Thursday, 12 April 2012

The sexual issues of choosing a supermarket cashier

In my previous life before I was working from home I was a scientist and one of the topics I studied was sexual selection – why animals or humans choose a particular mate. As a result I often see the world through the eyes of a nosy scientist, otherwise known as being a nosy git.

The act of paying for your food at a supermarket is an interesting interaction to observe. Especially for male shoppers as the majority of supermarket cashiers are female. It breaks down like this:

It’s no secret that men are drawn to attractive women so a foxy cashier will always have more men in her queue in proportion to less appealing female cashiers around her. If faced with a choice of two roughly equal queues the vast majority of men would pick the foxy cashier.

If this sounds pathetic to women it’s worth bearing in mind a study where men had to press a button a number of times just to keep pictures of attractive women on a computer screen. They button-pressed so quickly they outperformed cocaine-addicted rats who were having to button-press for their cocaine fix. In a supermarket men can talk to the babe as well – and, even better – she is obliged to talk back.

The other main factor in choosing on the basis of attractiveness is how much help they get with the packing. A babe is much less likely to give a man extra help, unless she does actually fancy him. A more mumsie or mature cashier may sort the items and help with packing as they may not trust the male shopper to do this himself. This is very different from a bored offer to pack which involves shoving random items into carrier bags.

These rules are no secret to the cashiers and a man can earn distain from the babe and evil looks from her female colleagues if he chooses the babe’s checkout when a less enticing cashier has a much shorter queue. Just try doing this when this conveyor is empty for extra effect. It is even better when you have loads of kiddies food and perhaps some female sanitary products in your trolley.

Yes, I admit it. I am talking from experience, but I do have an excuse and I’d like to explain myself to cashiers across the land – or in my local area anyway.

There is another factor involved and it’s mathematical. If the load in my trolley exceeds the space on the empty conveyor I will always choose a cashier who is serving a customer over one with an empty conveyor. This gives me time to get my shopping loaded before the cashier starts to process it so I can pack my shopping at leisure and not have to run from one end to the other like a blue-arsed fly.

It has nothing to do with the attractiveness of the cashier. Well, not usually. Honest!


  1. Nicely put Russ! The length of queue certainly comes into choice, but more so does the speed of the cashier these days.

    When I lived in Kent, I used to conclude that there was an Olympic sport called: "I'm a grumpy teenage checkout assistant, and I will get your shopping through this checkout in the fastest speed possible, caring neither for conversation nor the fact that you spent the last 30mins picking the better preserved and presented items out of our aisles!" The result was that I was flustered after packing, and had shopping that looked like it had often gone through a war zone, over the delicate hands of a checkout girl!

    Now living just over a mile away from the local supermarket, I choose to shop more regularly in the week by walking. This means that I can choose the self-scan checkouts, where one customer friendly assistant will help if I happen to be unable to scan my baguette, or try to pay for a restricted medical item - covering that well known pairing of asprin and female sanitary products!

  2. Thanks Ian! Those self-service tills are one of the few things that make me swear in public these days! Whatever I buy there seems to be a problem - although admittedly the last time it was my daughter sitting on the scanned items section - that really confused the scales!

  3. Lol, I'm doing my weekly shop today and will so enjoy watching how this plays out!! There are two male cashiers I avoid like the plague in my local supermarket for their lack of speed/help/inane drivel and dictatorial use of bags!

  4. Thanks Jackie! Should make the shop a bit more interesting anyway. ;O)

  5. It would make life a lot easier if the signs above the checkouts were more informative, replacing text such as "15 items of less" or "cash only" with details on the cashier, such as "wrinkled but wise & careful" or "fit but incapable of scanning even the simplest items" or "seems good but takes an age to work the till" or the high risk "desperate transvestite"