During back to school, it's normal for our registers to be backed up with long lines. And because we're severely understaffed due to payroll limits, it's not uncommon for me to find myself as the secondary cashier for the majority of the day.
So I'm ringing up customers and have a long line backed up (as all the registers did) and these two young girls come up and drop several items on the counter. They couldn't have been more than 12. This isn't uncommon - parents send their kids up front with money quite often. One of them is on the cell phone speaking a language I don't recognize, and the other is jabbering in her other ear. I scan and bag all their stuff and tell them the total. It was around $25. Neither one of them acknowledges me for a moment as the one girl keeps babbling into the cell phone. Again, I tell her the total. After a moment, she gets off the phone and says, "Yeah, she's coming with the rest of the money," and points out the front window.
My first instinct was to throw their stuff off the counter and move on to the next customer. Of course, I can't do that. I look to the parking lot and see no one coming, and the thought crosses my mind that it wasn't someone IN the lot they were waiting for. It could've very well been someone who dropped the kids off to do the shopping and was coming back for them. But after a few moments I see a woman headed toward the store. There was no indication that she was who they were waiting for, but I figured if she wasn't I'd tell the girls they'd have to wait and get back on line. Of course, the long line of customers is staring at me expectantly because obviously it was my fault that these girls waited in line, had me ring up their junk, and didn't have the money to pay.
Thankfully, it was the woman they were waiting for. She comes in and gives me a nasty look with a mumbled apology. I figure she'll just pay and they'll be on their way, but silly me, I expected too much consideration out of a customer.
Instead, she starts slowing pulling every item out of the bags and arguing with the girls over each one. And it all goes on in their foreign language, so I have no indication of how long any of this is going to last. And still, the line of customers waits. Then the lady pulls out an item and tells me to take it off the sale. Fine, done. They go back to arguing. Another item off. More arguing. Customers are tapping their feet, huffing and puffing, staring at their watches, looking to the other registers, and some are leaving. Then the lady pulls out a five-pack of white-out tape.
"How much was this?"
"$11.49," I tell her. Hey, I don't set our prices.
"No, at your other store two days ago it was $4.99."
I look at the girls. "What did it say on the shelf?"
They don't answer. Instead, they go back to babbling to who I presume is their mother in their language. The mom looks at me again. "No, it was supposed to be $4.99."
"Ma'am, there are any number of reasons why it might have been a different price at the other location. My guess is that they forgot to remove an old sale tag. But the item scans up here at $11.49, and unless it says something different on the shelf, that's the price."
More arguing amongst the family. The mother starts going through the bag again. At this point, I'm just about ready to tell them to get out of line if they're not done shopping. But the lady finally shoots me an evil glare and hands over the cash.
There are few things that bug me more than when people come up to the register, wait in line, but still aren't finished shopping. Then they expect you to wait while they go get the rest of what they want - and many take their time strolling through the aisles. On more than one occasion, I've had people come back to the register ten minutes later to find that their sales have been voided and their products pushed to the side.
And they look at me in surprise like, "But I was here first!"
Shopping tip of the day for 9/02/09: If I ask to see your credit card for security verification purposes and you refuse, don't look surprised when your sale is declined.