Sometimes I think I spend ¾’s of my life in supermarkets.  If I am not doing the weekly shop I am “nipping in” for something on the way home from work.  Or “popping in” to get a last minute card or present.  With 24 hour shopping, and most Supermarkets stocking just about everything, it certainly makes my hectic life a lot easier.

However there is a part of this convenient process that up until recently used to annoy me but I know find endearing – The Chatty Check Out Staff!

Having worked a lot of my life in Customer-facing roles, I understand the importance of making a customer happy. It has taken me a long time to find that balance between making polite conversation whilst at work, and being annoying.

I cast my mind back several years where there was a very talkative chap at our local supermarket. My colleagues and I would approach his check-out (the only one without a queue on a busy lunchtime…) with trepidation, pushing each other forward like shy 8 year old boys trying to get to talk to a girl.  He would then scan the items and proceed:

“How are you today Madam?” he would chirp.

“Fine”, I would bark, trying to sound as miserable as possible so he would get the hint.

“Are you enjoying your lunch break?”

“Errr, yes”, I reply whilst looking round at my colleagues for some help and noticing their sniggers behind their coat collars.

“Mmm that looks nice”, he adds whilst scanning my lunch, “I must pick one up later”

“Oh yes its lovely, I can’t wait!” I reply enthusiastically. 


Conversation engaged and peals of laughter surround me.  I admit defeat and continue with the conversation, quietly chastising myself NOT to do it again.

This is perhaps an extreme example, but they live among us.

Back then my life was child-free, I was financially secure (to a point), I had a blossoming relationship and one hell of a social life. So my conversation skills stretched far beyond what my children did at school, how skint I was and how I retire to bed at 9pm with only a good book for company. This is perhaps why then the mere thought of talking to another grown up, one that I didn’t know filled me with such raw contempt I was downright rude.

Now, my adult interaction (aside from work) is reduced to hurried texts with my husband throughout the day and it normally involves the children, lack of money and cancelling our social plans (normally because of the other two reasons).  So the worm has truly turned….

Take this morning for example:

I trot eagerly up to an empty check out and smile at the lady about to scan my items

“Morning!” I chirp, perhaps a little too loudly for 8am.  I am an early-bird, she may not be.

“Hi”, she says scanning the first of my items, “Would you like any help packing?”

“No thanks”, I reply, “I haven’t got much today. Normally there is always something I forget and we are always getting letters from the school about cakes they need, or class sweets and……”

“Do you have your own bags?” she cuts in. How rude.

“Well I do but I left them in the car”, I explain. “I always do this, I am so away with the fairies at the moment, may be it’s the lack of sleep I mean work is so busy at the…..”

“Would you like to pay by card or cash?” Curt. Very curt.

“Oh card please, the kids needed some change for their fair and it’s bled my purse dry today”.

She smiles politely and gives me my receipt.

“Thank you! Have a nice day!” I shriek half walking half running out of the shop.

I glance back and see her shake her head.

What have I become?

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