Supermarket Cashiers’ Reactions to Customers

Subject: Business
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1303
Topics: Marketing, Entrepreneurship


A supermarket environment can be termed as a service-based industry which mostly focuses on enhancing customer experience by giving an emotionally positive experience to the customers. As a result, service workers are under constant pressure to suppress and hide their emotions and do all it takes to meet the expected standards for customer service depending on the customers’ specific needs and the culture defined by the employer (Korczynski and Ott 2004, 578). It is important to appreciate that the nature of a supermarket cashier entails interacting largely with the general public, which then means that they rarely understand what they should expect from the customer they serve next. 

While many supermarket cashiers enjoy their interaction with various customers and show job satisfaction, their interaction varies depending on the customer they serve. On the other hand, their reactions to various customers differ considering that they provide one-on-one personal services and are the face of the self-service retail establishments. During their typical working shifts, their work entails interacting with customers of different demographic categories, young, old, and different ethnic backgrounds with each expecting to have their dutiful submission and full attention (Bishop and Hoel 2008, 354). In this regard, cashiers experience overwhelming emotions at work characterized by pity, envy, spite, empathy, disdain, jealousy, humility, embarrassment, pride, sympathy, satisfaction, joy, caring, tiredness, guilt, happiness, and anger. The topic of this research is “How supermarkets cashiers react to different customers”. The research was conducted in three different supermarkets: Albertsons, Smart and Finals, and Ralphs in Santa Barbara.

Methods and Description

Since Santa Barbara is a place where we come across a good number of Asians, blacks, Hispanic, and whites, supermarkets in the area are places of everyone’s needs. As such, customers of different ethnic groups living in the area gather in the supermarkets in equal ratio and spend longer time elaborating household shopping regardless of race and ethnicity. Children accompanied by their parents to the elderly also visit the supermarkets. 

To investigate how the supermarket cashiers react to different customers, I conducted the research using different methods to achieve maximum accuracy. One of the approaches that I used to conduct and collect data for my research was observation, where I observed Ralphs, Albertson, and Smart and Finals which were supermarket I used for my study. The three supermarkets are unique with Ralphs which is located on West Carrillo Street being the biggest one in terms of the number of staff, the merchandise they carry, and size. On the other hand, Smart and Final and Albertson are located around Camino Real Marketplace are considered to carry only selective and quality products as well as being relatively expensive. 

As an ethnographic researcher, I was to take part in my study by playing an active role and by forming part of the community under study. In this sense, I used systematic observation to observe the interaction between the cashiers and people of different groups while participating in the study as a customer. This gave me a chance for closer observation. I also used survey to conduct my study in which I casually interacted with the people to collect relevant data for my survey about their interaction. I did this by spending around 20 minutes at each study site per visit. However, I visited each site three times to meet the one hour that I had allocated for every site. 

I made visits to every site at different times during my three visits because I was intending to find different set of people at every visit. This was based on the general assumption that different sets of people are likely to visit the supermarkets at different times. During my various visits, I selected my interviewees based on their ethnicity and age to ensure variety and richness of my data. After agreeing to participate in my study and giving consent, I ensured that the participants felt comfortable by ensuring their privacy and confidentiality. I gave space for open-ended answers from respondents to get a wider perspective on my research. Since my research was about human behavior and reactions which gave unexpected responses, I eliminated bias and personal opinion in my research by getting ready for vague and complicated findings by analyzing the collected data tactfully. 


From the findings of my qualitative research, the work of a supermarket cashier is emotional labor which requires one to sustain their outward countenance by suppressing their feelings. As such, cashiers are expected to manage their feelings by creating certain bodily and facial displays that are acceptable for public observation (Bishop and Hoel 2008, 357). This means that above their daily typical jobs of carrying out related tasks of ringing customers’ orders, they have emotion labor, meaning that they interact with the customers by treating them with care and deference (Korczynski and Ott, 2004: 588). It also means taking care of their concerns for well-being using tone of voice, smiles, and pleasantries that involve making their shopping experience memorable and special. This is the type of labor they sell, and therefore it has an exchange value. 

Since they need to respond and attend to the special needs and preferences of different groups of people, the emotion labor of supermarket cashiers can be termed as a choreographed performance that is skillfully planned (Korczynski and Ott 2004, 584). The cashiers have to control what they feel to meet the customers’ needs by acting inwardly towards self and outwardly towards customers. This amounts to surface acting in which the cashier does not necessarily utilize their soul in acting but utilizes the body to elicit the required response. 

The findings reveal that cashiers have to be responsive to the customers’ demands no matter how weird or insensitive they could be. This means that their bodily act is meant to evoke passion in the soul of the customer (Korczynski and Ott 2004, 578). On the other hand, it illustrates a deception of feelings in which the cashier is needed to give a static farewell, a forced smile, or an insincere greeting to each customer. Although the level of interaction differs according to age, all the cashiers in all the supermarkets showed to have developed a feeling of caring and warmth towards the customers. 

From the findings, it is clear that cashiers in the supermarkets need to move beyond their personal pride by maintaining an aura of warmth and pleasing to their clients and customers, regardless of their own feelings. This does not only appear to be a requirement of succeeding in the career as well as benefiting the employer. In this regard, the cashiers show the ability to manipulate the feelings and emotions of others while managing their own (Bishop and Hoel 2008, 356). Various customers expressed compassion, care, and kindness to the cashiers. However, some treated them with disdain, disrespect, and anger to them. The cashiers have to absorb these positive and negative responses from the customers and respond to them with kindness and warmth by adopting a culture of “the customer is always right.”


The findings from the research illustrate various accounts of customers who seemingly expect o much from the cashiers. These customers irrespective of their race and ethnicity have high expectations that cashiers should give them better emotional services when serving them. Irrespective of the customers’ demands or ethnicity and race, the cashiers give emotional services characterized by compassion. They put their idealism on hold by superficially responding to the expressed feelings of the customers. The cashier job has been established to be surrounded by servitude perceptions from most customers. Such customers look down upon the cashiers because they are controlled by customers’ privileged status because they assume that cashiers are less educated, unskilled, and lack affluence of the customer. However, despite these belittling perceptions, supermarket cashiers give care and compassionate treatment to all customers.

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  1. Bishop, Victoria, and Helge Hoel. 2008. “The Customer Is Always Right?: Exploring the Concept of Customer Bullying in the British Employment Service.” Journal of Consumer Culture 8, no.3: 341-367. 
  2. Korczynski, M., and U. Ott. 2004. “When Production and Consumption Meet: Cultural Contradictions and the Enchanting Myth of Customer Sovereignty.” Journal of Management Studies 41, no. 4: 576-599.
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