but I’ll try my best to help you picture it. The counter space is one big corner, with the scale/scanner and bagging area at one end, and the scratch ticket case on the other. The middle area, the actual corner, is a large expanse of counter that I can reach over only if I bend over and stretch my arms out, and takes about two side-steps for me to get from one side to the other. You probably think that’s a lot of room, right? You’re exactly right. That’s the problem.

Sometimes, people will actually be considerate (coughsmartcough) enough to put the majority of their groceries within easy arms reach of me (who generally tries to stay within one step of the actual scanner). About half the customers tend to put their stuff closer to the middle of the counter-space. It’s not so bad, as long as I don’t have to take more than one step to reach it (though it does get annoying if they have a lot of stuff and I’m constantly stepping back and forth. It makes my arm sore after a while too). Then there are the customers who I really hate. They usually put their stuff quite a bit out of my usual reach (granted this is usually because there is a line) and then never attempt to move it closer to me, in spite of the numerous subtle hints I try to give them (I can’t outright tell them without risking reprimand, or turning into a horrible snark monster and then certainly receiving reprimand). The absolute worst are those who stick their groceries at the very end of the counter space for no discernible reason and then leave it there, expecting me to move it all myself. Then some of them have the gall to ask me to hurry up or ask me why I seem so moody (GEE, I WONDER WHY. WHY, DO YOU BLOODY THINK?!) They just stand there and watch me move each item over to where I can scan it, sometimes one at a time if I’m feeling particularly miffed and there’s no line. 

I would love to just tell those people outright, “Hey, you may or may not have noticed, but this till has no conveyor belt to conveniently move all your groceries close to me. I don’t know why you keep putting them so far away from me/at the very edge of the counter (yes, some of them do that), but please think about the fact that I have to do this for 8 hours. I am a human being, not a robot, neither a conveyor belt, so I would greatly appreciate it if you could move your groceries over to where I can actually reach them and not be such a prat. You will be saving me both time and energy, as well as keep me from possibly developing shoulder problems later in life. That would be much appreciated.” Then I would tilt my head and smile my most innocently evil smile.

Another thing that really irks me is when the customers just stick their baskets up on the counter and expect me to unload their groceries for them. Seriously?! There is not a grocery store in North America that unloads your baskets for you as a standard courtesy unless you’re elderly/have broken arms. Just because we still bag your groceries for you, doesn’t mean we’re your little grocery slaves!


Phew, that felt good! What a strange progression of thoughts, though. I should probably stop there for tonight. Basically, my point is, working retail is tough. Please remember that retail workers are people too. We have lives and bills to pay, all we ask is for a little respect and consideration. 

Got any retail gripes/stories you want to share? I’d love to hear them. Stick ’em down in the comments. Take care of yourselves. 



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