Beep. Beep. Beep… The sound as I scan diapers, toilet paper, bananas, and frozen pizza starts to ring in my ears. Eventually I begin to mimic the high pitched beeps aloud. I hardly notice as I sing Christmas carols under my breath.
Customers for the most part are nice, sometimes funny even. There is not only an economic exchange of goods that is taking place, but also an exchange of energies. Every single person that comes through your cash sends you their energy, be it negative, positive, or fucking crazy. And I like to return the favor.
My register (all snaps from my instagram)
Customers at the Walmart Supercenter where I work (it’s Canada – so it’s not as bad) are generally middle class, senior citizens, and families with young kids. We inconnubies are generally super interested in people, how they behave, and watching them ~be~, so I created this category “people watching” in the hopes that we could all write some more articles and publish photo essays full of observations and analysis of the sometimes-beautiful human beings that inhabit the earth.
But I digress. Let me start by breaking my customers down into categories based on what I can ascertain from their purchases, small talk, pleasantries, and method of payment.
The Dishevelled New Parents
On a good day I meet like 20+ babies at Walmart. They’re pretty cool because I’m innately drawn to them and it’s fun to watch as people in the line make faces and smile at “it” (myself included). However I do find it slightly awkward when I smile at their baby and he just spits up his lunch at me. I like to make small talk with these tired moms, who are often pregnant with another, about the joys and woes of motherhood. I’m really mature for my age / may or may not still live with my parents. They price match and coupon and pay with their Walmart MasterCard. They may be dishevelled at parenting, but they’re totally in their element as Walmart shoppers.
The Cool Dad can be seen most commonly with a child or ten, usually buying them all kids of healthy snakes like fruit roll-ups and pop tarts. It is a quintessential Cool Dad move to chat up a cashier, or any customer service person really. The Cool Dad loves to put a smile on the face of a tired teen, an over-worked dad, a down-on-her-luck widow. Their Dad-Jokes always bring me from 50% grocery bagging zombie, to that way-too-enthusiastic cashier. He pays cash, holds my hand too long as I hand him the receipt, and forgets a bag of groceries.
The Deaf Elderly Foreigner
I don’t even know half the time what these people are doing. Usually they’re just bad at English (I live in a pretty French area of Ontario), but they still confuse me because it’s just hard to interact with people who don’t understand what you’re saying, ok?! The particular crop of ESL customer is usually sweet and ends of smiling and laughing as they screw up their debit card transaction for the fifth time (“No other way. Other way.”), it’s like we’ve bonded in some odd little way over this simple transaction. The little old Haitian ladies often just start talking to me in French and I just laugh and smile.
The Mother-Daughter Coupon Queens
They hold up the line, but bless their hearts, these bitches know how to save money. Often accompanied by awkwardly lurking husbands who are confused and seemingly embarrassed by said couponing. There is like a whole TLC show about these people, so obviously that means they’re super interesting (like Honey Boo Boo). You gotta always check those expiry dates, and double-check that they are buying the exact product that the coupon is for, (“Sorry, this one is for the 12-pack, and you have the 8-pack.”) Annoying, yes, but I’ve seen some full grocery carts ring up around $100.00 before. $weet.
The Young “Split the Bill” Couple
These young couples make me literally want to slit my wrists out of jealousy. It’s long been a dream of mine to do errands and leisurely push around a grocery cart with a strapping young mate. It’s just the icing on the fricking cake when they split the bill between them. It says to me “we are happy and committed but work hard for our money and like to maintain some semblance of independence.”
Illustration by Jasmin