Observations From The Perspective of a Convenience Store Clerk

  1. People will literally throw money at you.
    This isn’t hyperbole. I work at a busy convenience store with a gas station and it’s not uncommon for someone to come in and throw at $20 bill across the counter and mutter a pump number. Some will even cut in front of others to throw dollars at you. Because, y’know, they’re important or some shit.
    Another favorite is the person who will, as you’re scanning items, just hold out their credit card or dollars towards you like they’re feeding a rabid goat.
  2. People will buy piddly little shit with $50 or $100 bills.
    A pack of sunflower seeds? A candy bar and a soda? Anything that comes to $2 or less? Why not pay it with the largest bill possible. I mean, heck, it’s only money, right? Never mind that, because of security, we can only keep a small amount of change in the drawer. But seriously, go ahead and buy those Tic Tacs with a Benjamin.
  3. A robot can do my job.
    Automation is the current watchword for a lot of places. I worked for one company in the past that spent beaucoup bucks to update their master control and control room, only to have another company “merge” with them and run master control ops out of another facility. And I’m sure the day will come when our convenience stores will be implacable kiosks, vending machines, and fluorescent lights. As it is, the general clientele for where I work are confounded enough by paying at the pumps so it looks as if my job is safe for the time being!
  4. Yes, we have no public restrooms. Sorry. We didn’t build this place.
    Trust me, I get this. I’ve been the “Whaddya Mean No Public Bathrooms?” guy. And I know it makes our convenience store less convenient. Yeah, there’s a bathroom for employees but to let you use it would be a security issue and one of us would have to sit outside the door while you spend a penny. And since our bosses are cheap and usually only schedule two or three people on shift (and we are a busy place), it makes it nigh impossible to do that for everyone. While I have a lot of sympathy and can direct you to other places that do have facilities, lecturing me or my coworkers on how irretrievably stupid it is that we don’t have public bathrooms won’t make one spontaneously appear.
    Also, yes, it would be helpful to have signs that say NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS. I’ve been told that printing decals for our doors is cost prohibitive and that making a sign in Word to tape on the door is tacky.
  5. If we seem surly, it’s for a reason.
    Very few wake up and pursue convenience store work as their ultimate goal. While yes, it’s important to bring passion to a job, much of our enthusiasm is rung out because we have to put up with piddly, nonsensical rules thought up by the corporation. We also stand for up to 8 hours a shift and — in my state — are not allowed breaks. The majority of our training is done on the job and it’s piecemeal at best. We also get paid very little and most of my co-workers are on food stamps, even the ones that work 40+ hours a week.
  6. Being rude is no excuse.
    The corporation will always insist that the way to handle bad customers is to kill them with kindness. I prefer to use a blunt object, myself. Y’see, they only say that because they care only that you spend at their convenience store. In that sense, you are more important only because of the money you have in your pocket/bank account/food stamp card/etc. So if you’re being a shithead asshole to us because we have a hard time finding your obscure brand of cigarettes on our Wall of Tobacco and we lose our cool at you, be satisfied in knowing that we’ll get written up for it. Because assholes win, apparently, and we’re all at-will employees.
  7. …but we do try to be friendly.
    At least, those of us that don’t have that dead-eye look. I believe in giving good customer service, so I tend to be as cuddly and upbeat as I can because I often see people, as Charles Dickens put it in A Christmas Carol, to be “fellow-passenger to the grave.”
  8. We get tired of cleaning up after you.
    Our store has several trash cans, some located right next to the roller grill and coffee machines. It’s a little frustrating that you can’t be arsed to throw away your straw wrappers or plastic wraps, or even be bothered to wipe up spilled coffee or sugar. While a messy store does leave a bad impression on the customer, the fact that customers treat the place like a walking garbage dump just makes us resent you more.
  9. Yes, I did say resent.
    As the tagline for Clerks put it, “Just Because They Serve You… Doesn’t Mean They Like You.” Now, you may look down on us because, to you, we’re just cash register jockeys maxing out our low skills. For some of us, this is a first job. For others, we’ve been through college and have had a bad set of luck. We also have to deal with co-workers who don’t want to do their job and a corporation that expects a store to run smoothly on skeleton crews. Most of us have a bit of a chip on our shoulder already. When you treat us like shit, we’re probably not going to think very favorably of you. I know empathy and compassion is hard in this day-to-day reality that we’re all stuck with but maybe try not to be an asshole to the folks who have to work weekends and holidays so you can get that 24-pack of pisswater beer. But we’ll still try to out-friendly the fuck out of you because that’s what the corporation wants.
  10. It’s just a job.
    As my therapist would tell me, “A job is a job is a job.” For many of us, job stands for “Just Over Broke.” As I said in #5, no one wants to be a convenience store worker. Some of us may be stuck there for a long time, others may see the job as a temporary landing pad to other things. And look, no one wants to be in a crappy convenience store in a slightly undesirable neighborhood, so let’s just take shit easy and no one has to get hurt.
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