Don’t Dust Away Your Customers

cartoon-bear-cashierI go shopping at a local Home Goods store.

I am next in line to check out with the cashier. There is a line of 6 people behind me.

There is one cashier open, assisting a customer with a large purchase who also is trying to wrestle with two screaming children in the shopping cart.

There is a second cashier who was not open but at her counter, moving boxes and dusting.

The second cashier looks at the line, back at the boxes, then at the line. She picks up the phone and makes an announcement to call “Jessica” to the check out line.

A few minutes go by. Jessica doesn’t show up.

The line grows longer. One customer at the back of the line puts an item on the shelf and walks out, not wanting to wait to purchase it.

The lady with the children at the register can’t find her credit card. One child throws a lolly pop on the ground.

The lady dusting, looking agitated, finally puts the duster down and opens her register. I approach.

There are two boxes on the counter where you normally place the items you are purchasing. I place my items on the top of them because there is no other place to set them.

She quickly moves them on a lower counter behind the register and says, “Oh, these boxes belong to another customer who went to their car to get cash and I’m waiting for them to return.”


I say, “Well thank you for opening your line to assist. Can’t believe how quickly that line grew back there!”

She made a hmmpphhh sound, scanned my items, bagged them and I was on my way out the door within a few minutes.

In the meantime, the lady with the screaming children was still at the check out line.


This dusting cashier was so focused on making sure her area was clean, calling “Jessica” to help with the line and waiting for some unknown customer at their car to return–she dusted away the remaining customers!

  • What she really did is leave her coworker in the dust with lolly pop throwing children and a frustrated mother.
  • What she really did is pass the responsibility to “Jessica” to get her in trouble as she was likely assisting another customer (or so I would like to think) at the time.
  • What she really did is leave the customers feeling restless and actively participated in the loss of business as one customer decided to put their item back on the shelf and walk away.
  • What she really did is show annoyance with the customers that she did assist, as if we were a bother to her day while she is at work for this company.

It’s the little experiences like this that really add up in the larger picture for companies like this.

The best resolution for the dusting cashier would have been:

  • Put down the duster immediately when more than one person is waiting in line to check out.
  • Move the other customer’s boxes to the lower shelf and make room for the current customers to place their handful of items on the counter.
  • Take responsibility and apologize for the wait time, even if “Jessica” should have showed up.
  • Asked her coworker if she could offer any assistance on the large, chaotic purchase. Or perhaps, offered some stickers to the restless children!

This isn’t a resolution of going above and beyond–it’s called HELPING the customer, your coworkers and maybe even a stressed out mother.

So next time you witness a situation like this, observe and learn how to handle it better. And, if you are the cashier, put your duster down and help!




Jenny Dempsey is currently the the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for She has worked at tech startups since 2005. She's the co-founder and regular contributor over at She's a certified health coach, but not the kind that forces you to only eat cardboard and deprive yourself of ice cream., the company she started, was designed to bring a new type of wellness into the workplace, one that gives you permission to look deeper into yourself, rather than just on the healthy snacks in the break room. She is the mother to a toothless rescue cat named Chompers. Avocados and veggie tacos are the way to her heart. She's also a Hanson fan for life.


  • This example plays out in every store, every business and every industry…MISTAKE #5 on my golden list of 5 Biggest Mistakes. Failure to Care! How sad that this employee is focused just on the dusting and waiting for the “cash paying customer”to come back. If she only cared more, she would understand the BIG picture.

    The office equivalent is this: “With all of these phone calls and emails coming in, I will never get to my job.” That is your job. With each phone call and email you have an opportunity to impress a customer, to WOW (stealing a Shep word) a client and to build a relationship. Use the challenging moments to go above and beyond.

    Great post Jenny! xo

    • Jenny Dempsey

      YES! Failure to CARE. It’s not complicated but it’s amazing how easy it is for people to forget this.

      Thanks for reading this post Doug and for your awesome comments 🙂

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