Let’s Go To Tempo…

…The price is low at Tempo. Tempo is your store with more. At lowest possible prices! Do Doo Do.

My niece Valdemort has a summer job as a Kroger cashier and she is pretty well surpassing the average rate of productivity, not only at her store but in the general area.

Why does this not surprise me? Well, I do not know which ancestor(s) of ours passed on the particular combination of DNA that translates to “fastest cash register operator in the Great Lakes region” but it is an odd little skill that seems to run in the family. Too bad it doesn’t pay a little more.

My summer job during college was cashier at a once-popular, long-defunct discount department store called Tempo (similar to KMart). Back in those days, cash registers did not have optical scanners that could read bar codes and they didn’t automatically calculate things like sales tax and change, etc. Instead, they had rows and rows of buttons, beginning at zero on the bottom and moving up to 9 at the top (or was it 1 through 0) and this is more or less what it took to ring each customer through:

  • For each item, I had to punch in a 3-4 digit “department” number, the price, and, for some items, a 4-digit “tag” number. That may sound like a lot of fiddling around but, because I had the department number and price memorized for a good share of the items we sold and the tag number for some things, it could actually be faster than using a bar-code scanner. That’s because I didn’t have to handle each individual item. I could often just look at what a customer had and ring things up even before they put them down on the counter.
  • Areya still with me?
  • Okay. When I was finished ringing everything up, I pushed “total” and the total price would pop up — mechanically — on plastic numbers at the top of the machine.
  • I had to figure out the sales tax in my head. Yeah, that’s what I said. In my head. Little numbers would show up on top of the total price numbers that I could add up and I am also a pretty good plutifier. But after working there about a week or so, I had a sales tax table pretty well imprinted in my brain. [Oh yeah, I forgot: then I had to enter the sales tax and hit a button called “grand total” to get the final total.]
  • Most people paid with cash and then I had to calculate their change. Also in my head. I didn’t do that by subtracting the total price from the amount of money tendered. I did it by starting with the smallest denomination needed to go up to the nearest whole number. For example, if somebody’s total is $1.43 and they hand you a $20 bill:
    • You give them two pennies and say $1.45
    • a nickel gets you to $1.50
    • two quarters to $2.00
    • three dollar bills to $5
    • a five dollar bill to $10
    • a ten dollar bill to finish it off.
  • Still with me? 😉
  • A few people did pay with plastic. If the total was under $50 I could handle it right at the cash register with one of those old mechanical swipers that imprinted the credit card number on a paper slip. If the total was more than $50, I had to call the store office and someone from *there* had to call the credit card company and get an authorization number. Talk about grumpy customers!!! “You don’t trust us!” Etc. ad nauseam.

I actually liked being a cashier. There were customers from hell but most people were pretty cool and some people actually picked my line, just like I would always pick Arlene’s or Elsie’s lines at the Westgate Kroger before the uscan.

For those of you who are *still* with me, here is the crux of this blahg entry. Cashiers are worth their weight in gold. The job requires technical skills and organizational skills and “people” skills. Customers can get cranky and sometimes they don’t understand what issues the *cashier* is up against. Two-bit managers? Yeah, man!!! Cashiers deserve *much* more than whatever crappy wage they usually get paid.

Valdemort, you go girl!

2 Responses to “Let’s Go To Tempo…”

  1. Kate Says:

    Elsie is my fave at the Westgate Kroger. And…Elsie was my grandma’s name (Mom’s Mom).

  2. kayak woman Says:

    Elsie at the Westgate Kroger is also the sister-in-law of Mary, who was (and maybe still is) one of the Haisley lunch ladies. Mary was also the sister of my next door neighbor Chris, who died in March. Small world, eh?