More Than Money Collectors This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     We are a strong and hardy bunch. We are those who must be polite no matter what kind of fuss you make when you try to pass off coupons for items you didn't buy. We toil long hours on our feet, eternally repeating "Paper or plastic?" and "ATM or credit?" We are screamed at for bagging things incorrectly, as though we were surgeons who made a fatal mistake. We must cater to your hungry whims, your PMS, your senility. We are the often-overlooked, yet vital, supermarket cashiers.

No, I'm not being overly cynical or bitter. I have worked at a supermarket for six months, and my heart aches for those for whom this is a lifelong profession. I think I have seen just about every type of person the world has to offer from behind my keypad, fenced in by my cash drawer with my receipt-printer on the right and a stack of paper bags to my left.

I have humored the elderly woman who wants both paper and plastic for one package of hot dogs, my environmentalist soul cringing at the waste. I have had entire turkeys thrust in my face without warning by a man wanting my expert advice on whether they smelled fresh. I have perfected the smile and the look of a good cashier hard at work. Often, after saying, "Hi, how are you?" I find myself idealistically saying, "Good, thanks" even though the reply I have garnered from my customer is "Paper, ATM, no cash back."

When working in the prepared foods section for the first time, I was screamed at about the cleanliness of the bathroom located halfway across the store, told indignantly that "I want fresh! Make it again!" when a coffee-pot was more than half full, and was the direct object of the yell "Service!" while searching for the obscure hot sauce another customer simply could not eat fried chicken without.

I have been forced to unbag an entire order to ring it in again by a woman who did not understand how to use her ATM card and was convinced I was charging her twice, despite my patient explanation to slide the card with the magnetic strip facing down. I have been stunned speechless when a customer screamed in the face of a bagger with Down Syndrome, accusing him of "not paying attention."

We get minimum wage and all your frustration about your boyfriend, kids, family, etc. We scan the food items that have barcodes, memorize the PLU codes for produce, check money for counterfeits, clean the registers, handle leaky meat packages, count cash and coupons on demand, and patiently wait while someone counts out $11.53 in change. We do all this with speed and skill in this pressure-packed job.

While not CEOs, doctors, public officials or others considered important, we do allow you to purchase food, to have something to eat, to stay alive. We are your supermarket cashiers, and we are worthy of respect.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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