Post Title: Vision-Impaired Cashier: That Pesky ‘Training’ Sign
A Training Sign Reassures
“You’ll do fine as a cashier,” the coordinator assured me. “We have a training sign we put at the front of the line so customers know you are learning. It’s a good situation. They are patient.”
I imagined being so slow the line would wrap around the corner of the store. Shoppers would frequently check their watches or phones for the time. A leader would step out of line, hold up a hand and say loudly, “The training sign is up. That means the clerk is learning. You know the routine. Patience keep us from being patients!” Everyone would nod in agreement. Meanwhile I’d stand at the register with my magnifying glass, heartbeat accelerating, fumbling to find the next produce key to press.
But I was grateful for the training sign. And my Checkered Eye Low Vision pin that would explain everything at a glance to the customers. She has low vision. Well, no wonder she needs that magnifier. They’d understand.
“The coordinators are really supportive of me,” I told Julio. “They put up a training sign.”
“They kind of have to be. Didn’t you say they’re short of cashiers right now?” he quipped. “They’re being efficient by matching the two needs.”
“Even so, the training sign is a relief.”
He paused and said, “As long as they take it down at some point.”
I laughed. “Of course, they will, Julio. It’s standard procedure.”
“Well, you and your vision have a way of turning places upside down,” he observed. “There is always some unforeseen—and ridiculous—scenario you are thrown into.”
I rolled my eyes. “Not this time.” But it did give me cause to wonder.
“Training” at the Busiest Time of Year
I started out as a cashier at a tough time, right before Thanksgiving. I moved many a heavy bird from checkout to cart. I developed Popeye-like muscles after only a few weeks! As we transitioned to Christmas season, I started picking up hams of all sizes. Bagging yams. Grocery orders seemed to go on and on—to the point I wondered where I would place another bag! I actually asked a few customers if they would like another cart. But the hurt look that followed taught me not to ask that question with subsequent customers. They prided themselves on being one-cart customers.
Christmas also brought with it another new learning curve—gift cards. It looked easy enough. There is a certain technique cashiers use. Shhh. I might be giving away a trade secret here! We cover up the small bar code on the top right, which is used for other purposes and scan the larger bar code. Sometimes we have to peel back to actually FIND the bar code.. Some cards don’t work properly. Some have a fee attached. Some require a driver’s license. Throughout the season, there were a lot of “Coordinator, Register 11 please” moments.
I started feeling more comfortable with the produce keys, especially since Green Peppers, Sweet Onions, Celery, Yams and other assorted produce came up frequently. I always use my magnifying glass to be sure I hit the correct key.
We use one key for debit, credit, food stamps and WIC cards. But in the beginning, I always asked customers what their form of payment would be, and this caused problems. They were used to cashiers just letting them swipe or insert their cards in the machine. If they do place their cards in too fast, and I don’t do my part soon enough, they will have to do it again. So I learned to trust my instincts. Male customers most often use credit. Older females use cash or personal check. I had to give fewer instructions like “Try it this time. I have a feeling it will work now” when I learned to trust my gut on their payment.
From Training to Trained
One day a week or so before the end of December, I noticed the sign was gone. Yippee-yay-eh!
That day a customer told me, “You got it going on.” Five words, and what a compliment! He told me he was in my line when I first started.
Then another shopper said my bagging was great!
And one of the coordinators asked me if I got my hair cut. When I said yes, she said “it looks super cute!”
That night my stories focused on the sign being gone and the wonderful compliments I received. I especially loved those five lovely words. Unfortunately, like the punch line of a story gone missing, I couldn’t remember which words they were.
“But you don’t know which five words?”
“Well, I remember my haircut is ‘super cute,’” I said defensively.
“And what does that have to do with your cashier job?”
“It’s an incidental perk,” I said, feeling buoyant. Almost as good as the training sign being gone! I was no longer in training mode! I was trained.
When I first saw it gone, I wanted to dance in the aisles with my white cane. I wanted to hug each of the customers. I wanted to rip my mask off and twirl it in the air. Of course, wisely, I did none of these things. But I smiled underneath my mask and my voice bubbled over with excitement as I passed bags over the counter or placed them in carts.
I felt as if I had passed some extraordinary test. And I had received an A. Long after I hung up from Julio, the five words finally came to me: “You got it going on.” I wanted to type them out in gigantic font size 72 like those banners when computers first came out If only … I could place it over my computer to remind myself it could apply to my entire life … my writing! My sight loss. My faith walk.
I wiggled in my computer chair … (Rusty the cat was none too pleased and he poked me in the back as if to say, sit still. But I just patted his head). Because to top it off, I had a super cute haircut.
I continued to gain confidence in the following week. I even joked with some customers as if I didn’t have to focus on every little action I did.
The Training Sign Reappears
New Year’s Day came and went.
On January 3, the white training sign returned to the head of my aisle.
I did a double-take.
Oh no, what did I do wrong? Was my drawer off? Did I mix in some fives with my tens? Did I miss scanning some cases of water?
To top it off, that day, one customer referred to my checkered eye pin. “What does Low vision mean? Is it a promotion for the store?”
A promotion? Well, I could see that. Some stores do have people who wore pins to advertise different products. Maybe she thought it was for glasses.
I chuckled. “No, it means I can’t see everything. I have low vision. But I use a magnifying glass to help me.”
“Oh. Good heavens. I didn’t mean to get personal.” She busied herself with the card and looked away.
“Oh, no offense taken,” I assured her. “That’s why I wear it. So if I miss an item or I’m slow in finding a produce key, customers understand why. I’m legally blind.”
She looked away in embarrassment.
“It’s okay, really,” I said cheerfully. “I have a wonderful job and a supportive team working with me.”
And if customers miss my pin, I have that pesky training sign. I sighed.
A Logical Reason
During my break, I saw one of my coordinators and I asked her about the reappearance of the sign.
“Oh no, you didn’t do anything wrong. We coordinators just get busy and forget to put the training sign up. It just tells the customer you’re still learning.”
“Do you feel ready for us to remove it? I can do that.”
I was all ready to shout, “Yes, I no longer need it. I feel great!” when she said “Just be sure.”
Suddenly, I wasn’t certain. What if I made a colossal mistake?
I was still learning something new every day. Didn’t I just discover Kale was under G for Greens. I had just had a customer cash in coins from the machine and I had no idea what that container meant. I thought I read Beets were circular slices. But my coordinator pointed out it was under Beets Red (was there any other color? Well, I had not known there were Brown Peppers so probably yes). I had just found out how to help a customer who had to key in their card manually. I still had frequent “Coordinator to Eleven, please” moments.
I didn’t really have it all going on. I still had a lot of learning to go.
My glum, anxious expression left and a smile reappeared. “I’ll let you know when you can take it down.”
That pesky sign, like the proverbial penny, could go and come back on any day. It felt kind of like a lifeline. And clearer than my pin. Maybe I could explain what a checkered eye meant? And educate customers. It would be like my books.
I felt great all over again. I love having options.
The ‘Sometimes’ of Cashing
I had it going on … some days. And I had started to find my rhythm. On other days, everything blurred. Those bad vision days. I couldn’t even find my Total key. The screen changed and it suddenly went missing. And then came back.
Before leaving the break room, I told the coordinator,“You handled that one customer so well” One who questioned why his insurance card didn’t cover everything in his bill. It was Amy-speak for “Thank you for all you do, and for letting me choose.”
I swung my cane in front of me, confidently. I would have it all together before long. And I’d be ready to explain better about my pin.
I couldn’t wait to meet my next customer.
You have just read: “Vision-Impaired Cashier: That Pesky ‘Training’ Sign” by Amy L. Bovaird. © January 11, 2022. All rights reserved.