Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Occupation: Store Cashier
Overview: A cashier is someone who handles transactions, accepting payments for goods from customers (who might be buying milk at a grocery store, a plant from a flower shop, or a meal at their local pizzeria). Cashiers are usually stationed at a specific checkout with a cash register and remain there as customers come to them. Occasionally they may have other duties they perform during a lull in traffic, such as straightening the checkout area (which often contains magazine racks, gift card, chocolate bars or other store-specific impulse items). If the bagging of items is required, the cashier may also do this, and remove tags if requested.
Cashiers handle a variety of payments such as cash, credit cards, gift certificates, coupons, and the like. They require basic math skills and need a good memory as they must apply store processes to ringing in items, know codes for different departments or those assigned to goods being purchased (such as fruit and vegetables being weighed). Cashiers are also the “front line” when it comes to dealing with customers, so they must be personable and able to problem solve or deescalate situations where customers are upset or frustrated.
Cashiers with seniority in larger stores may be put in charge of the front end (customer support), working more with management and less on cash, performing duties such as scheduling hours for cashiers and clerks, creating break assignments for front end employees, restocking the checkout area, attending to price checks and re coding prices within the store’s computer system if required. They will also handling customer inquires and some paperwork.
A character may have a cashiering job at a grocery store, gas station, convenience store, retail shop, restaurant, cafeteria, movie theater, hardware store, coffee house, fast food or takeout place, recreation spaces, or any service industry business that sees regular foot traffic.
Necessary Training: Most cashier jobs require no formal education level, but on-the-job training is provided. Cashiers either attend special training sessions to learn how to run the cash register and perform related duties, or they are shadowed for the first few shifts by more experienced coworkers. Cashiers may also have to memorize store codes for certain products (such as a grocery store). Lists of these codes are provided by the store and employees are expected to memorize them on their own time. Because cashiers handle money, trust is paramount. For this reason, it is unlikely that someone with a known criminal record would be hired as a cashier.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, charm, empathy, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, hospitality, making people laugh, mechanically inclined, multitasking, photographic memory, promotion, reading people
Helpful Character Traits: calm, charming, cooperative, courteous, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, easygoing, efficient, friendly, honest, hospitable, independent, loyal, obedient, observant, organized, proactive, professional, witty
Sources of Friction: Angry customers who feel they are being overcharged or can’t find the product they like best, people soliciting customers outside the store without permission, ethical issues when customers wish to buy products to get high with or underage customers try to buy products that are not age-appropriate (condoms, pregnancy tests, etc.), other employees who don’t show up for their shift and cause staff shortages at peak times, coworkers who use seniority to get out of certain duties, money that goes missing from the till, customers who are inebriated or belligerent, customers who act violent, shoplifters, robberies, having one’s hours reduced when one can’t afford to lose out on income, being blamed for something so the management can save face
People They Might Interact With: customers, other store employees, management, delivery people
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Self-Actualization: A character who is unable to find employment elsewhere due to job shortages may feel underemployed and unfulfilled. Trapped by financial circumstances, they are unable to pursue other passions or higher education.
- Esteem and Recognition: People may look down on cashiers because this work doesn’t require much education and a character’s self-esteem may suffer as a result.
- Safety and Security: As a cashier with direct access to money, your character will be in danger should someone come into the store looking to rob the place.
- Physiological Needs: Because this job pays very little, the character may find they are unable to secure basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) depending on where they live and who they are providing for in addition to themselves.
Common Work-Related Settings: bakery, bank, bar, bookstore, bowling alley, break room, casino, casual dining restaurant, cheap motel, circus, coffeehouse, convenience store, county fair, cruise ship, deli, diner, farmer’s market, fast food restaurant, flower shop, gas station, grocery store, hair salon, hardware store, high school cafeteria, ice cream parlor, jewelry store, laundromat, library, liquor store, mechanic’s shop, movie theater, museum, nightclub, pawn shop, psychic’s shop, pub, race track (horses), shopping mall, spa, sporting event stands, tattoo parlor, thrift store, trade show, train station, trendy mall clothing store, truck stop, upscale hotel lobby, used car dealership, video arcade, zoo
Twisting the Stereotype: Cashiers are often portrayed as run-down women who have fallen on hard times and hate their job. Why not give us a character who genuinely loves the work and interacting with people?