Post Title: Reality for a Legally Blind Cashier

Have you ever wondered what it’s really like for a legally blind cashier?

I am responsible for everything my sighted colleagues are. I went through store changes like the others did—from packing groceries in small plastic bags to large reusable and paper bags. I went through register changes, tallying the number of reusable and paper bags on the register. I have to check that sale items ring up correctly or not. I need to remember to check for cartons of pop and other heavy items in the cart when they are on the other side of the counter.

The ‘Lagging’ Items

But I have the added challenge of ensuring I ring everything up. Sounds like a no-brainer, huh?  One or two items may lag behind on the conveyor belt—dark items that blend into the black belt such as cucumbers, ripe avocados, and unbagged dark green leafy lettuces. There is not enough contrast. Sometimes an item is simply out of my peripheral range. This prompts the customer to say, “Did you get my ___?” Typically, I say, “Whoopsy-daisy! Sorry, I didn’t see it!”

Unfortunately, the customer did not bring it to my attention to it or them until their card already went through. If they are patient enough, I ring the missing item up. If not, they say they will get it next time. Talking about black belt, they might want to give me a karate chop on their way out! Luckily, this only happens once or twice a shift. It’s a great day if it doesn’t happen at all.  I do minimalize it by feeling the belt for any forgotten items.

‘Pop-Up’ Customers

These are the customers who do not place their groceries on the belt. Instead, they pop up at the register with cartons of real pop or other heavy items in their basket. All of a sudden, a customer is in front of me. I’m looking toward the belt. They have to cough or clear their throat. Sometimes they say, “Are you open?” I want to scold them for not following protocol. But I smile and say, “Oh yes, I am!”

Also, at times, a customer may let a guest who has only a gift card or container of milk go in front of them. But they don’t tell me. While I’m poised to ring up the goods on the belt, one or more people shout, “Miss, wait!”

This is all due to what I call my PPV—pesky peripheral vision. I should call them my PPUs, or Pesky Pop Ups. Wherever I am not looking tends to fall in my non-existent peripheral vision.

“Silent” Money Givers  

I usually ask if the transaction will be cash or card. But invariably when I forget, it will be cash. And this comes mostly from those PPUs. I am waiting on my end for their card for their card to go through, and they will be waiting on their end with cash in their hand. I say, “Shall we try it again?” meaning, take out your card and put it in again. A look of confusion comes over their face and I groan inside. “Ohhh, will this be cash?” and then they wave the bills impatiently in that small opening between cashier and customer. If a coordinator is aware of the problem, they will rush over and take the money or say, “They’re giving you cash, Amy” and smoothly complete the transaction before scuttling off again. The entire transaction reminds me of those old silent comedies—especially if the customer has his hands on his hips or is shaking his head in impatience or puzzlement—you know, the ones before sound took over the movie industry.

But, by far, the biggest problem is my pride.

 

Bible on wooden counter with text that reads: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6

 

The Register-Generated Statistics

Every week or so, the coordinators give me a computer-generated set of statistics for me to date and sign. I started noticing on the right-hand side of the paper is a statement like this: Cashier No such-and-such (my number) is performing at 65% (or 52%!) and is among the lowest performing cashiers for week ending __.”

This just rankles me to death. What is the significance of these and how could I be performing so low after two years? Of course, it’s a machine comparing me to a pool of sighted cashiers. But I feel like I am doing my task at the very minimum at 92% or even 94% accuracy. My customers like me and I’m often told I’m an excellent bagger. So how could I be performing so poorly?

I sign my name on these papers with notes like “How could this be?” and “I’ll try to do better.” My coordinators have gone so far as to say, “These papers don’t mean anything. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

But it’s hard to ignore these glaringly low numbers. It hurts my pride. In a way, they’re like my “walking papers” but not the typical kind one gets in a job. Well, to be more apt, they’re probably more like “toddlers walking papers” when they toddle around. They fall, get up, fall once more, get up again, hold on for a bit, fall again. But I guess the most noteworthy aspect is that they never give up until one day they can walk. And neither will I.

Applauses

We have a program in the store where customers can give their feedback about their experience in the store. They go to our store’s website, type in their transaction number on the receipt, and complete a questionnaire. They receive ten bonus points for doing this. If a cashier is mentioned, the typed comment appears on an Applause. Just the other day, I received two VOGs (Voice of the guest) applauses stating, “Awesome cashier!” and “Excellent Customer Service!” So, again, numbers might not be an accurate measure of my worth as a cashier. I need to adjust my definition of success to include anecdotal feedback.

A Cashier’s Reality

Reality includes the good, the bad and the ugly (the ‘ugly’ refers to my cowlicky or flat hair days!). Yes, I need to advocate for myself to become better and more valuable to my employers. But I also need to appreciate who I am and how hard I work to overcome my obstacles. I need to look at my work ethic. I’m dependable—show up on time and work late if necessary. I’m cheerful and easygoing. I do fit into the workplace in my own way.

So, I don’t let the straggling, lagging left-behind items or the pop-ups who don’t follow my protocol get me down. I take the silent cash-givers in stride and remind myself again to ask, “Cash or card?”

Pulling the Mat from Under Me

Early on, the coordinators decided to remove my rubber mat out from under my feet. I kept tripping and catching my feet on it as I walked from the register to the cart to put the groceries in it. Although my feet hurt more without the mat, I realize it’s a stumbling block for me. If I look at the performance numbers in the same way, I’m better off ignoring them. They make me stumble and lose self-confidence. They affect my pride. But just as I work more smoothly without my mat, my day would go more smoothly if I didn’t see those performance numbers as part of my cushion. Like I pick up the mat and hand it to my coordinator, I’ll sign those weekly papers and hand them off to the supervisors, confident in my own abilities.

Where to Put my Focus

I’ll focus on those customers who appreciate me for my warmth, my smile and my excellent bagging abilities. Perhaps in the future, I will discuss ways to improve my speed and the other issues listed on those papers!

But my dad would say, “If it ain’t too broken, don’t fix it.”

Share in the Comments below one of the challenges you struggle with. How does it affect your pride? If it does, how do you get around it? 

 

You have just read “Reality for a Legally Blind Cashier” by Amy L. Bovaird. © December 6, 2023. All rights reserved.