Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Belt

Do you know how the conveyor belt moves forward? It may seem like magic, but I know you’re too smart to fall for that explanation. You may think I control it with a little switch you can’t see. Some have guessed that there’s a scale that detects the weight and stops it when it does.

Actually, there is a little switch, but I’m not supposed to touch it. I’m not sure why, actually, but never mind. Let’s just say that, when I’m ringing up your purchases, that isn’t the mechanism in question.

It’s actually a laser, sort of. See, on one side of the front of the belt is a light, and on the other side is a sensor. When the sensor no longer detects the light, the belt stops. When it does, the belt restarts.

That means that if you place very thin, flat items, or clear items, on the belt, the light might go right over or through it. So the belt doesn’t stop and stuff piles up and gets messy. Solution? Place these things on top of or next to more solid items.

That also means that if you move stuff away from the front of the belt, the belt will just keep pulling it forward. Your options there are: wait for the belt to time out and stop on its own, or let it go up to the front so I can reach it.

But speaking of stacking, I have a request. See, I’m not a tall person. My arms are not long. Now if you buy, for example, a bookshelf, the box could easily take up the entire length of the belt. That’s fine. And you might stack your other purchases on top of the long box. That’s fine, too.

But I can’t reach the things at the very back of the belt because my arms are short. They won’t move up, because the sensor light is blocked. And I can’t move the box forward without disrupting – and perhaps breaking – your other items. In other words, without help, I cannot scan your items. So if you’re going to stack things on top of long boxes, please keep them stacked near the front of the belt, within my arm span. And if you can’t do that, please be watchful so you can push the stuff on the back up. You want to be out of the store quickly, and I want to help you (and keep my productivity rating high). Let’s make this easy for both of us.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I don’t mind tossing out your (paid-for) wrappers, bottles, or cups. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to point out the wastebasket behind you. If the register next to mine is not in use, you have an unobstructed shot at a trash can.

Be wary, though. Underneath the register are two bins. One is red, the other blue. The red one is a built-in bin lined with a clear bag. The blue one is a Rubbermaid container, probably not unlike the one you’re buying today.

The red one is for trash, and the blue one is for hangers.

If the red one is empty, or has only papers in it, it’s a reasonable mistake. If the red one is full of litter and garbage, well, people overlook things. It’s an easy mistake to make, but still an unpleasant one.

See, we reuse hangers. You’re allowed to keep them, if you like; just ask and they’re yours. But the ones you don’t take home end up back on the racks.

Now, when you throw out that last half-inch of Pepsi, or the used tissue, or the wad of gum, imagine that applied directly to the pretty sweater you’re buying. Yeah.

Of course, I have slightly more selfish motives. After all, Target employees – often cashiers – have to empty the hanger bins, which generally means dumping them from one bin to the other, and digging the strays by hand. Now, this shouldn’t be a big deal, and usually isn’t. But where there’s half a soda in there, it could end up on the floor and our clothes – and maybe yours, if you’re standing too close. And if it’s a dirty tissue or gum… We get to wear gloves when we deal with trash. Hanger bins aren’t supposed to have trash in them, so no gloves.

Disgusted? Me too. Red is trash. Blue is hangers.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Above every register at Target is that register’s number. Each cashier has two light switches. The “Bottom Light” controls the register number. The “Top Light” controls the beacon above it.

The Bottom Light is easy. If it is on, the number is lit up and the register is open. If it is off, the register is closed. It doesn’t matter where the cashier is, how many people are in line, or how many items you have (Express Lanes are a topic for another day).

So, let’s say there are two registers. One has its Bottom Light on, there is no line, and the cashier is standing in the lane straightening things up. The other has its light off, there are two people in line, and the cashier is ringing up purchases.

The first lane is the one you want. Open and no line, versus waiting in line to be told you have to move. This might seem obvious, but day after day, guest after guest makes the opposite choice. Now you know.

But wait, you might say. That register is clearly open, because the cashier is serving guests.

What happens with that is: when we close our lanes, we cannot simply kick out anyone who is already in the line. On the other hand, if we do not turn off out light until the lane is clear, we will be there forever. So, we shut off our lights, serve the people currently in our line, and do not allow anyone to join the line. People sneak in, of course, but they are not welcome, so please do not do that.

Now, the Top Light. The Top Light is a signal to the GSTL (Guest Service Team Leader) that the cashier needs help. If the Top Light is on, there’s a problem. It could be anything. The Top Light goes on if the register needs pennies, if an item needs a price check, if there’s a dispute with a Guest, if the cashier is about to take a break… pretty much anything. Because of this, if two lines are the same length and one has the Top Light on, go with the other. There might be a problem that could hold up the line – especially since the GSTLs are very busy and can take several minutes to even notice the Top Light.

To summarize: a register with the Bottom Light on and the Top Light off is open. A register with both lights on is open but potentially troubled. A register with both lights off is closed (regardless of its activity). A register with the Bottom Light off but the Top Light on is weird, but not unheard of (for instance, a cashier about to go on break might need a price check).

Hopefully, this will make your shopping experience a bit smoother.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I work at a Target Greatland, which basically means we sell groceries and frozen food but don’t have the all-out stuff like a deli or a butcher. There are a limited number of layouts for Target Greatland, and the layout of my store is a fairly common one.

If you face Target with your back to the parking lot (not something I recommend on a busy day), you will see three doors: Blue to your left, Employees-Only in the middle, and Green to your right. You can’t get enter through the middle door without being buzzed in.

You can go in through either the Blue or the Green door. The easiest route is to go in through the door closest to where you parked. However, if you do this, be sure to remember which door you are using; it will make finding your car so much easier.

If you go in through the Blue door, you will find Food Avenue (the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut) on your right and HBA (health and beauty – I’m not sure what the “A” stands for) on your left. Right in front of you will be shopping carts, and right behind them is “See Spot Save,” or what used to be known as the Dollar Spot. They had to change the name because some of the items are now 2 for $5.

If you look at the wall to your left, you’ll notice a blue squiggle of neon light on the wall. This is Blue World.

Now, if you go in through the Green door, electronics will be on your right, and Guest Service will be on your left. Directly in front of you will be more shopping carts, and behind that is what we call “the other cartwell.” Here you’ll find semi-seasonal stuff; right now they’re pushing picnic food. Greeting cards are beyond this. If you look at the wall to your right, there is a Green neon light squiggle. This is Green World.

When you get in line, it can’t hurt to try to find a lane near the door through which you entered. It’s not necessary, of course, but if you’re buying huge things, it makes it a little easier on the cart attendants who will be putting your purchase into your car.

Now, at the beginning of the day, there are more cashiers on the lanes near Blue World; by the end of the day, the cashiers have been moved down to Green World. This is only important right around closing: after the store closes, but before all the shoppers have been pushed out, the Blue door is locked, and Guests have to leave through the Green door. So if you’re planning to shop right before closing, it’s smart to park by the Green door.

Now, just as you may enter through either door, you may leave through either door. There is no rule or device that mandates you enter through one and leave through the other. In fact, it’s easier on everyone involved that you leave through the door through which you entered.

These hints may seem obvious, but I’m asked about them every day. Hopefully, you'll find them useful next time you go shopping.