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Coin Shortage

The last couple of days have been a terrible time to be a cashier with anxiety and sensory issues.

We’re currently experiencing a coin shortage. I couldn’t tell you why we’re experiencing a coin shortage—all I know is Wednesday night our store essentially ran out of quarters. All of our self-checkouts had to be put in Cards Only mode (meaning they don’t accept cash) and only the regular registers do cash payments (more on that later). As the company we do our cash management with refused an emergency order for coins, we weren’t going to get anymore coins until Friday and what they did bring wasn’t enough to justify allowing the self-checkouts to accept cash.

This has been a total nightmare.

If I’m on a regular register, I’m cashiering non-stop up until I’m relieved for a break. Even with five registers open, the lines still reach the clothing department across from the registers as customers who want to pay in cash are being directed to the registers. It’s also the weekend and the summer so we’re also having to deal with the expected customers who the weekend off and are stocking up on a large amount of groceries or supplies for cookouts, camping, swimming, crafts, sports, gardening, or anything else summer-related. Since I’m trying to scan faster trying to get people through the lines quickly, I’ve had more instances where the item didn’t scan the first time, which has lead to more middle-aged men making that stupid “iF iT DoeSNT SCaN iT’S FRee, RiGHT?” joke that I can only Tidus laugh at so many goddamn times.   

If I’m manning self-checkouts, most of my time is spent explaining to customers that all the machines only take cards and re-directing them to registers. Half the time the customers will get so rude with me about it you’d think I had told them I hoarded all the nation’s coins like a dragon and therefore was the reason for the coin shortage that lead to the machines being put into Cards Only Mode.

Some customers somehow get through their entire transaction without ever seeing the screen having a thick red border with a tab that said CARD ONLY MODE, the main screen saying NO CASH PAYMENTS, and the signs we set up near each machine that say “No Cash, Cards Only!” A couple of those same customers have remarked “Why aren’t there any signs?” as they’re standing right next to a physical sign that explains the machines aren’t taking cash. In one hour, I had to suspend SEVEN transactions and take the customer to an actual register so they could pay in cash. 

On top of all this, the system our handhelds have for the self-checkouts suddenly stopped working around the time we started running out of coins so we’re unable to get alerts for age checks, potential mis-scans, voids, setting up gift cards, or when the customer has asked for assistance through the machine. Instead we’ve had to keep an eye on the lights above the machines, which will either turn red for most issues and orange for age checks. There’s also another feature of the machine lights: they flash on and off in green when the machine is not in use to signal when it’s getting low or out of money…and all the machines don’t have coins in them because they needed to be transferred to the registers that needed them. They’re also not blinking in unison because the flashing feature gets restarted whenever someone uses one of the machines. My brain was having to focus on keeping an eye on the lights for alerts and handling those alerts while the machines that weren’t in use were flashing like lightning bugs, which was incredibly distracting.

I must have explained 1000 times in a 100 different ways in my “Pinkie Pie customer service voice” that our self-checkouts are Cards Only and half the time the customer will react stupidly or give me a piss poor attitude about it. 

“The self-checkouts are Cards Only…no, they’re not accepting cash. It’s Cards Only.

“Yes, that one is open. …no, you cannot use cash in them. You’ll have to go to a regular register to pay in cash.”

“You’re using cash? You’ll have to go to a regular register for cash payments. (watches customer head to a self-checkout)”

“(sees customer take out change) Sir, the self-checkouts are cards only….they do not accept cash (watches customer proceed to put in change into the coin slot anyways.) *sigh* Sir…they…do NOT accept cash.” 

“Yes, all they’re Cards Only. They’re not taking cash.”

“Yes, the self-check outs are open. Are you paying with cash or card? …you’ll have to go to the regular registers. These don’t take cash.”

“None of the machines are accepting cash right now…no, we’re not going cashless. We just have a coin shortage at the moment.”

“If you go to the registers, you can use cash. …yes, I realize the lines are long, but only the registers are accepting cash payments.” 

“They’re Cards Only because we have a coin shortage…(customer says he could have brought in his giant change jar)…I’m sure every cashier here would appreciate it if you did.”

“It’s not accepting your payment? …oh, you’re using cash. I’m sorry, but the machines are in Cards Only mode. I’ll suspend your transaction and I’ll ring you up on my regular register [the one near the self-checkout]. Your total is $32.16….out of $40…(realizes there’s almost no pennies in the drawer and the customer needs four).”

“(sees customers trying to shove cash in the machine) Sir, these machines don’t accept cash…(customer bitches about there not being any signs when there’s literally one right next to him and multiple signs on the screen).”

“(gets bitched out by a customer who thinks it’s ridiculous that our store doesn’t have coins) It’s not an issue with [retail store name]. We’re having a coin shortage.”

My favorite was the older man who had me take off the one item that his food card wouldn’t pay for (after I explicitly told him he wouldn’t be able to do cash payment like he wanted) and then told me, “I can get my [paper] plates from the Dollar Store. Fuck this place.” I just love being sworn at by boomers!

It was no surprise I went into sensory overload and had a panic attack, but normally I’m able to bounce before it happens because I can tell when I’m about to reach the breaking point and need to leave work. I wasn’t able to signal to anyone that my brain was about ready to smash that panic button. I ended up having to wait until I was relieved for break and by that point I had already started shaking like a leaf from being overwhelmed with anxiety and was starting to forget how to breathe and talk properly. Luckily, I got to the breakroom before the uncontrollable crying started. I couldn’t leave the store fast enough.

Later that night, I read a story about some piece of shit father who recently paid his last child support payment in 80,000 pennies that he left on his ex’s lawn and I wondered if that asshole was the source of all my coin shortage related misery at work the last few days.

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