This supermarket cashier training film from the mid-60s, produced by Reader’s Digest for some reason, is an interesting vision into work.
I certainly wouldn’t say that a checker’s job is easy today and that’s even before all of a sudden these low paid workers were declared “essential” and are now required to put their lives on the line every day to make sure the rest of us can eat. But then it seems even harder. This film shows all the button pushing for different products, how one had to count cash with every order, and also dealing with those weird store stamps that I vaguely remember as a kid in the 80s but are long gone. Plus, the expected emotional labor of the day was probably even stronger than today. Maybe it’s just living in New England, but no one really seems to mind a surly or quiet cashier today. But in the 60s, the cashier was supposed to be smiling and friendly and chatty, as well as doing all this hard work.
What’s more, even today this sort of service work, often done by women, is not respected or paid the same as the male-dominated professions that constitute “Real Work” in our media and popular conceptions of laboring. And yet, these are workers we see all the time–tired, bored, sick of dealing with jerks.