There I was in the grocery store at the checkout and I was really impressed with the speed and attitude of the checker. But the bagger clearly had a chip on her shoulder. Oddly enough, she was querying the checker on why he had the high-level position he did as he was clearly younger than she and, according to their badges, he had spent fewer years at the company.
There’s an old expression that aptitude plus attitude = altitude. The secret to the checker’s success was absolutely clear to me as I watched him deftly balance the inquiries of the person at the bagging end of the line with keeping his customers in his focus. It was one of those times where it seemed that everybody in my entire community was at the grocery store so the lines were long, which gave me quite the opportunity to observe the interaction between the checker, the bagger and the customer.
As the checker was being grilled he never let his customer feel that they were being ignored, which wasn’t at all true of the person doing the bagging. Clearly the bagging person had absolutely zero interest in the customers at all as they never got acknowledged in the entire transactional process.
I finally got up to the front of the line and was immediately greeted by the checker and the greeting made me feel like I was the most important customer he’d had all day - sincere and enthusiastic.
“Hi, thank you for shopping here today. Did you find everything you needed? asked the checker
“Yes, thank you,” I responded
Completely ignoring our interaction, the bagger said “so how did you get so high up in such a short period of time?”
“I just pay attention and take care of my customers,” said the checker who then noticed a piece of cake I had no business buying and said, “Oh, buddy, you got the best cake they have back there. This is my downfall.”
“Yeah, but what’s the secret?” Insisted the person bagging my groceries and ignoring me at the same time. Hey, at least she had some skill level and that was an innate ability to think of only herself while also doing an exceptionally mediocre job while also trying to figure out how to advance her own position.
I was so fascinated by this exchange that I forgot that I had a coupon for the dog treats that I was buying and the checker hit the total function and out popped a duplicate of that same coupon.
“Next time you come back you can use this and save some money,” said the checker to which I responded that I bought two boxes of dog treats so I could use the coupon I had in my pocket, which I finally pulled out.
I figured I was past the point of no return on this since I was watching the interaction but the checker very quickly took advantage of the coupon I brought. His only comment was, “Oh, great. I can get that done.” Hey, $1.50 is $1.50 and Benjamin Franklin said a penny saved is a penny earned so I’m 150 pennies ahead of the game.
There was no sigh, no look of complaint. I know why this young gentleman had reached the position he did and the bagger was stuck in a position she clearly didn’t like. There were no problems, just opportunities to make the customer happy.
Back when I had team members in my employ the thing I would look for was a great attitude. The details and specifics of the jobs I hired for could easily be trained but you can never train a state of mind.
Funny thing - Disneyland shares this idea and often looks to the local drama departments for people with great personalities to be part of their team. When hiring, what tricks do you use to find people with great attitude?
And if you’re thinking of a new position, what’s your secret to being the best at customer service? Because it’s clear that one’s attitude combined with a bit of aptitude can definitely affect the altitude you reach at your place of employment. Maybe paying attention to the customer would be the secret to bagging a promotion.
Article and photos by Anthony B. Barthel