A checkout operator, more commonly referred to as a cashier in the United States, is often employed by a supermarket, movie theater, restaurant or department store. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 3.55 million cashiers working in the country in 2008, with 24 percent of them employed by grocery stores.
The main responsibility of a checkout operator is to process customers through the checkout line in the store. She operates a cash register, also referred to as a till. The customer's items are individually rung up by the operator, usually with a bar code scanner on a POS (Point of Sale) system. The cashier totals the sale then collects payment from the customer, generally in the form of cash, credit card, debit card or check. Depending on the establishment, the checkout operator may need to ring up coupons or take food stamps. The cashier also bags or packages the customer’s purchases.
In some stores, the cashier is responsible for handling sales, merchandising and stocking duties when he is not ringing up a customer. A checkout operator might also handle returns or exchanges, and if his store sells alcohol or tobacco, he is responsible for age verification of the customers. He is tasked with answering customer questions and has to deal with customer complaints. At the beginning and the end of his shift, the checkout operator may be required to count and verify the contents of his drawer.
A checkout operator is usually on her feet for the majority of her workday. She will probably work indoors and stand at a booth or counter, and she may handle heavy and/or hazardous materials. Repetitive motions are part of this work. A checkout operator might work on a part-time or full-time basis, she will probably be required to put in evening and weekend hours, and she is apt to work extra hours during the holiday season--Thanksgiving through early January.
Checkout operator positions, particularly part-time positions, are often filled by high school students. Employers looking for full-time cashiers may require a high school diploma or equivalent. Training is provided on the job. A person entering this field should possess good people skills, since he will interact with the general public extensively. He needs to be diplomatic, helpful and upbeat. He should also possess basic mathematics and computer skills, as well as the capacity to accurately handle money. Since the work is repetitious, he needs to be comfortable dealing with routine, and since the environment can be highly structured, he should agreeably follow guidelines and managerial direction.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for cashiers outside of the gaming industry was $8.49 as of May 2008. Benefits for people in this field are often limited, with full-time employees having more options for benefits than part-time employees. Health care benefits are generally scarce, but checkout operators might receive discounts on purchases at their place of work, or their employer might offer stock option plans or educational reimbursement plans.