Viewpoints

What Supermarket Cashiers Need to Know

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Often we talk about the power of the bagger. That this person is typically the last touch point for a shopper, and how a smile, thank you or offer to help you to your car can reinforce the relationship to the store.

And then there is the cashier.

One step before the bagger experience, the cashier is that person who is responsible for proper scanning and taking the shopper’s money — all too often a lightning-fast and unemotional experience.

A couple weeks ago I attended the Association of Coupon Professionals’ annual symposium in New Orleans, where there was a consumer panel of mid- to heavy coupon users (but fell short of the dreaded “extreme couponers” group) discussing what they liked, didn’t like and the future of couponing. The one discussion that surprised me was how these six female shoppers all agreed that they saw the cashier as “the enemy.”

They related nightmare stories where they were in head-to-head arguments over coupons. One panelist shared how she presented a coupon which was clearly marked “good on any size” of a particular product, but the photo showed only one size product — so the cashier demanded that it was only valid on that size. After a few minutes of frustrating arguing, the shopper left with her coupons to go to another supermarket, and has not returned.


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Another shared frustration with most cashiers that she encounters who don’t know how to scan coupons that are downloaded to her mobile device. Another shopper is angry that she spends time downloading coupons from CPG brand websites, only to find stores that will not accept downloaded coupons.

The panel offered a unique insight into the future of couponing: “Eliminate the cashier as gatekeeper.” The first reaction is sure, they want to avoid the cashier so they could take advantage of the store. But the more they discussed the concept it became clear that it wasn’t about cheating the store, it was about avoiding conflict with cashiers who clearly did not want to redeem their coupons or wouldn’t take the time to read the fine print.

Read more: Trade Groups Issue Digital Coupon Guidelines

The solution, as you may suspect, is not self-checkout. These shoppers do not want to avoid human contact, they want the exact opposite: To improve the checkout and couponing experience and to be respected as people, and not to be made outcasts by their use of coupons. Perhaps it is time to add another module of training for cashiers.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Anonymoua (not verified)
on May 8, 2013

Sure give the overworked cashier who has a required scan per minute score to achieve plus required items per bag plus correct cash procedures to follow along with a required speech to say, the job of reading the tiny script on the coupons which the majority of customers REALLY don't read so they can verify if the item is correct. The majority of time the cashiers don't accept the coupon is that the item is not what is on the coupon. That UPC code is pre-programed to work with the required item and if the item packaging UPC code changes then it doesn't match. I gave up couponing a long time time ago because of this.

Audrey Sherrill (not verified)
on May 8, 2013

Grocery store coupon policies are changing all the time. It is frustrating to the couponer.

My grocer discontinued accepting BOGO coupons and free item coupons printed from the internet, even though they are legitimate. When I have coupon issues I immediately ask for management. As a loyal customer to my grocer, management knows me but the cashier might not, so I can usually persuade them to take these without argument.

When you arrive at the checkout with a stack of coupons, it isn't the cashier that is the enemy but the fact that they view YOU as the enemy and become suspicious of every coupon you redeem. I make sure none of my coupons are expired, buy the correct items related to the coupon, put them in order (Manufacurer coupons that double from Highest to Lowest, then store coupons, and lastly my Free Item coupons WITH THE AMOUNT FILLED IN)

Being a good couponer makes the cashiers job easy, speeds checkout time and eliminates dirty looks from the people in line behind you.

on May 8, 2013

One solution to coupon redemption is to set up a workstation or kiosk at the entrance to the store so that customers can scan their coupons and work through the not-valid issues before shopping, The work station could printout a D-2 barcode that would be scanned first before the first item scanned when they reach the checkouts. This would reduce delays in processing customers in the checkout and allow the customer to validate which coupons are valid.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Jon Springer

Jon Springer has been writing about food, food retailers and food retailing for more than 10 years, and is in his second tour of duty with Supermarket News. His prior experience includes covering the...
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