Conscription Cashier

An idea known and practiced in parts of the world, just not America

In Mexico, Russia and numerous countries around the world, military conscription is alive and well.

This might seem preposterous to Americans – freedom and rights and good things like that. However, I believe we should bring this idea back to the states and apply it to…retail.

Yes, retail! We should create conscription into fast food and retail. When the full-ride scholarship center turns eighteen, put him behind the Burger King counter for a bit. When the computer whiz is between the high school he breezed through and a tech college, have him stock a few shelves. Let’s have the homecoming queen work at one of the few existing video stores for a while and see how she feels after some time there.

The reason: most (if not all) people, young or old, would greatly benefit from time in the entry-level job trenches. Clean a few bathrooms, deal with some impossible-to-satisfy customers and make the same burger or pizza four times over. That’s both character-building and character-degrading stuff right there. It knocks each of us and our entitlement down a few notches, yet also lifts us up by way of a most precious virtue: perspective.

The attitude many people have toward service people— cashiers, maintenance workers, burger flippers and their many peers—is truly atrocious. One doesn’t even have to be one of these workers to know that. When standing in line the next time you go shopping, simply take some time to listen to your fellow customers. General haughtiness, barely-hidden disdain and a certain presumed superiority are merely the most common negative attitudes.

Some people have no consideration for service workers and make no attempt to think beyond their own desires. Consider also, these are the experiences of a six foot, broadly-built 22-year-old male. Imagine what a five-foot, 80 pound girl of 18 must put up with.

Now, some clarifications must be made. Many customers in all these places are more pleasant than I could ever be, and some workers are certainly deserving of criticism. Relationships, even the brief ones, are two-way, after all. However, there’s a grave difference between being upset with a time-strapped college kid for crushing your bread for packing it with cans and berating a young mother because there wasn’t someone working in housewares at 9 p.m.

Also, this system wouldn’t be foolproof. Humans have short memories; one has only to look to  politics to see that. However, those who merely don’t think to think would suddenly not be so perturbed about a skipping DVD after spending an eight-hour day listening to the same complaint from dozens of prickly people.

Maybe “conscription cashier” is sending the wrong message. “Undermining Entitlement” is a more appropriate mission statement, giving a better sense of our aim. The entitlement of “the customer is always right” is a bit black and white for today’s America, isn’t it? Today’s America is all about shades of gray. Let’s get all these needlessly angry people behind those minimum wage counters until they realize that.