The Checkout Operator
The Gazette published an article entitled ‘Checking Out’ in the 15th December 1962 issue. How some things have changed ……
“Who is the most important person in a supermarket? It would be hard to say. But one sure thing is that for most customers it’s the checkout operator. She may be the only member of the staff they meet; she’s the one they hand their money to, and the empty bottles they are returning. They may take their questions and complaints to her too. And, if she’s slow, she’s the one who keeps them waiting ten minutes in a queue after they’ve done their shopping in five. Checkout operators do have to work at what seems a fantastic speed to the layman. With a “fairly average” speed you can ring up fifteen items in half a minute; yet some operators can do it in twenty-two seconds. The hard thing is to be completely accurate as well as fast.
For one thing, prices change so quickly in the food world that you can never be sure that Bloggs’ packed cheese still is 2s 11d – you nave to look every time. In too much of a hurry you might guess at the price from the label – and guess wrong. This sort of mistake, combined with errors or illegible squiggles on the part of the price-markers, which can happen, costs the Partnership hundreds of pounds a year.
The Waitrose staff trainer, Mr P Pidoux, has recently begun a series of courses for check-out operators in the Partnership. All new operators in future will take the week’s induction training, whilst experienced operators take day refresher courses.
The thing is, check-out operators working at full speed don’t have time to read the label, and shouldn’t try to make time. They are encouraged to record the price from the price ticket. In fact, an experienced operator has already registered the price as she picks the article up with her other hand, where an inexperienced person would make three stages of it, first picking it up, then looking for the price, and finally ringing it up.