"I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?"
September 9, 2010

Remember what that’s from?  Probably not.

I’m in Walmart yesterday and, though they didn’t have what I went in there for, they did have the 2010 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 4" Lord Zedd figure (and Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 for 20 bucks, but that item doesn’t figure in the story).  I went to what looked like the shortest line to pay…

…and the adventure began.

The cashier scanned Zedd and he didn’t come up; Item Not Found.  She scanned him again and he didn’t come up: Item Not Found.  She scanned him again and, guess what, he didn’t come up; Item Not found.

Then she scanned him three more times.


I’m not a saint so, I admit, I got a little annoyed.  But that drained away when I noticed the cashier seemed kind of panicked by the situation.  Now, you and I know what the problem was; someone in receiving put the case out without updating the stock; it happens a lot at Walmart and Target, in my experience.  Luckily for for the cashier and I, a supervisory type guy happened by…

"What’s wrong?"

"This won’t ring up."

He turns to me.  "Do you remember how much it said it was downstairs?"


"Give it to him for $5.96 and enter it as Department 7."

He leaves.

The cashier scanned Zedd and he didn’t come up; Item Not Found.  She scanned him again and he didn’t come up: Item Not Found.   

I tried to help.  "He said to enter it as Department 7…?"

Another cashier is in the area.  My cashier and I turn plaintively to her.

"This won’t scan."

I try to help.  "The other guy said to enter it as Department 7…?"

That seems familiar to the new cashier.  "Do you know the price?"


"OK."  The new cashier works her magic and we’re into Department 7.  But…

"OK, just enter the item description."  She looks at Zedd and hands him to my cashier.  "Just put in, like,’Power R’ or whatever.  Just make it six letters."

She leaves.  I am not hopeful.

My cashier looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.

And hits Enter.

My heart sinks.

*BEEP* 6 Characters Minimum Press Enter

My cashier is really frustrated now.  "It didn’t work; this isn’t going to work."

I try to help.  "It needs six characters.  You only put in five."

"I’ll try this one."

She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.


She looks at Zedd, looks at the keyboard, looks at Zedd, and looks at the keyboard.

And deletes all three letters.

"This isn’t going to work."

At this point, I just feel bad for her, so I try to help.  "It will work.  You just need to put in six characters.  If you put in R-A-N-G-E-R-S, it will work."

Sparing you, it did work, but it took just as long as P-O-W-E-R.

By now, the second cashier was back.  "OK, what was the price?"


My cashier punched it in.


The second cashier and I formed a silent pact to leave well enough alone.

The point of this story is not at all to make fun of this cashier.  As I said above, I wasn’t angry or annoyed by this encounter; I felt worse for her the more frustrated she got, the whole thing was quite embarrassing.  Honestly, I was stupefied because, from her demeanor and the way she approached the item description, it seemed to me she was almost certainly illiterate and I don’t understand how Walmart could put her in that position if they knew and, if they didn’t know, why didn’t they know?  Isn’t it a good idea to for an employer to know an employee has the requisite skills, however basic, to perform the duties associated with a given role?  


Being on that register didn’t do the cashier, me, the people behind me, or Walmart any good yesterday.  But I, and the people behind me, can get on with our lives after our transactions, and Walmart just wants our money, so the only one left is the cashier who, if she’s in the spot I think she is, probably lives every day in fear, and that’s no way to live.

What’s the moral here?  I have no idea.  Learn to read if you can?  Don’t hire people who can’t for jobs they can’t handle?  Don’t keep secrets when you need help, however embarrassing?  Get receiving staff who will do their job and spare the illiterate cashier the stress?  I don’t know, but something in there is wrong. 

It was only about five minutes of our lives, but I suspect, for my cashier, it’s something, maybe the latest in a series of somethings, that she’ll carry around with her and for that, regardless of whose failing it is, I feel bad.

Voyager scanned just fine, by the way.

-JJJ (is on Twitter)




Jason "JJJason" Chirevas
Jason Chirevas is a toy collector whether he likes it or not (and he often doesn't). This former Would've-Been Action Hero is as interested in the humanity, psychology, and psychosis of collecting as he is in the action figures themselves. Fun guy.
Read other articles by Jason "JJJason" Chirevas.





  • ero says:

    Joe vs. the Volcano!

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    Man, i’ve had days like that myself. Just last night I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to unwrap a straw leaving a bit of paper on the top so it wouldn’t dip into the drink but still be “clean and covered” until the guest wanted to use it. I must have unwrapped close to a dozen straws before getting it right. I left the mess on the bar top as a reminder to myself to not be stupid anymore, took a quick sip of seltzer, and got on with my night…

    … which went much the same.

    good to know all my regulars have a good sense of humor and I have a thick skin or it could’ve been a really bad scene.

  • Russ says:

    Companies hiring people who aren’t capable of doing their job properly; and why? Because “they need the work”. Yep, sounds like the accepted premise of the American job world at this moment.

  • Shellhead says:

    I’ve learned never to underestimate the stupidity of cashiers, especially when I get creative with my money in order to unload unwanted change. Example: Price comes up $4.97. I give them $5.02 so I can get rid of some pennies and get a nickel back.

    The cashier hands back my pennies, saying “I only need the five.” Sigh.

    No wonder fast food places put the pictures of the food on the keyboards instead of numbers nowadays.

    • Brainlock says:

      YES! Someone else who does this! I feel your pain! LOL!

      and to Jason, maybe she was dyslexic?
      then again, I have seen how my 17yo niece and 10yo niece “type” and “spell” on FB. it ain’t even close to txtspk.
      How I weep for future generations.

  • demoncat says:

    i had the same thing happen to me with some marvel legends . for the cashier kept getting item not found till finaly another one went back to the aile looked up the price and problem solved.

  • Eric Qel-Droma says:

    Think of the good publicity a place like WalMart could get if it had a literacy program in place and ran mandatory classes for workers who fail some kind of basic skills test. The system fails some people. Would it really hurt the bottom line of a place like WM to help fill in some of the system’s gaps while it’s paying people a wage they can’t live on?

    • Hourman says:

      I am on a first-name basis with about a dozen of the employees at the local Walmart, including several cashiers, and they are all quite literate and intelligent people and more than capable of doing the job they’re paid to do. Several of them are happy to have a job in this economy, even if its not their ideal career or what they want or plan to do for the rest of their lives. How many people who don’t work at Walmart could say the same thing about their jobs? They don’t need to be forced into a mandatory literacy program because they’re presumed stupid if they work at Walmart. Stereotyping people based on where they work is unfair and obtuse.

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    Buying this new wave of PR has been a real pain!

    It took me 2 trips to 2 different Wal Marts to be able to actually purchase anything and they didn’t scan at either store.

    First time I found Armored Red, Blue and Black. They didn’t scan and I was told that “It’s because they’re recalled. We can’t sell them.”

    I replied, “It said ‘not on file,’ not ‘recall.'”

    Cashier says “That’s what ‘not on file’ means.”

    I replied, “No it just means whoever was supposed to enter the prices wasn’t doing their job and you’re too lazy to do a pricecheck.”

    Not having time to fight further, I leave.

    The next time I find Armored Blue and Black.

    Again, no scan.

    This time the cashier sends an associate to the aisle to check the price.

    Eventually she returns and tells the cashier, “Normally we can’t sell something if it doesn’t scan, but there were a lot of them in the aisle, so just sell them.”

    I’m mystified but don’t argue.

    In the past each time I’ve had an item not scan, the cashier either did a pricecheck, had someone check the shelf tag, or just asked me and keyed it in by hand.

    If figured the first guy was just lazy and his “not on file” = “recall” is clearly bunk.

    But the second store “we can’t sell stuff that doesn’t scan” policy was new to me.

    I always smile when I’m at Rite-Aid and see the “If it doesn’t scan you get it free or $5 off” policy.

    If Target, TRU or Wal-Mart did that I’d have a lot of free stuff and discounts.


  • gl666 says:

    Was the cashier Amish?

    BTW – Voyager season1? Blu-ray? If so, how does it compare to the regular DVD?

  • Spazmaster-J says:

    Reading this is just so painful on so many levels. I have been unemployed for months and in trying to find a stop-gap job just to pay the rent, I am told I am “overqualified”. I hear stories like this and it kills me. I have tons of retail and floor mopping experience. I just need a job, young lady step aside.

  • Tony C says:

    This stuff always happens to me, too. I always get behind the guy returning something, or i picked up the one can of peas without a price tag, or I get the cashier that ate a bag of goof-balls for lunch, etc. I just have to laugh ’cause it’s like one of those “George Costanza Moments”. Anyway, I’m glad you were able to see the humor in it and to share a funny story with the rest of who have obviously “been there.”
    @Hourman- Lighten up, my man. JJJason wasn’t “stereotyping” and didn’t presume anything. He was talking about a specific cashier in a specific instance in a situation that happened TO HIM. He then recounted the story in a humorous (without being mean-spirited) fashion, and offered a well-meaning suggestion. get off your soapbox and quit spending all your time at Wal-Mart.

  • stcardinal says:

    Same thing would happen, they’d just say I can’t buy it because it wasn’t in the system… WTF.

    Anyway, good job keeping your temper instead of blowing up on her and making the situation even more stressful for everyone.

  • The Tall Guy says:

    The “cannot sell unless it scans” premise is relatively new but was set forth due to “street dates” for certain merchandise, particularly movie affiliated items. Once the employee saw that there were a number of figures already out on the shelf then it was a safe bet that it was not a violation. I ran into a couple of harsh employees back when the Dark Knight Movie Masters figures came out because of the “street date” crap.

  • Newt says:

    Onto a more important note… Is the back of Zedd painted?

Reply to Tony C