A new Robo cashier is joining the Jippie's Department Store Team today. As an experienced Robo cashier, I am given the privilege of training him with my manager. He is in the Jippie's Department Store Employee Lounge now, watching a video on the ten-foot-ten-second rule. In the ten-foot-ten-second rule, you must say hello to customers when you are ten feet away from them. The new robot cashier is taken to the floor to practice.
"Go get em'!" the manager says encouragingly, and then releases the new Robo cashier onto the floor. I watch.
"Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!" I hear him shout at every customer he passes by.
"You missed one!" the manager calls out. "That girl with the braids in her hair! She's walking away! Stop her!" The girl with the braids in her hair, realizing that she has braids in her hair and has been made into a target, speeds up her pace.
The new Robo Cashier runs, faster. "Hello!" he shouts at her, tackling her down. He has scored a touch down! The manager and I clap.
No one shouts "Hello" back at him. It does not matter.
Next the new Robo cashier is given his facial expressions. A wide range is available. His smiles come in small, medium, and large. After he tries them out, he is given five phrases he is allowed to use. They are "Hello, how are you?", "Anything else?", "The bathrooms are to the right", "Would you like to save ten percent today by signing up for a Jippie's Department Store Rewards Card?", and "Thank you. Have a nice day."
The phrases we are given by the Jippie's Department Store manager are useful in Jippie's Department Store, but I have had trouble getting by on them in the world outside of Jippie's. Once, my car had ran out of gas. I pulled into a gas station. I tried obtaining gas with the three phrases Jippie's Department Store had allowed me to use. "Hello, how are you?" did not get me anywhere. I then tried "Thank you. Have a nice day." The gas station attendants did not know what to do. "THANK YOU! HAVE A NICE DAY!" I repeated loudly. "HAVE A NICE DAY! HAVE A NICE DAY!" I tried dating. I asked a woman in the bar if she would like to save ten percent today. She said, "On what, Mister? Do you mean...on YOU?" thinking this was a cute pick up line. I wanted to say yes, but I was never programmed to do anything but respond with, "No, on TJX Rewards Cards." To this came a sigh, and then the shuffling of feet as the woman went in the other direction.
I take the new Robo cashier back to the registers with me. We pass by the Robo fitting room girl. She is only programmed to say "The bathrooms are to the right." It is a very important function because very often the customers will assume the bathrooms are not to their right, but in the fitting room. So now, with each customer who comes back, she greets them with, "Hello, the bathrooms are to your right."
Many customers are on the selling floor as we walk by. I once thought the customers were robots too. When they are shopping, their hands are outward, their eyes are glassy, and they go "Eeeeeeee" as they gravitate towards our merchandise, sometimes crashing into items. When they crash, they go "Owwwwww" and their eyes and hands spin around in circles before falling back in place. They grab merchandise as they go, their main function. But when they have obtained all the merchandise, when it is actually in their hands, they are very much human. I know because they get very, very angry. That is the difference between us and them.
On our way to the registers, we notice a man leaving the store with two pocketbooks. The censors had not been taken off the pocketbooks, and it rings as he walks through the doors. We cannot stop him. All we can do is activate our small smiles. The man did not get to hear a Robo cashier say "Thank you! And have a nice day!" That is punishment enough. We won't see him back here again!
The line is long. I tell my Robo cashier friend to set his smile to large. When the customers are happy, it is our job to be happy. If they are buying merchandise, that means they are happy. Sometimes I buy merchandise, just to show my manager that he should not think I am sad and then fire me for it.
Now the new Robo cashiers training truly begins. The next customer in line proceeds towards us. I decide that I should handle this, because he has a gun and I am not sure the new Robo cashier is ready.
"Watch closely," I say to the Robo cashier. "If you were a person, you might be afraid. You might go 'Ahhhhh! Ahh!" like those in the line are doing. Instead, you are a robot. So here is how you will react." The customer arrives. "Hello! How are you?" I ask, my smile set on the biggest possible level. "Is that gun included in your purchase?"
The customer says it is a return. "I do not have my receipt, but I bought it for my sister. She was in the news for murder. Guess she won't be needing this gun!" The gun is covered in blood.
"No problem!" I declare, blowing glee bubbles out from my mouth. Now the man seems inspired. He bends down. He unties his shoe, and then removes it. Next goes his sock.
He places the sock on the register counter. "I want to return this too. My sister already has...a sock. I lost my receipt. I left my receipt in my car. I gave the receipt to my sister. It cost five dollars."
I reach into my register and pull out a five dollar bill to hand to him. He takes off another sock, and puts it onto the register counter. He takes off his pants. He returns the pants, his shoes, and his t-shirt. He leaves the store, wearing only underwear. I thought for sure he would jump on the cash register and declare, "And now I'd like to return...ME!" Then he'd leave the store, with himself, so we wouldn't really get anything, which does not seem quite fair but must be.
The new Robo cashier watching me is smiling, but his smile is one of terror, afraid of doing anything else. I always say that is the best kind of smile.
A customer approaches my register. I say, "Hello, how are YOU today?" She places a gold fish tank, five sweaters, a cello, and a pillow case on my register. She examines each item, starting with the gold fish tank. "I don't have a goldfish," she says, and then says she does not want it after all. "I have enough sweaters," she says, throwing the sweaters to the floor. It is time to consider the cello. "Well, what's the point of having a cello if I don't have a goldfish to play music to?" She has no items left. The potential for happiness evaporates before our eyes.
She walks away from my register towards the soda machine. She selects a Diet Cola. "Here," she places it down on my register. It costs one seventy five. She hands me a two dollar bill. I give her back twenty-five cents.
"You only gave me twenty-five cents," she spits her words at me. Literally, spit is everywhere. As a Robo cashier, I feel as though I may shut down. "You owe me two hundred and fifty dollars."
That must be true. I should have known that when a customer hands you two dollars for a Diet Cola, they should receive two hundred and fifty dollars back. And to think, I am the one expected to train a future Robo Cashier. I don't know if I am ready for this! When I get home, I will spend hours and hours playing with my toy cash register and making sure I never count money incorrectly again.
The customer asks to speak to my manager. I call out for the manager to arrive. My smile drips.
The manager comes. The manager is a person, not a robot. He makes robots, though. Just as the manager has created us, the customers have created the manager. He is made out of curses and hysterical screams and racial slurs and complaints from customers and that is his world.
"Okay, so your cashier over here," the customer motions with her eyes in my direction, shooting me with them. I face the bullets. "First, she gives me the wrong amount of change. Then, she's rude about it. She looked at me like I were the biggest freak on the planet!"
We will let her win, gladly. anything to stop the accusations and send her on her way.
"Give me that gun on the register!" she says. None of us move. "Well, are you going to hand it to me, or what?" she says, with a tone of dignity, as though the words she speaks regard an extremely important cause for justice. "I can't believe this. You get paid to be here, and yet you want ME to get the gun? I am the customer. I pay to buy things! Not to pick up things for you!"
I am quick to apologize. She says that I am not allowed to apologize. I ask what I am allowed to do. She says I am allowed to give her the gun so that she can threaten us into giving her money. I hand her the gun. She holds it out, considering who to threaten. She points it at the Robo Cashier in training. Instinctively, he goes, "Oh! Hello!"
Balancing the gun in her one hand, she reaches into her purse to pull out a ski mask. There are holes for the mouth and eyes. If she were not a customer, bless her soul, I would say she were a robber.
"Give me all your money," she orders, also sounding like a robber. But she is not a robber. She is only a sweet ol' customer. "NOW. Or I'll shoot!"
The manager delivers an order "Everyone, get out all the money from your registers. Give it to her. It's the least we can do for the customer. We need to keep the lines moving."
Each Robo Cashier takes money out of their registers to hand to her. We tell her to have a nice day. She suggests we have awful days, and we agree. We promise to do it for the rest of our lives.
There are only three dollars left in all of Jippie's Department Store. The next customer is up in line. She asks me how I am.
"How am I?" I pause for time. "I don't know. I forget. Let me ask my manager. One second."
My manager tells me that I am doing fine. I rush back to the customer to tell her. "Fine!" I nearly shout, out of breath. "My manager says that I am doing fine." Three dollars left. I am scared.
"I am returning this bag of chips," she explains. " The chips were good. Not a fan of the bag."
I open up the register. There are three dollars. I hand her one dollar. I hand her another.
I feel sick. I feel as though I have gone unplugged and can no longer produce what I have been designed to. Someone, someone, plug me in. There is one dollar left. I am Robo Cashier. My purpose is almost gone. I am only almost out of a job, which I have accidentally made into my life.
"Excuse me," I say, ashamed. "I apologize for this. But I am exploding."
"Am I supposed to explode too?" the new Robo Cashier looks at me, filled with hope, filled with the longing for an escape. I do not get to see if he makes it out in time because, hey, I'm busy exploding here. Thank you thank Have a Nice Day How are you Would you like to save ten percent today Would you like anything else with your purchase I am a robot cashier I am a robot cashier Thank you! Oh thank you! I want to thank you all! Have one last one final one one nice day Goodbye! Expppplode. haveniceday.