WWYD: Free Chocolate! (In Exchange for Snitching)

In this installment of “WWYD,” informing on the cashier at the grocery store.

Occasionally my grocery store posts these signs in the checkout lane saying that if your cashier forgets to do something, you can get a free chocolate bar by reporting it to customer service. I like a free chocolate bar, but I don’t like feeling like I’m profiting by snitching on an employee, or feeling like a poorly-compensated mystery shopper, so I never take advantage. Any chance I’m being oversensitive about this? — N.

During my brief stint as a Barnes and Noble bookseller back in college, management would circulate employees to work as cashiers, and then watch them to make sure they asked every customer if they were interested in buying a $25 annual membership. If you didn’t ask, you were reprimanded, or banished to the messy nightmare that was the kids’ section, or the bathrooms to retrieve books and magazines that people took in and left there (I don’t know why people did this—it’s very unsanitary).

What I’m getting at here is that, yes, the managers want to incentivize you to report on employees who aren’t doing something they’re being asked to do. And with chocolate! And not everyone feels okay with informing on people they don’t know. So you’re not being oversensitive—you just don’t feel good about getting an employee in trouble in exchange for chocolate. I would also not inform on the grocery store employees in exchange for chocolate—maybe the cashier is having a bad day and forgot to ask, who knows. I’d rather buy my own chocolate.


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.



20 Comments / Post A Comment

highjump (#39)

Mike Dang! You also worked for the B&N? Circa 2007 their method was to hire lots and lots of secret shoppers to make sure the membership was being offered and it was an official warning if you were caught not offering the membership with a reason why it was so great. Maybe I’m just an anxious person, but it was a real fear of mine so I always did it even though I hated it. Overall though B&N was definitely not the worst retail job I’ve had.

@highjump So B&N execs saw the release of the Kindle and though “Hmm…. I know!!! More secret shoppers! People love paying for memberships to things!”

And that’s why their CEO makes ten million dollars a year.

skippersarah (#2,314)

@highjump I worked at BN in 2004-2005, and they were already doing lots of secret shops then as well. I never got one, but the idea also made me super anxious, so I told everyone about their membership program. And that’s when I learned that I’m pretty good at negotiating and selling, so it wasn’t all bad news for me!

E$ (#1,636)

I hate that when they make employees ask if you want to buy something else at checkout. I hate it as a consumer because it wastes my time and I don’t believe it works on anyone. (I’m thinking of the people at my office-side Staples who are always after me for their loyalty program.)

It’s a good reminder to be polite to them because they aren’t just asking me, the consumer, to annoy me. (But seriously, stores, stop doing this.)

lizard (#2,615)

@E$ lol funny you say staples, i was just in one and very thirsty. i saw the sign about a free soda if the cashier didnt ask me about some dumb special and i was so bummed she asked me! of course i wouldnt have said anything and just bought a damn soda

limenotapple (#1,748)

@E$ YES. I’m to the point where I just don’t shop anywhere if I am going to be harassed to sign up for things, open a credit card, donate something, or buy something. I feel sorry for the employees who have to do this. I will always be nice when I decline, but I think, in general, people don’t want to be asked to sign up for a credit card, etc.

Target is the worst right now…why would I want Target to have a card that links to my checking account? I don’t think I want any third party action there.

@E$ Not only are they required to ask, but in some cases your hours are directly tied to the number of credit cards you’re able to sell. Which, I don’t feel like upping their stress level is going to make the interaction more pleasant for anyone, but I’m not a CEO, so what do I know.

peanutbutterpie (#1,450)

@SarcasticFringehead YES. This happened to me and it was a nightmare. I worked at Victoria’s Secret one summer and you were supposed to sign three people up for credit cards per 8-hour shift. Every single employee was supposed to do this, even though it was much much easier to sign people up for the cards while you were working the register. I worked the sales floor and they wouldn’t train me on the register because I didn’t sign enough people up for credit cards, and eventually cut my hours as well. NIGHTMARE. They made me sign myself up for a card one time to help meet my quota.

oiseau (#1,830)

@E$ When I worked at Macy’s I had to aggressively push the credit cards. We had quotas we had to meet. It does work, though! Maybe 1 in every 10 or 15 customers will agree to open the card. If we were asking for donations to a charity, the ratio got even better, maybe 1 in 5-10. It’s low-level sales experience and developing your product-pushing skills is actually pretty valuable and can get you up to the next tier in the sales career path. I don’t like it and I hated having to do it, but some people get a high off of it when they successfully dupe someone.

@E$ I hate it sooo much. It seems like every place I go, they want you to get a membership card, join their loyalty, rewards, whatever program. First of all, I don’t feel like I should be obligated to sign up for anything to get a fair price. I don’t shop at grocery stores that use the club card system because it is a scam and they are holding my groceries hostage to get access to my information and buying habits. I don’t fly airlines that make you listen to an inflight credit card pitch and despite my attempts to avoid loyalty cards, I have a few, but only from places I am actually loyal to. But how many little cards or key chain things am I expected to have to carry around with me at all times? And I already have a Target credit card and they still keep asking me!

Jenn@twitter (#2,325)

I love a free chocolate bar, but I also wouldn’t want one this way. I really dislike when I’m asked to donate to charity on the spot, like at a grocery store. I donate to charities that I chose and at a specific time in my paycheck cycle, so it’s never going to be at the grocery store when I’ve nipped in to grab milk and bread. But then I sound like an orge who doesn’t want to help disabled children.

I’d just be happy that the cashier and I didn’t have to have an awkward “do you want to donate?” “not today” conversation while they are scanning the rest of things in my cart.

grog (#2,222)

Wait, people actually take bookstore books and magazines into the bathroom??? I thought only George Costanza did that. I’m guessing they’re put back on the shelves? Yuck.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@grog Now I am just thinking of everyone who went to the bathroom (sans book) but then came out without washing their hands and are now touching every book…I think this is how germaphobes are born.

I hate that they ask me for money for charity at the checkout because I know that they’ll claim it as a corporate donation against their taxes. And they’ll use some of it to pay for a nice sign crediting the store with the generous donation to the children’s charity. All thanks to the funds they extort at the cash register since you do feel like Scrooge before the ghosts came if you say no.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@Kathy Put@facebook As someone who used to work for a charitable organization that benefits from being a grocery store’s “charity of the month” once a year, I have to say that I’m incredibly grateful for stores being willing to do this. They put in the time and labour, they raise the profile of the organization, they take on all the administrative expense of gathering that money, and then cut one big, easy to use cheque with no strings attached to the organization (as in: lots of times, when an organization gets a big chunk of cash, it has to be used for certain things, or matched in some other way). This is a very efficient way for charitable organizations to raise funds, when they are lucky enough to be chosen.

I can’t see how the store would get a tax reciept for money they collected from customers (they don’t get a receipt for the pennies and dimes in the countertop boxes), but someone more familiar with tax law can educate me if that is the case. Corporate social responsibility is both bull, and something that is essential to funding the work of valuable organizations. At the same time!!

I used to work at Target and frequently got placed in the 10 items or less line because I was a pretty fast cashier. (There was a weird rating system, I’m not just bragging) at any rate, asking people to save 10% on their pack of gum by signing up for a target card was a huge no-go for me. I only asked if they were buying over $100 worth of stuff, although this likely made me a bad “team member”

Sorta unrelated but my favourite bookstore has this system where if you don’t take a plastic bag with your purchase, then they give you a token to drop into one of three charity jars they have at the till. Each token is worth 3 cents, which is what a bag costs the store, and each month the store donates that to each of the charities. You can also donate your store credit from selling books to any of these local charities. It’s such a great system: you’re saving plastic bags while the store is donating the money and not harassing the customer to spend any more than they were expecting to. Plus it leaves you with a good feeling, which snitching on staff certainly does not.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Deb of last year@twitter I like that system!

ThatJenn (#916)

I was shopping with my ex once and he decided to ask for the chocolate (actually, I think it was a 2L soda in that case) when he wasn’t offered the credit card or whatever. The cashier rolled her eyes at us theatrically and got another employee to take us to the service desk to process the request. At that desk, the other employee helping us guilt-tripped my then-husband: “You’re really going to report her just for some soda? She’s messed up a lot and might get fired over this. Is it really worth it to you to get someone fired from a job she really needs to get a free soda? You can just drop it now if you want, you don’t have to go through with it.”

My then-husband was just douchey enough that this spiel actually made him more likely to ask for the soda (“If she can’t handle remembering to ask people to get the credit card, she shouldn’t HAVE the job,” he said), but I felt really horrible and small. It made me feel really terrible about the entire experience, from the management’s decision to offer this deal to the way the second employee made it seem like our own fault to my then-husband’s attitude about the whole thing to walking out with the soda as the two employees huddled together and bitched about us.

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