From Your Friendly Neighborhood Supermarket Staff, With Love

We are not slackers. I’m sure you’ve seen me. I work at your local Generic Food Provider. Last week, when you came by to buy broccoli, it was 96 degrees outside. I was wearing long black pants, a white polo, and a black vinyl apron. Why was I not wearing a bathing suit and lounging on my front lawn? Or a snappy business casual ensemble in a conference room? Not for lack of trying on my part, believe me. What you don’t know about me is that for most of the year, I’m a double major at a well-ranked private university. You also probably didn’t know that my friend slicing your bread is enrolling in a program to get her Masters, or that the girl at customer service is on a full ride to the state university. The guy who threw out your shopping list (that you left on a display of pound cakes) works forty-five hour weeks doing manual labor to support his family. Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to know all that, but the next time you comment loudly to your daughter that she’s going to college so she doesn’t have to work here, perhaps you should consider that many of use are in college, graduates, or working hard at the best jobs we can get.

We are not responsible for every aspect of your “experience.” Now that you know the people who are trimming your pork chops and washing your produce, you should probably understand the things we can, and cannot, do for you. Anyone working in a supermarket or a restaurant will do the absolute very best they can to try and help you. However, there are some things we simply do not know. Someone working in the dairy department probably doesn’t know where that gluten-free rye bread is. When we refer you to customer service or our manager, it’s not because we get sadistic pleasure out of making you talk to interchangeable people in black aprons while your froyo melts, or because we are only able to communicate in grunts. I would love to be able to handle your banana-nut bread problem on my own without dragging other people into it, but sometimes that’s just not possible. It’s also pretty useless to try to complain to me about the cart boy who snubbed you or the cashier you think has a bad attitude. It really wouldn’t even matter if that cart boy released a raging moose to maul you—sorry lady, I just bake the baguettes, and there’s a giant booth over there full of people who would love to hear you complain. Yes, there, right under the sign that says “Customer Service.”

We stick together. Oh, you didn’t like that one about the moose? And you want to speak to my manager? You go right ahead. You’ll probably have a little more respect for her because she’s “made something of herself,” but here’s a fun fact! Most supermarkets promote from within, same as restaurants, and while they may not be working in the original stores they started in, the Human Resources Manager used to be the cart boy, my manager has been working the bakery for twelve years, and everyone in customer service has worked the floor. They have years of pent-up aggression and, finally, a position that allows them to unleash it. Not to mention that they see tiny, younger versions of themselves in all the people you whine about. So when you hear that conciliatory, ever-so-condescending “I’m so sorry you feel that way, ma’am,” now you know where it’s coming from. So don’t fuck with us.

We have lives outside of our jobs. While the lasting glute-pain of wearing ShapeUps for eight hours might follow me home, those little barbs and eyerolls you sent my way when I told you we were out of Morning Glory Muffins didn’t. I have an adorable dog and a stack of good books to read at home, and frankly, I leave your bullshit in the store parking lot. Don’t bother trying to make me feel bad about myself when I’m at work, because honestly, you’re spending more time on me than I’ll ever spend on you.

We are nice people. Okay, I know I seem confrontational. But guess what? If you’re nice and respectful to me, like I try to be to you, you’ll never have to worry about me pelting stale dinner rolls at you.

…But seriously, we are not your friends. Don’t call me sweetie; don’t ask me for favors, and no, I can’t give you that turnover at a lower price. I play by the rules my store sets up, and you should probably play by the rules society sets up for you: Be nice to people, don’t make a scene, and don’t try to start relationships with the girl who is writing on your cookie cake. While I try really hard to be helpful and make you feel welcome, at the end of the day, I’m only here for my paycheck, and you should only be here for your groceries. TC mark

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image – Ricardo Diaz

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I love the staff at Wegmans…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23919070 Ryan Ellis

    I feel this so hard.

  • Nicole

    I feel like this whole article can definitely be said about any food service or retail job, which is why I like it so much. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640375920 Amy Holloway

    Brilliant! I totally agree!

  • Sam

    Great article. The “we are not slackers” part is my favorite. There are many people who automatically assume that young people in the food service have no academic drive or goals. Spread the word.

    • Random

      Going a bit further, why is having academic drive or ‘goals’ intrinsically good?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=201002708 Alyssa Johnston

        It isn’t. But being born into money and entitlement is instrinsically Good. I’m pretty sure Plato said so.

  • guest

    I like when customers look at you like you’ve grown a second head if you comment on what they’re reading.  OMG YOU’VE HEARD OF HIM?  Motherfucker, it’s James Joyce, who hasn’t

  • http://twitter.com/bethanie_m Bethanie Marshall

    THANK YOU! I have worked in a motherf**king grocery store for 6 years. As customer service booth, then assistant cust. service manager. I HATE my job and am working my way through school. No one ever gets that people getting paid $7 an hour could care less about the stupid little things people whine to us about. I could go on for hours, and have, in many a bar setting, but I applaud you! You have said what we all want to say! Keep speaking the truth!

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    ah, a TC article about a job that isn’t “barista” or “writer”

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    ah, a TC article about a job that isn’t “barista” or “writer”

  • federico

    ive worked at a grocery store for a month as a cashier and ive come to realize that people are selfish and mean, mostly

  • federico

    ive worked at a grocery store for a month as a cashier and ive come to realize that people are selfish and mean, mostly

  • http://zuungols.myminicity.com/tra cinnarose

    I am polite to everyone in a service or retail type job, as should everyone else. It pisses me off when I see people getting an attitude over something stupid and/or acting entitled. You really don’t want to mess with people that have access to your food.

  • Maria

    This is what I have to say about people justifying working menial service jobs by going to college: get used to it. I too went to a well-ranked private college, but I never, ever, worked any service sector jobs. And get this: I was a liberal arts major too, not even a double major! Here are some positions I held:
    1. Research Assistant at a wildlife research laboratory
    2. Research Assistant at the special collections department of an academic library
    3. Volunteer at the special collections department of a small, local public library
    4. Research Assistant at a non-profit economic think-tank
    5. Internship with a U.S. Senator’s office
    6. Research Assistant for a museum

    I’m not politically connected, I’m from a town under 10,000 people in the midwest, and I had a full academic scholarship. So sorry you have to work such a hard, tedious, mentally unstimulating job :( Wow, people there treat you like an uneducated piece of shit? I’ve got an idea! Why don’t you start studying harder , make the dean’s list, prove to people you are more than a supermarket slave; instead of expecting life to hand you everything because you are a white female who just finished her first year at a private college with daddy’s money.

    • Jeni

      Wow, you went through all that and still turned out to be such a super duper NICE person.

    • A.

      Internship & Volunteer work, hm? Cause we all know that really pays well. Oh, wait…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=201002708 Alyssa Johnston

      Also homeless people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. 

    • http://twitter.com/hellllnawww annisah

      people should just be nice, period. it doesn’t matter what they are studying or where they are working at.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

      So you were an intern or an assistant the whole time eh? Why didn’t you do better?

    • Anonymous

      Yes, hard work means success. That is always true and especially true in this case because you are a hard worker. People less successful than you worked less hard and people more successful than you worked a little harder.

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • PAPER OR PLASTIC?????

      there is no excuse for a person to treat another like shit because they ASSUME that person is “uneducated”. congratulations, you have actually succeeded in confirming the entire point of this article. have fun listing off all of your administrative assistant accomplishments to the next cashier who isn’t able to scan your coupon because you forgot to give it to her until after she’s already completed your purchase. you totally know it’s her fault because she’s probably some high school dropout who doesn’t even know how to add numbers together, sowhythefuck should you have to stand here and listen to her politely refer you to customer service? YOU WERE A VOLUNTEER AT THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS DEPARTMENT OF A SMALL, LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY! doens’t she know how IMPORTANT you are in the REAL WORLD?

      are you kidding me?  choosing to work in a supermarket during your college years says nothing about how hard you study — i began working in a supermarket during the summer in high school, and continued working for my local super market for two more summers while i was enrolled at a private institution getting my degree. the reason i stayed? because i was paid and treated well by my employers and it provided a lot of inspiration for my writing. a good chunk of my friends weren’t able to find jobs both those summers cause they were being snatched up left and right. i had job security, an annual raise, and flexible hours. the customers were and always will be the worst part of working the service industry, because they are often condescending, self-important pricks who consider everyone who doesn’t work a job like they do to be lazy shitheads who somehow deserve their beratement.

      by the way, i totally know i shouldn’t stoop to your level, but this supermarket slave was just accepted to oxford university and will be studying with the most brilliant minds in the world while she ASSUMES you will continue being a research assistant. so next time you get annoyed at the poor boy handing out free samples of brie, maybe you should consider that his job isn’t what defines him.

      • C.

        Thank you, thank you, thank you. I just responded to her too, and I share a lot of commonalities with you.  I agree with everything you just said.  Congrats on Oxford University.  It really does go to show that a job does not necessarily define a person.  

    • C.

      No need to get on your high horse, Maria.  I too went to a private college and worked in the grocery store as a cashier on my spare time during breaks and summers my first two years (and did this in high school too).  I then went on to get a paid internship in a hospital and a paid job as a nursing student tech during the school year my last two years of school.  And your “but I never, ever, worked any service sector jobs” comment makes you look so prissy.  And “instead of expecting life to hand you everything” is not even implied in this article.  Many people work in restaurants or coffee shops or retail or grocery stores because they don’t expect things to be handed to them, and they make the effort to have their own cash flow by going out and getting those jobs.

      People have these jobs so they can have some money on hand, work through school, and develop their customer service skills.  It takes a lot of patience to deal with angry customers, and I’ve learned how to keep calm and collected.  It’s not just the job, it’s also the interpersonal skills you learn. 

      • douchegirl

        Well said. Sounds like Maria has some self-esteem issues that make her think certain jobs are beneath her. 

        You make the job, Maria. The job doesn’t make you. Keep that in mind before you get up on that horse again. 

    • guest

      How strange that you aren’t politically connected yet you interned for a U.S. Senator’s office. I’m sure your envelope stuffing for a government official was much more mentally stimulating than ringing up groceries.

    • guest

      I’m a grocery store cashier and I’m not in college, didn’t go and have no plans to.  Try not to vomit.

    • http://twitter.com/bethanie_m Bethanie Marshall

      You’re obviously confused on the meaning of this article. No one was “justifying menial service jobs by going to college.” Some of us can’t just research, volunteer, and intern; we don’t have “Daddy’s money” to live off. If we did, we probably wouldn’t be working in a grocery store.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

    What, I cant hit on the cookie cake girl?!

    • http://www.facebook.com/Cock.Thunder Joseph Anthony Nicoletti

       WE’LL JUST SEE ABOUT THAT

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