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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Column: Servicing you

We live among you. We take your money. We’re so good at it you hardly even notice. We sit next to you in class, bike by you on the street and probably even live in your house. We are cashiers and you should be nice to us.

Now that I’ve thoroughly creeped you out, I should explain that I have the pleasure (for the most part) of meeting many of you at the Bookstore.

Yes, that is me in the outrageously fashionable Aggie blue smock.

Yes, I’m sorry that you had to pay $400 for your bio books.

No, I can’t give you the used price on your new textbooks.

And, of course I don’t blame you if you don’t remember who I am, but I did warn you about our return policy.

I know it often seems like we cashiers are little more than highly trained apes with really cool scanners and access to a drawer full of money. But when you feel like treating us like peasants, remember, this could have been you scanning barcodes from dawn till dusk.

So, treat us as you would like to be treated. This golden rule has been given out as much as those discount coupon books handed out every quarter that nobody ever wants to take. But it will definitely get you a free plastic bag.

I’m here to tell you that those depressing ads with Sarah McLachlan and the sad stray puppies are onto something. Guilt works wonders in getting your way. When customers with a problem are unbelievably nice to me I feel an overwhelming sense of obligation to help them solve all their problems.

They seem like the depressed puppies and I just want to try my hardest to get them a chew toy and let them go for a romp in the park. Or, just get them the best price possible on their textbooks — either one.

If you’re feeling guilty about using guilt, then feel free to smile or strike up some awkward conversation about parsnips. Friendly banter is a welcome relief when you’ve been selling scantrons for three hours straight.

Despite parsnips and puppies, there a lot of rules that I have to follow that make no sense to me in particular, but nonetheless that I can’t change. Like the way we change the location of textbook returns on a daily basis. Personally, I think we’re just playing hide and seek with the customers. It’s fun for me, but, apparently, some people aren’t amused.

For some reason small problems like a roving return desk can make a normally good-natured person act like angry rhinoceros. But I warn you, I do my job a lot better when I don’t feel like I’m about to be mauled.

The best way to keep me from looking like an angry rhinoceros is to get off your phone once you reach the register. I can tell you there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to read your total, check your ID and ask if you need a bag when you’re focused on hearing a story about how your friend got drunk and accidentally made a hole in the wall with his head.

If it’s absolutely necessary to be on the phone, like if it was your grandpa who got drunk and accidentally broke a hole in the wall with his head and now he’s in intensive care, then go ahead.

All you have to do is tell the person you’re on the phone with that you’re at a register and might have to stop talking for a second. That is a simple way to avoid getting the evil eye from me. It’s also just as easy to say, “Sorry, I’m on the phone” and look apologetic, or even just to tell your friend to hold on and put the phone down for a second.

When people do that I think, wow what an upstanding and considerate person, I should let them know that there is a discount coupon for this t-shirt.

Of all the terrible things you could do to your cashier, one of the worst is deciding to shop one minute before we close. We have locked the doors, turned the lights off and set the security guards loose for a reason. But some people don’t get the hint.

So I’ll just give it to you straight: we need to go home and watch “Glee” … I mean study for chemistry. Well, you get the picture. And hopefully you’ll take my advice to heart. If not, I may be forced to lock you out of the bookstore and laugh at you. You choose.

KATE ZARRELLA would love to chat with you about parsnips and/or puppies at kazarrella@ucdavis.edu.


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