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Checkout Operator Duties and Responsibilities

Job duties for checkout operators vary based on the store at which they work. However, several core tasks appear to be central to most positions, according to our analysis of listings. Prepare to do the following as a checkout operator:

Interact with Customers The checkout process usually begins by exchanging quick pleasantries. Besides a friendly greeting, operators may ask pertinent questions such as "Did you find everything OK?" If the customer has concerns about a product or wants items packaged a certain way, the checkout operator listens and responds appropriately.

Ring Up Purchases In modern stores, items typically contain bar codes that can be read by a scanner. Checkout operators find this code on each item being purchased and run it over the scanning machine so that the price is recorded. In some cases, such as if equipment is being temperamental or a sale sticker has been placed on the packaging, checkout operators may type in numbers by hand. Some items, such as fruits and vegetables, require weighing by the checkout operator so that the price can be determined. If a shopper has coupons or a store loyalty card, checkout operators enter this information into the system. When necessary, checkout operators check identification for certain purchases, such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Bag Items Checkout operators place merchandise into store-provided plastic bags, cloth bags customers bring from home, or other acceptable containers. They try to group like items for smoother unpacking later, such as keeping frozen foods together. They also monitor factors such as heaviness and fullness so that bags don't break or become hard to carry. If the item has a security device attached, they remove it.

Process Payments When all items have been scanned and tax added, the checkout operator provides the shopper with a final total. Depending on how the customer pays for the purchase, the checkout operator may need to process a credit or debit card, receive cash and issue change, collect food stamps, or ask for identification to verify a check. When the bill is settled, the checkout operator gives the patron a receipt as a record of the transaction.


Checkout Operator Skills and Qualifications

Checkout operators interact with a range of people while performing their job, so solid interpersonal skills serve them well. A pleasant demeanor and a customer-centric attitude reflect well on the store and encourage shoppers to come back. Other factors critical to getting the job done include:
  • Physical fitness - checkout operators need stamina to stand on their feet for long periods of time, sufficient strength to lift merchandise, and adequate hand dexterity to maneuver items over the scanner
  • Attention to detail - employers depend on checkout operators to scan every item to prevent lost profits; likewise, mistakes when processing payments angers customers and company execs
  • Following directions - checkout operators need to stick to operational procedures to provide a consistent shopper experience and to ensure nothing gets overlooked (such as forgetting to ask for coupons)
  • Professionalism - dressing according to company policy, arriving at work on time, and focusing on the tasks at hand demonstrate commitment to the store's success

Checkout Operator Education and Training

Becoming a checkout operator does not require any formal educational credentials. Most workers hold (or are in the process of obtaining) a high school diploma. The variety of hours available proves convenient to college students, parents, and others looking to balance a job with other obligations. Many checkout operators get a foot in the door when establishments bring aboard extra people during the holiday season. All people hired as checkout operators should expect a period of on-the-job training to become familiar with procedures and equipment.

Checkout Operator Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), checkout operators (classified under the category of "cashiers") earn a median salary of $9.70 per hour, about $20,000 annually. The lowest 10 percent command roughly $8.25 hourly, while the highest paid earn more than $13.80. Checkout operators who work full time may be eligible for benefits such as medical insurance and paid sick days. The BLS does not anticipate demand for checkout operators growing during the next decade. Currently, about 3.5 million people work as cashiers in the United States, and that number is not expected to go up or down significantly. Positions become available due to high turnover rates, but technology (such as self-service lanes) cuts down on the number of new checkout operators needed.

Helpful Resources

As you continue to learn about what is involved in becoming a checkout operator, here are some sources of further information that may be of interest:

National Retail Federation - this well-established organization is a great place to turn with questions or concerns about becoming a checkout operator and to find other career opportunities in retail

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service - described by reviewers as "easy to read" and "understandable, but profound," this book written by a former executive vice president of operations at Walt Disney World offers universal wisdom gained from experience

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping - understanding customer behavior provides an edge in the retail industry; author Paco Underhill explores shopping habits in ways readers describe as "funny and insightful"

The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations - when shoppers get irate, checkout operators need to remain calm. This book offers pointers on resolving unpleasant scenarios in ways that reflect well on both the checkout operator and the employer

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