It was as if they hadn’t noticed my presence, not realising that I was only on work experience, and not a fully qualified member of staff. Well this is not to say that all the members of staff were fully qualified. Some of them were more brain dead than a fly that has just been swot against a brick wall and had its brain splat through the front of its head. I was left in charge of thousands of pounds on the till, which was a privilege in some ways, but a big responsibility, whatever way you look at it, it was a somewhat daunting thought.
Did they not realise I had never properly used a till before? Does helping occasionally in a corner shop constitute proper training? There was a woman, shopping with her babbling mother; they were looking for birthday presents for their perfect little angel. They had selected some presents out of the usual range for spoilt little girls. You know what I mean, copious amounts of barbies, a fully furnished dolls house, with real lights and appliances that actually worked, lots expensive classic old English teddies, a pink tricycle, a special Barbie car that you can sit in, need I go on?
The woman and her mother ambled to the till, carrying box upon box of toys and wheeling over the Barbie car. I looked helplessly at the other member of staff on the opposite till, who just glared back as if to say ‘well I don’t really have a clue what to do either, I’ve only been working here for 20 years. ‘ My eyes darted between the customer and the member of staff. I turned to the customer, my heart now beating twice as fast than is ever recommended by doctors. She started to fling the boxes on the counter, whilst I plucked up the courage to activate the till. I managed to activate the till, but it all went down hill from there.
I started to ring up the bill, taking special care to make sure that I kept a smile on my face even though I wanted the ground to swallow me up. To use the till you have to type in a code for each separate item. This special code is four numbers long, so if mistakably typed in for the price it would make something in the region of thousands of pounds. This is exactly what I did. Instead of typing in the code and then typing in the price, I managed to type the code in twice, therefore, instead of the price being about ninety pounds it was four thousand, three hundred and forty pounds, as the item code was 4340.
I didn’t realise immediately that I had over charged the woman, so I proceeded to do the woman’s bill. When I finally got to the end of what seemed to be an endless supply of toys I pushed the total button to find that the bill was about five thousand, five hundred pounds. I wasn’t paying adequate attention obviously, because otherwise I wouldn’t have the told the woman the total amount before checking it. I just told the woman the amount with out really thinking about it. When she heard the final total, it was as if I had written my own death sentence. She exploded, shouting, screaming and hurling all kinds of abuse at me.
She immediately asked to see the manager, I couldn’t get a word in edge ways, I tried to explain that I was on work experience and I was sure the situation could be rectified immediately, and that it was probably a fault in the till. Her big red face blew up, it had a tinge of blue in it were she had been shouting so much and now had a lack of oxygen in her blood, flickers of her spit landing on me. I left her standing at the till, still shouting abuse at me for my incompetence, to get the manager. I found the manager in the stock room, sorting out the earlier disaster.
The manager and I walked back to the till as I told her about the incident. She talked to the customer, whilst I stood sheepishly behind her. The manager tried to reason with the lady, trying to explain that it was a simple, but stupid mistake. The woman did not accept her numerous apologies and said that she would close her account with the store and she then stormed out leaving the piles of toys on the counter. The manager glared at me as if I was something that she had picked up on her shoe on the way into work, she just walked away from me leaving me to put away all of the toys the woman had previously chosen.
I also had to work out how to void the woman’s bill. The woman on the opposite till looked at me with a face full of relief that it hadn’t happened to her. The way I felt about the whole affair, someone might have just run me over instead, crushing all my bones, but leaving me still half alive. It was as I expected, the next day they moved me onto a different department, far away from the toy department and I was kept far away from any tills. You might say that this experience was quite an accurate encounter of what happens when you do things wrong in a work place, I tell you one thing, I’ve learnt from my mistakes.