Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “groceries”

I’m Hanging Up My Apron

Behind The Register After 12 years of of working at the supermarket, I’ve decided to call it quits. I came to the realization last week that working a full-time job, being a part-time graduate student and working part-time at the grocery store was a bit overwhelming. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I couldn’t devote the appropriate amount of time to school work. Something had to go, so I decided to bid adieu to the first job I ever had.

I started working at the supermarket when I was 16 years old, and I’ve met some great people and had wonderful experiences along the way. I’ve also encountered my fair share of crazies and been placed in highly stressful situations. Nevertheless, my time there was well spent and I have no regrets.

I’ve been telling my “regulars” (i.e., customers I ring up on a consistent basis) that this is my last week and many of them have said “this place won’t be the same without you” and “I’m going to miss you.” Hearing this made me realize the impact I’ve had on certain customers and the impact they’ve had on me. Yes, I may not be best friends with these people outside the store, but, in some cases, we’ve spent the past 12 years together and with it came a lot of laughter and memories. Some of these people have shared their most personal triumphs and failures with me and I’m honored that they felt comfortable doing so.

While I look forward to catching up on sleep and hitting the books, I’ll miss certain elements of my time at the supermarket. Thankfully, 12 years behind the register has provided me with a plethora of humorous and touching stories that I look forward to sharing with you. Similar to my supermarket stories blog posts, they will capture the essence of my memorable encounters with customers and colleagues. Stay tuned for more details.

Supermarket Stories: Mr. Quarters

Mr. QuartersToday was a typical Sunday at the supermarket: insanely busy. However, I was quick to get people in and out of my line. When the lines are long, the only thing to do is keep my head down and establish the highest level of efficiency possible. From time to time, problems will occur that throw off my alacrity.

The first problem during my shift was a man with a bad check. Having encountered these kinds of situations before, I knew what warning signs to look for. Once I saw that his personal check was in the name of a “business” and that his shoddy-looking state ID expired two years ago, I quickly told him we couldn’t accept his check and he was on his way.

In addition to personal checks, which I despise, people pay for groceries in a variety of uncommon ways. Sometimes I get customers that pay with two-dollar bills, silver dollars or travelers’ checks. Occasionally, people will pay with change, which isn’t a big deal as long as the total is less than five dollars.

Unfortunately, halfway through my shift, I rang up a customer who didn’t get the memo on how much change is acceptable for a grocery bill. After telling him the bill was $14.50, he said, “I’m paying with quarters today,” and dumped a massive amount of silver coins on my conveyor belt.

As I started to count the change, I looked at my line of customers, which was bending into oblivion, and apologized for the delay. I then proceeded to count the change. But as I was counting, he added news coins to the pile and threw me off completely, so I had to start again. And while I was doing this, his moronic friend – who should have been bagging the groceries – was filling him in on all the celebrity gossip from a magazine he wasn’t even going to buy.¬†Once the counting was complete, I realized Mr. Quarters gave me two too many, so I gave them back to him with his receipt.

If you think paying for groceries with an excessive amount of change is acceptable, it’s not. Mr. Quarters could have simply visited the bank, which is directly across the street from the grocery store, and turned his sea of quarters into dollar bills, or he could have done the same thing at customer service. Please take this story to heart. Not only will it help you avoid the derision of others, but not carrying around several pounds of metal will also significantly lighten your load.

Supermarket Stories: Super Bowl Syndrome

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I’m on my second break at the food store. Why two breaks you ask? Because three employees called out and I agreed to stay an extra two hours. Since I’m working eight hours, I get a second 15-minute break, which I’m spending eating strawberry yogurt, mixed with a crunched up Oreo, and blogging.

In case you’re unaware, tomorrow is the Super Bowl. Consequently, I’ve been hit with endless waves of customers, all of whom are spending between $200-$300 on an absurd amount of groceries for Super Bowl parties.

I just got called back to the front. To be continued…

And I’m back. Clearly 15 minutes isn’t enough time to eat a snack and blog. Anyway, where was I? That’s right, hordes of customers buying Doritos, soda and pigs in a blanket.

The rest of my shift was just as insane as the first half. The good news is I didn’t have any difficult or rude customers. But I shouldn’t speak too soon; I’m back at the supermarket for a six-hour shift right before the big game on Sunday. God help me.

Supermarket Stories: Jack Daniels

Jack DanielsAlmost all of my shifts at the supermarket are six hours. To kill the time I regularly engage customers in conversations about a variety of subjects – music, dating, the stock market, and, sometimes, food. Doing so has helped me gain a reputation for being one of the nicest cashiers at the store. Besides praising me for being good at my job, some customers – both male and female – will compliment me on my looks. This doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m grateful that people of different ages, races and sexes find me attractive. On a crappy day, having some old lady tell me I look “like a movie star” makes me feel like a million bucks. However, when customers cross the line, it can get creepy.

One night, several years ago, I was in the express lane ringing up countless customers. My line stretched all the way to Egypt, and I was doing my best to get them in and out as quickly as possible. Even though I get paid by the hour, and not per customer, I still take pride in being efficient and establishing a quick, rhythmic pace. This results in me getting lost in the moment and time slipping away like grains of sand.

After the rush of customers had gone home to have dinner, I let out a sigh of relief and took a swig of water. When my eyes landed on my next customer, I instantly recognized him; he lived in the neighborhood and, based on the scrubs he always wore, worked at a hospital. We’d never spoken outside the store and I didn’t know his name, but I still “knew” him. However, this time he was accompanied by another man, whom I didn’t know.

After placing his items on the conveyor belt, I greeted him and he drunkenly slurred, “Hello handsome.” His friend, who I quickly deduced was his partner, yelled at him: “Jack, stop that!” Jack continued by saying, “I’ve seen you outside the store. You look good in regular clothes.” Needless to say, I was mortified. This customer was drunk and hitting on me, in front of his boyfriend no less – who kept yelling “Jack!” every time he said something inappropriate. All I could do was say, “Do you have your savings card?” and get him out of my line as quickly as possible.

After he left, I never saw Jack at the supermarket or in the neighborhood again. Either he and his partner broke up and he moved away or his partner killed him; I’m not sure. I’m just thankful there wasn’t a sequel to that incredibly awkward experience. One encounter with Jack “Daniels” was more than enough for me.

Supermarket Stories: Silly Crackhead, Trix Are For Kids

As I write this, I’m enjoying a bowl of Fruit Loops. And as I stare into my bowl of colorful, crunchy goodness, I can’t help but think of the time I had a run-in with a crackhead over a box of Trix cereal.

It was 8 p.m. on a Saturday, and I was working behind the register at the food store. I was grateful that my shift had been uneventful up until that point. Then a ragged looking woman clutching a box of Trix got into my line. After I quickly ascertained that the customer was high as a kite, she whipped out a check book and started filling it out.

Unless a customer is old, old fashioned or has recently been robbed of his or her wallet, there is no reason to pay for groceries with a check. Not only is this payment method anachronistic, but it’s not advantageous to the customer; he or she must provide the cashier with a phone number and a state-issued photo ID, not to mention waste time filling out the check. And at my store, you can only get $25 cash back using a check. With a debit card, you can get $50.

Needless to say, Ms. Rocky Mountain High was adding $25 to her check, for drug money, no doubt. Knowing this transaction wouldn’t end well, I asked her for her Pennsylvania ID. After illegibly scrawling out the necessary information on her check, she handed it to me with an out-of-state ID. I proceeded to tell her we couldn’t accept the check for several reasons (i.e., the check number was too low, her ID wasn’t from PA and the address on the check didn’t match the ID), and she asked to speak with the Manager. He came over, told her the same thing and she argued with him saying, “Why can’t you just put it through?”

I voided the order, and moved onto the next customer. Over my shoulder, I noticed that she Ms. Trix was still arguing with the Manager at Customer Service. He repeatedly told her why the store couldn’t accept the check and asked her to leave. She argued with him for such a long period of time that he had to punch out and go home because his shift was over.

After he left, she tried to get back into my line. I told her, “I’m not ringing you up.” So, she went to the cashier directly across from me, and I said, “Don’t you dare ring her up.” Then she returned to my line and said, “Can I talk to the Manager?”

“You did, for 30 minutes, and he told you we can’t accept your check. More importantly, he’s not here. He went home.”

“There must be somebody I can talk to … somebody!” she said, raising her voice.

“There is,” I replied. “The police.”

“The police? Why? Will they make you accept my check?”

“No, they’ll remove you from the store,” I said. Pointing out the obvious to anyone not on drugs.

I pulled out my cell phone and called the police station down the street. I told them I had a customer that refused to leave, and that I believed she was dangerous – anything to speed up their arrival and her removal.

Within five minutes, four police officers walked in the front door and told the woman she had to leave. She flipped out and slammed the pen she wrote her bad check with on the counter and yelled, “This is bullshit!” The cops escorted her out of the store, and I was a little nervous that she might be waiting for me when I left. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

The bottom line is this: Avoid crackheads with a penchant for children’s cereal, and please pay for groceries with a credit/debit card or cash.

Supermarket Stories: Bucket Hat

I just got in from a late night at the supermarket, so I thought now would be the perfect time to share another supermarket story.

Nearly five years ago, I set off to work and moved at a feverish pace so as not to be late. With the balmy breeze mussing my hair, I was in a delightful mood. My shift started off as usual and things were going well. Being a cashier, I have plenty of time to talk to customers, and this day was no different. I’d rung up a slew of my favorite customers as well as some that were new to the neighborhood. But one customer in particular caused a scene over sales tax.

My favorite line is express because it allows me to get people in and out at a quick pace, without having to spend an enormous amount of time bagging. When I saw that my next customer, an elderly man sporting a bucket hat, only had a six-pack of Pepsi, I was pleased. Such a small order would take no time at all. Boy was I wrong.

As the old man’s long, gaunt face peered up at me, he yelled, “That’s supposed to be $1.99!”

I replied, “Sir, the Pepsi is on sale, with a discount card. Do you have one?”

After failing to answer my question and staring at me suspiciously for several seconds, I said, “Here, I’ll use mine. The total is $2.12.”

“It’s supposed to be $1.99,” he barked, as spittle sprayed from his three-toothed mouth.

“Sir, there’s sales tax, which is why it’s $2.12.”

“F*%k sales tax! I’ll take you outside and kick you in the balls!”

At this point, other customers were staring at him and telling “Bucket Hat” he was being rude. Realizing I was in a no-win situation, I called the manager over to complete the order so I could walk away and calm down.

Following the incident, I came to two conclusions: First, this guy was passionate about Pepsi – although, considering his lack of teeth, he probably should have been buying Diet Pepsi. Second, his resistance to paying sales tax, more than likely, wasn’t linked to an unhealthy obsession with Henry David Thoreau. Instead, I realized, the cheese slipped of this guy’s cracker a long time ago, and there wasn’t anything I could do to help him find it.

Supermarket Stories: The Curious Case Of Facial Hair

I’ve been working part-time at my local supermarket for nearly 11 years. I started off as a bagger and moved up to cashier. It’s provided me with a decent amount of income and benefits throughout high school, college and now, grad school. It’s also provided me with an endless supply of stories; below is one of my favorites.

Several years ago, I was ringing up one of my regular customers – let’s call him Bill. Normally he sports a goatee, but this time he was clean shaven. I told him I thought he looked great, and that, in my opinion, all men look younger without facial hair. Then I jokingly said, “Women look younger without facial hair too.” As Bill and I were laughing at my quip, I turned toward my next customer. To my chagrin, it was a miserable older woman with – of course – a hairy upper lip. Needless to say, I was mortified, as I sheepishly asked her, “Do you have your savings card?”

Do you have an interesting, humorous or flat-out bizarre supermarket story you’d like to share? If so, please feel free to post it in the comments section below.

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