25 Things You Should Never Say to a Retail Cashier
Be careful to never say these things to a retail worker.
As a former retail employee with years of experience manning a cash register, there's one thing I know for certain: If you want to have a pleasant shopping experience, it's helpful to abide by the Golden Rule when it comes to your interactions with those handling your precious goods and taking your money. Why? Well, setting aside that it's simply the nice thing to do (after all, working long hours with a strained smile on your face is no easy feat), a little bit of kindness and consideration might actually save you some money.
"Politeness gets you really far when you're shopping," says Mark Ellwood, author of the bestselling book Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World. If you're nice to cashiers, they can do everything from provide you with coupons that they keep right next to the register to invite you to "pre-sale" periods, during which stores covertly offer discount prices.
But none of that will happen if you annoy them. So, to ensure that every interaction you have with your cashier is respectful, we've uncovered the phrases that you should really, really try removing from your vocabulary. Read on for what not to say, as well as some choice tips on how to steer clear of shopping behaviors that might lead to you dropping an unkind phrase or two.
"I have more than 10 items. Can I still come through this lane?"
The express lanes are there for a reason: to save people only buying two items from waiting behind others with cartloads. But if you're attempting to cheat the system (or are just really bad at counting), you'll have to answer to the customers behind you in line who have no patience for your 22 items holding things up. And when the cashier has to deal with you and all those angry customers, then you can definitely consider them annoyed, as well.
"Can you just check in the back?"
Many people assume "the back" of any store is some magical land full of all the stuff workers decided not to put on the shelves for some reason. Unfortunately, that's not the case. When stock up front runs low, someone has most likely already replenished it with overstock from the back. If there's nothing left, then the item is probably sold out. Arguing with the cashier about this and expecting them to take time away from the job they're already doing to go look for an item they know isn't there is just going to make for one angry employee.
"Declined? It must be your machine!"
While saying this out loud may make you feel better about a negative bank balance or an overdue credit card payment, there's no need to place blame on the cashier. And, even if your bank account balance is in the positive, a multitude of other factors could be barring you from making your purchase.
According to the folks at the credit card company Discover, your card may have been flagged for suspicious activity, you might be shopping in an area where you don't normally make purchases, or there may have been a recent hold on your account that you're not aware of. But any way you look at this situation, it's not the cashier's fault—and there's no need to take it out on them.
"The ad says limit of nine peaches, but can I buy 27 of them on three different transactions?"
While cashiers understand that customers would like to save as much money as possible, it can be rather tedious to separate your order into multiple transactions just so you can save every last penny. Not to mention, it typically backs up the rest of the line—and that just leads to more work for the cashier.
"That isn't scanning? It must be free."
This isn't a funny joke. Sometimes the scanner doesn't work and cashiers either have to enter the code manually or turn to their manager for help. Having to force a laugh at the same joke they've heard all day while they're trying to find a solution to the non-scanning item usually just puts a cashier in a sour mood.
"But this coupon only expired a day ago…"
Even if your coupon only expired yesterday, you shouldn't assume that cashiers can always make an exception for you. In an article for Tough Nickel, former retail cashier Anna Marie Bowman revealed that many shoppers neglect to understand that cashiers often don't even have the power to override expired coupons or may not be allowed to based on that store's policy. So, in asking them to override the price for you, you're asking them to put their own job in jeopardy—something they won't (and shouldn't) do just so you can save an extra dollar.
"Could you give me your employee discount?"
Even if you say this in a joking manner, it's still incredibly uncomfortable for cashiers since they can get into a lot of trouble—and can even be fired—for using their employee discount on friends and family, not to mention complete strangers. During my career as a retail employee, it was often store policy that you could only share your employee discount with your spouse, as the company could lose a large amount of money through the inappropriate use of these discounts.
"Oh, wait! I have exact change. Can I have my money back?"
One of the worst moments for a cashier is when a customer who has already handed over their bills to pay suddenly wants to provide exact change. Not only are cashiers forced to do a whole lot of math on the fly, but this also holds up the line unnecessarily. Just stick with your bills and keep the change for another time, please!
"I only have change."
Similarly, please think twice before paying for an item worth $10 with coins. If there's any way to avoid it, your cashier will certainly thank you for not giving them the dreaded work of counting piles of quarters and dimes.
"Can I go back and get something I forgot?"
While this is a perfectly acceptable practice when the store is slow, it isn't considered acceptable when there are 19 other customers in line who have to wait while you search for that one missing item. If the store is busy, just pay for your items and then go back and purchase the missing item in a separate transaction.
Not saying "please" and "thank you"
Bottom line: Be nice to your cashiers. If you make the effort to treat them with respect, then they will do the same for you and your products.
As Cindy Post Senning, a director at the Emily Post Institute, told NPR, using these simple phrases will make any transaction much more pleasant for everyone. "We need to articulate these principles in all our interactions," she said. "It is respectful to make requests rather than demands, to show gratitude and appreciation, to greet others, to give our complete attention, to acknowledge appreciation shown, [and] to acknowledge and show respect for age, standing, and importance."
"I swear I'm old enough to buy this."
No matter your age, a cashier is legally required to check your ID. In fact, at certain stores like Walmart, liquor laws are so heavily enforced that employees are not even allowed to sell alcohol to shoppers who are accompanied by anyone under the age of 21. So, before you leave the house to purchase liquor, be sure to have your ID with you.
"Of course you don't have plastic bags. What is the world coming to?"
Currently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about a dozen cities across the United States at least impose a fee for those customers who would rather pick plastic over paper. On the state level, some states, like New York, have wholesale bans. So just be aware of your jurisdiction's policy in order to prevent a holier-than-thou interaction from occurring. And don't blame the cashier for your state's plastic policy—we can guarantee that they had literally nothing to do with it.
Talking on the phone the entire time
According to psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., with Psychology Today, talking on your cell phone during an interaction with your cashier is a bad move. You likely come off as though you don't consider the cashier to be worthy of your attention. In other words, you're being rude.
"I was waiting in line for 20 minutes. Can you, like, hurry up?"
Trust me: They're being as efficient as possible.
"I know that you're closed, but can you still ring me up?"
If you walk into the store knowing that it closes soon, piling your shopping cart full of merchandise is not a way to befriend the cashiers who have to stay longer to check you out. Attempting to stock up on items after a store has already closed only puts unneeded pressure on the closing staff, who won't be too happy to spend extra time ringing your items up when they could have already been on their way home.
"You really should open up more lanes."
Complaining to a cashier about the lack of open registers serves no purpose. Not only can they not do anything about it, but most of the time, this means they only have so many people to work the lanes—and they're all already working them. If anything, you can locate the manager and speak to them about it, but don't give one of the only cashiers working a hard time, especially since they're probably overloaded with customers.
"Do you work here?"
If you find yourself at a boutique establishment where employees don't wear uniforms, it pays off to head to the cash register to ask for help as you limit your chances of asking a civilian for assistance trying on a pair of jeans. Anywhere else, though, if they're wearing a uniform and name tag while walking around the perimeter of the store, they're an employee.
"Over there it said it was $10, not $15."
Even if what you're saying is correct, using a kind tone makes all the difference in this type of interaction. Also, you still might want to check the expiration dates on the sales to ensure that they're still in effect. While the cashier will most likely be happy to change the price for you, it always pays (literally) to check when in-store promotions end.
"They sell this at another store for $5 cheaper."
Unless a store offers price matching, most cashiers can do nothing about this. If that's true and you want it for that price, your best bet is to go buy it at the other store.
"I just printed this 100-dollar bill this morning!"
Sure, it may be just an innocent joke, but according to the United States Department of Treasury, there are currently an estimated $70 million in counterfeit bills in circulation. If you've got a particularly touchy cashier, they might just reject your money.
"You look bored!"
While cashiers may force a chuckle when they hear dad jokes like this, the reality is that they've likely heard the same joke 17 times that day. And when you've been dealing with customers all day, it can be hard to fake laughter for the 18th time. Simply be polite, smile, and keep your judgments to yourself, and everybody will win.
"What do you mean I can't return this item without a receipt?"
At most stores, you can return items without a receipt and still receive store credit. But before you return your items, educate yourself on the store's return policy to avoid creating a headache for yourself and the store's employees. As a former retail employee, I can attest to the fact that most cashiers cannot alter their return policies for shoppers since breaking the rule could threaten their position at the company.
"You better not charge my card twice."
Swiping your card twice will not charge it an extra time—especially when it didn't go through the first time. Cashiers are not trying to steal your money—they just want to get you checked out as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
"Could you bag it this way?"
Remember: Cashiers are professionals. Many stores—like Whole Foods Market, for example—actually train their employees on the best bagging techniques. Let them do their job.