cashier life Archives - I Hate Working In Retail



5 Life Lessons I Learned From Working At Whole Foods

I worked at Whole Foods for almost four years, the majority of which I spent in the bakery as a cake decorator in a fun, busy suburban store. It had some serious ups and downs and a variety of challenges that were unique to the company and their customer demographic. I’m glad I had the experience because it tested my mettle and grew some great friendships. After reading 7 Life Lessons I Learned from Working at Starbucks, I was inspired to write my own list, with an organic, artisan, locally sourced Whole Foods twist. Here are 5 indispensable life lessons I learned while working at one of the most beloved/hated grocery store chains in the country…

1. Ask forgiveness, not permission. This was one of the gems of wisdom my first supervisor imparted to me. We were in the middle of a power outage and had to figure out what to do without bothering the store managers, who had enough on their plates. It holds up in almost all life situations: If you know what needs to be done and you can do it, it’s better to act than to wait around for someone to tell you to do so. If you make mistakes, you can at least say that you did something, and hey, you did your best.

2. Speak up for yourself and for others. My first manager in the bakery at Whole Foods demonstrated this beautifully in a pretty epic “the customer isn’t always right” moment: A customer had come in claiming that a cake a coworker had made was the worst cake she’d ever seen. We, of course, re-made the cake to the customer’s liking, but my manager took the customer aside and told her that her employee had studied pastry and run her own bakery and so while the customer didn’t like it, it certainly wasn’t the worst cake she’d ever seen. That set a serious precedent for me as an employee — any time I felt I or any of my coworkers was being mistreated, I brought it to the attention of someone who was in the position to fix the problem. It’s amazing what a little confidence and great management can do.

3. Some people are just plain weird. I’ve seen other retail employees jump to the defense of those customers who drive you bonkers, and I’ll leave that to other retail employees, because sometimes customers are just bizarre. This is true in any line ofwork, but Whole Foods attracted a breed of customers who were on that next-level weird game, who were convinced that the red lights at check-out lanes were irradiating food (no) or that the Illuminati were conspiring to kill off 95% of the population with soy. Seriously. I had a customer tell me that, and then start to giggle in a supremely creepy fashion. The most useful wisdom I gleaned from these experiences? You can’t fix or justify weird, you just have to roll with it.

4. Asshole customers are the salt that gives kick to the general awesome-customer ooey gooey caramel. I have so many “bad customer” stories that they’re not worth telling. What is worth saying is that we had customers who were consistently kind, thankful, and interested in the employees as human beings. We were told to create relationships with our customers, and it was easy to do because the majority of them were at least personable and at best really wonderful to transact with. It gave me a lot of faith in humanity that customers were happy to wait, happy to be served, happy to have good products available to buy, and happy to talk to us.

5. Have an exit plan. As much as Whole Foods is a good company to work for, unless you really love retail (and some people do!), you should get out before you’re desperate to get out, and trust me, that day will come. I swear there must be a condition called “retail burnout” because I experienced it and saw many other employees experience it, too. You’ll be doing yourself and your work environment a favor to start thinking about what you really want from a career early on, so that you can stay happy and on top of your game while you’re at your retail job.

Rebecca Vipond Brink is a Chicago-based traveling photographer and scribe who now makes cakes exclusively for the people she loves out of her apartment kitchen. Follow her at @rebeccavbrink, at, and on her blog, Flare and Fade.


Things I Do As A Cashier To Get My Revenge

Confessions of a Cashier

Sometimes there are things as a cashier, known only to me, and now to you, that I do to get my revenge on people that annoy me. Let’s say you come in and manage to irritate me. A few things might happen to you.

1. If you are buying any sort of cake, such as a Hostess or Little Debbie snack cake, I will most likely crush it a little as I’m putting it in your bag. Same goes with cigarettes. I will try to smash them a little as I set them down on the counter. Anything that is even remotely squeezable will be squeezed if you say or do something to annoy me.

2. I may also give out the crappiest money I have in my register to you. Dollar bills that are torn or have mysterious stains on them will find their way into your hand. Even sticky coins or Canadian currency may fall into your pocket when I’m giving you your change back. And what do I do to ensure that you won’t look down to see what kind of crap I’m handing back to you? I make sure to say something cute or funny so that you will be paying attention to me and not what I’m handing back to you.

Now I don’t do this to everyone. Just to the people that piss me off. And that usually includes:

a. People that take too long to get change out of their purse or pockets. I wish I could just yell out at random to people in line that they should have their money ready when they come to the register. I (and I’m sure the people behind you too) don’t want to wait twenty minutes for you to find your change. Have it ready, and get the hell out of my store.

b. Everyone makes mistakes, right? Well, I make mistakes many times mostly because I’m tired or if something else is on my mind. But I don’t want these mistakes pointed out to me, because I always catch them on my own and fix it right away. If you see on the register that the total for your candy bar comes to $45.11, don’t look at me and go ‘Woah! Um, I don’t think so!” in that bullshit attitude of yours. Because you know what? If I wanted to charge you $45 for a candy bar, I could. You just wouldn’t pay it. But my point is, unless I’m standing there waiting for my $45 payment from you for your Mr. Goodbar fun size snack bar, leave me alone when you see me trying to correct my mistake. Don’t stand there and point it out even more to me, because you will most likely receive one of the crappy items that I listed above.

c. Don’t yell out a question to me from 50 feet away when I’m ringing up another customer. You are not the most important person in the store. I don’t care if you are on fire, at least have the courtesy to wait your turn before you yell out to me. Asking ‘Where is your coffee?’ isn’t going to get my attention when I’m with someone else and that coffee is staring at you right in the face. I really hate when people do that. What makes you so important that you can yell out in a crowded place and expect to get a response? They must do it other places and get treated like royalty, but not at my store. If someone does that while I’m there, they get ignored. They will get ignored the whole time unless they come up to the register and wait their turn patiently in line.

d. Your kids run around too much. Listen parents, a convenience store is not the place to let your kids run wild while you do some ‘quick’ shopping. Sure, some kids are very adorable, and I’m not talking about those types of kids because most of the time they are shy and quiet. I’m talking about the kids that run everywhere, pick up everything and want to wipe their snot or sneeze on the products in my store. And what’s worse, if the parent isn’t completely ignoring them, they are yelling at them so loud that it hurts my ears. I hate when loud people hurt my ears. It’s much different than an ordinary loud sound. A loud voice yelling at a kid pierces through my brain because it’s that bad. People. Take control of your unruly children in the store. Pretend you are at your in-laws house and that all of you have to be on your best behavior. Sometimes I think that some of these parents need to grow up more than their kids do.

e. You insult me or my coworkers. That goes without saying. If you make fun of us or piss us off, something will happen to your stuff. You may not realize it, but I will know what I did and that makes me feel ten times better. So screw you. And go pick on someone your own size.

Believe me, I know that people have bad days. I’ve had a lot of them myself. But I don’t generally take it out on people I don’t know and that don’t deserve it. So why do it to a cashier? We’re here every day to serve you, we don’t get tipped like others do, yet we still have to deal with crappy people. Ever heard the saying ‘I don’t get paid enough for this?’ Well, it’s true in my line of work. There are some mean people out there that need to vent their frustrations everywhere. But, if that means that some asshole yells at me instead of going home and beating his wife or kids, then fine. Yell away, please.

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The Insane $11 Billion Scam at Retailers’ Return Desks

A Gameboy with a sardine can inside. A printer stuffed with a piñata. ‘Return fraud’ is costing retailers billions—and the ingenious swindles are sometimes breathtaking.
She appeared to be just a happy American consumer out shopping at a big-box store.On one summer lunch hour, Donna Ann Levonuk, 50, lifted a tub of diaper cream priced at $43.98—and then stashed it in her purse. No alarms were triggered as she strolled out of the Giant supermarket in Limerick, Pennsylvania, and nobody thought otherwise.Until Levonuk reappeared an hour later wielding the soothing stuff at another Giant store 20 minutes away.

That’s when the jig was up.

“She had couple of fictitious rewards cards—but this time she used one of her own,” said Ernie Morris, a detective with the Limerick Township Police Department who foiled the spree of bogus returns. “When they steal things, they want to get all the bonus points.”

She also had a spending habit.

“As quick as they were going out, they were getting stuff—living a lifestyle where they wanted luxury.”

Return fraud has been called the invisible heist—or “de-shopping.” But the increasing number of fraudsters bringing back wares to stores to make an illicit killing has  become impossible to ignore.

Expensive items, such as $400 handbags, might be stolen  and then returned for in-store credit that is issued to the conniving customer in the form of a gift card.

Then the gift card is shopped online in a gray market to collect cold currency.

“It’s like the Wild West for trading gift cards,” Moraca told The Daily Beast. “People will buy your $100 gift card for $82, and if you want the cash bad enough you’ll do that.”

Gift cards are sold at kiosks in shopping malls or even websites that catering to this exchange market. Some have innocuous-seeming URLs like or, which cloak the sinister operations.

“By selling the gift card online, [criminals] can receive up to 80 percent of the retail value,versus 10-20 percent on the street corner,” said Joseph LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention at Retail Partners, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm.

Siras’ Dustin Ares pointed to one organized crime ring that used eBay as its clearinghouse.

This return scam involved purchasing broken electronics off the auction site and then buying new items off store shelves. “They would go to the store with a repackaged and shrink-wrapped broken item inside a new box and return it for full value.”

The clever crooks managed to rack up $2 million in profits over a year, Ares said.

New numbers out today reveal the extent of the “shrinkage.” According to the National Retail Federation, the tally of red from return fraud this year is a whopping $10.9 billion in the U.S., based on figures from 60 retailers surveyed. Holiday shopping season alone accounts for $3.6 billion.

“The losses to the industry have moved up $1 billion-plus from a year ago,” said Bob Moraca, the NRF’s vice president of loss prevention. “I am frightened by how much of this is caused by organized retail crime.”

In some cases, the scammers’ tactics are so intricate that it’s hard to believe how much talent is wasted on the effort to cheat businesses out of everyday items.

The industry lore is downright jaw-dropping in the details of the cons known as “brick-in-box” returns.

“Even the retailers themselves don’t realize how extensive this is,”said Dustin Ares, a loss-prevention specialist at SIRAS, a Redmond, Washington, company that develops advanced tracking tools for electronics.

A digital media player’s mainframe is replaced with eight AA batteries, or a deck of cards. Or the device that looks like Gameboy from the front. But try to turn the sucker on—and good luck: The sardine can that’s inside isn’t going to produce much gaming.

One customer retooled a Nintendo Wii with its innards switched out for glued pennies. Another sent back a flat-screen television with a bona fide tombstone within. Another returned a printer box stuffed with a candy-filled piñata.

Laughs aside, the methods can take on other, less spirited forms.

Moraca pointed to another form of return fraud, involving gift cards.

Retailers were hammered by the scheme because checks and balances were scant in 2012, when the eBay grifting peaked.“If you don’t have any record, you don’t know who to believe,” he added.

That’s just with the physical items that you can see.

Ares said there are instances where savvy gankers manage to exploit loopholes.

For instance, “A guy goes around and purchases expensive items and at the same time buys into the extended service plan. Then he calls the service-plan provider and claims the items were in disrepair and asks ‘What can you do about this?’”

A refund for the service plan was executed, and according to Ares, this particular shakedown artist hit the company offering the service plan more than 200 times in two weeks—each time pocketing a couple Benjamins in an insurance settlement with little to no need to prove anything was faulty.

“The company would continue to refund these goodwill refunds.”

Like Donna Levonuk and her husband, Manuel—who ended up getting slapped with more than a 1,000 counts of felonies, including forgery, records tampering, and deception when they milked one store after the other—their schemes were more of the harebrained variety.

And yet brazen bandits prove time and again they are willing to try to return anything.

Bill Hedrick, chief of staff for the city attorney’s office in Columbus, Ohio, says he’s found people combing parking lots outside major stores hoping to luck out on rogue receipts to tender inside for a score.

Some have been willing to try to bring to the registers multiple box sets of popular music or TV shows only to  get nabbed pulling a fast one on the checkout clerk.

The Sopranos box set was maybe $88,” Hedrick told The Daily Beast. “They take a .88 cent sticker off reject videos and put it on The Sopranos and two others and then go to the cashier lane.

“Even the cashier realizes that they were trying to get away with $300 worth of box sets for $3.”

And maybe even Tony Soprano might have respected the paint switcheroo that suckered employees at several Wal-Mart locations, according to a security chief at a major corporation.

The perpetrators idled in parking lots outside various Wal-Marts and approached customers with cans of paint to ask for the customers to forfeit the cans so they can be used to collect money for their school sports teams.

“They would get the cans and bring them back to the stores but they didn’t have any paint in them,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “Instead, they filled them up with water. This happened over a dozen times before they caught on.”

The industry as a whole has been cracking down.

Joseph LaRocca says some companies are upping the ante in terms of fending off return fraudsters.

For instance, with the illicit gift cards being fenced online there’s been some measures put in place to prevent thieves from pawning them willy-nilly.

“Some retailers have sent legal notices to these marketplaces to restrict the resale of cards, while others are using sophisticated technology to block these companies from checking the value of the cards online,” LaRocca said.

And Dustin Ares notes better communication has been working.

“We’re getting ahead of it now to be sure,” Ares said. “We employ inventory management to help solidify their property and make sure they have a better record of their possessions.”

Det. Morris, who brought the Levonuks to justice, says that indeed more retailers are trying to share what they know with law enforcement, but it’s an uphill battle when most follow the adage that the customer—even the crooked customer—is always right.

“Most places don’t wan to prosecute and so they give more rights to the customer than anybody else,” he said, stressing that the crime isn’t victimless since the cost rises for the innocent consumer. “In the end, we as customers suffer because we’re stupid enough to pay $40 for a T-shirt.”

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