Seven Embarrassing Moments as a Blind and Hard-of-Hearing Cashier  

grocery store checkout aisle with a line of customers

Who knew working as a grocery store cashier could be challenging, rewarding, fun, and — upon occasion — funny? As an advocate for people who are blind, it took time to find my footing, but now that I have, I cannot imagine working anywhere else.  

Interacting with the Public 

Working with the public has transformed me. My experience has been anything but dull. It brought me out of my shell and took my advocacy to a new level.  

Scanning Products 

Scanning a UPC enables me to do my job. Once I learned the location of the bar codes, I gained speed. Whenever I ring up an item, there is a bell tone, which tells me it has been scanned, and I move on to the next item. So, despite my poor hearing, I work primarily by sound. There is no need to look at the product. If I hear two tones in quick succession, it means an item has been double-scanned, and I have to void one item. I joke that my coordinators should call me the “Queen of Voids.” But at age 62, reaching royalty does not seem too shabby.  

Memorable Moments 

Most of my embarrassing — funny moments have resulted from my low vision or hearing issues. Notice the close relationship between cashier and coordinator — the problem solver at the front end. These are a few of my more memorable tales from my job.  

The Lincoln Address Pose 

Early on, I had an incident with an older bearded fellow. I rang up his head of cabbage. Unfortunately, at that time, my magnifying glass was not quite strong enough to easily identify the images or even the tiny names under the pictures of the produce. I could almost see the word, but the clarity eluded me. I must have hit the wrong picture. The gentleman’s eagle eyes spotted the unfamiliar name on his side of the screen. “What’s this Napa stuff? I didn’t buy anything with Napa! Take it OFF!”   

 “Certainly. Sir. At the end….”  

At that time, the process for voiding produce seemed complicated. The cashier must bring up the produce item again, add the higher number to however much it weighs, and then void it. But I could not see the weight. I did not know what Napa meant either. I planned to call a coordinator once I rang everything else up. 

The man thrust his hand into the air and bellowed, “Coordinator! Coordinator! Aisle 11.” He struck a pose with his pointer finger sticking up. He looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln. I expected “Four score and seven years ago” to come out of his mouth. But then he started waving his hand to catch the coordinator’s attention. Not only did they run to my register from all directions, but other cashiers and customers stopped in mid-action.  

Hey, that’s my job. We have an established procedure: pick up the intercom phone, press a code, and ask for assistance. You can’t bypass our whole system.  

 But it worked — and that’s all that mattered to him. In fact, three coordinators came running, likely wondering what the emergency was. Sorry, just a void, folks. He had the Napa cabbage removed and the green cabbage in its place within seconds. His huffing stopped, but his eagle eyes never left the monitor for the rest of our transaction. My outrage left, and I regained my sense of humor.  

“Abe” never came back through my line, though.   I also received a stronger magnifier. 

The Murderous Glare 

While cashing out a young woman, she suddenly grabbed the bag of doughnuts from my hands. She placed her own fingers protectively around the bag she deposited on the check-signing ledge. “Don’t. Touch. My Doughnuts,” each word came out like a punch to the stomach.  

I looked over at her. “But I have to weigh them.” She flipped her hair back in a rebellious manner. “No, you don’t. And I don’t like people squishing my doughnuts.” I was only lightly touching the bag to count them. But I never did that again. With more experience, I could tell by the bag’s weight and quickly set them aside. I clarified with the customer if I had any doubts about the number. 

Blueberry Catastrophe on Aisle 11 

After I scanned a container of blueberries, I swung over to place them in a bag in the customer’s cart. The container flipped open, and blueberries rolled everywhere! The customer reacted kindly and pitched in to help me gather them up. Meanwhile, the customer on Aisle 10 screamed in high drama, “Blueberry Catastrophe on 11!!” to the coordinators, who came running with a broom.    

Drink on the Way Home Offer 

One afternoon, I set a bottle aside for the customer. “Would you like to drink this on the way home?” I heard other cashiers ask about bottles of pop or other cold drinks. I wanted to offer that option to this customer. At first, the woman did not respond. I pleasantly repeated my question. She gave me an unreadable look, and then she responded. “No, I don’t think so … uh … especially since that is French salad dressing.”  

“Oh my word! I thought it was tomato juice!” 

“That’s a good one,” she said, “Made my day.”  

The Chest Bump 

I love the support I receive from my coordinators. There are tasks they must complete at my register throughout the day. They take the checks out of the register, count the rolls of register and coupon paper, and replenish the bags at my workstation.  

I am usually quite focused on ringing up produce. Thus, my coordinators seem to appear from out of nowhere. I have no peripheral vision. So, when I turn around, we often collide. The “Oh, sorry!” flies back and forth.  

Once, I reached for the next item to scan, and my hand encountered a well-endowed chest. I could not figure out this soft material. Certainly not the toilet paper. When I backed away, I stepped on her foot and fell forward. Our chests bumped like it was a well-planned dance move. She coughed with a shocked “Amy!”  

I tried to strangle my embarrassed laughter and mumbled a red-faced “Sorry about that!”  

The coordinators now announce themselves and state what they are doing at my register.  

T-Ball and Pasa Molas  

Although I try to hear customers to the best of my ability, I frequently hear something other than what is actually said. Aside from the obvious card/cart and ham/lamb errors, I sometimes come up with unique interpretations.  

When a customer asked if we had “T-ball,” I didn’t blink an eye. I called a coordinator to ask where they would be. We do have some infrequent sports merchandise.  

The coordinator arrived, and I soon learned the item sought was a cheeseball, or so I thought. I was ready to direct her to the refrigerator section in the produce area where we keep the specialty cheese. Luckily, my coordinator stepped in and handled the request. She set off on her mission. Soon she returned with a large snack container filled with cheeseballs. 

A few days later, another guest asked if we had “pasa molas.” It sounded Spanish to me. Always helpful, I said I would call the coordinator to see where that might be. “My guess would be in frozen food or the foreign aisle,” I said.  

“Huh?” I got a quizzical look and an immediate, “No, no, it’s not important.”  

But I insisted. When my coordinator arrived, I told her about the Pasa Molas request.  

She turned expectantly to my customer.  

 “I just … um … wondered if you had a pack of … well, Rolaids?”   

My coordinator quickly located them for my guest in a matter-of-fact manner, dispelling any embarrassment the customer or I may have felt.   

The same coordinator came each time. I never mentioned I was hard of hearing. But I’m sure she knew I had hearing aids. She always seemed to know exactly what the customer wanted from the start. On the other hand, I felt like I was translating from a foreign language. 

The Alarm at the Emergency Exit 

I navigate with my white cane around the store and sometimes become disoriented. One day, I took my break as usual. The door leading to the break room is between the milk and meat coolers in the back of the store. But that day, I must have wandered away from my normal path or walked too far and not noticed my boundaries. When I saw a familiar-looking door, I opened it.         

Suddenly, an alarm went off and I backed away in confusion. The siren blared.  

Oh my gosh! Where am I? What did I do? Oh no! I did not see the sign. That’s the emergency exit. How did I get the wrong door? How could I get lost? I go to the break room multiple times every single day.  

In true Amy-fashion, I covered my name badge and scurried away, sweeping my white cane furiously back and forth. I backtracked, found the right door, and hid in the break room. Finally, the alarm stopped. My breath calmed down, and I smoothly exited the break room and headed for my register.  

I am not sure if my secret ever got out. Or if this who-done-it crime really mattered in the end. My lips were sealed, and no one ever mentioned it to me.  

Sharing Stories 

I am sharing these stories because many individuals who are blind or low vision have such a hard time finding work. Have you ever thought about being a cashier and letting technology assist you? I am confident if I can do it with one degree of vision remaining, others who are blind or low vision can master it, too. Despite the unexpected challenges, it is doable with the right support. It takes cooperation from management and the cashier.  

My Admin Coordinator looks beyond my sight and hearing issues to my strengths:  

  • my customer service skills,  
  • my sense of humor and  
  • my dependability.  

It also helps that my cash drawer comes out right at the end of the day. I am careful to always look with my magnifier to give back the correct amount of money.  


I have been a cashier for two and a half years now. I have customers always seek out my line and write positive comments about my work. This position enables me to educate my co-workers and customers on how a low vision employee fits into the work environment. For all the challenges and impatient customers, positive comments from customers make it all worthwhile.  

I’m so grateful for the opportunities that arise in the store to dispel myths holding back those with blindness or low vision. One can succeed with the proper technology, willingness to learn from each other, and mutual respect. United, we work best! 

 About Amy Bovaird

Amy Bovaird, VisionAware Peer Advisor, is an author, inspirational speaker, and coach who is low vision and wears hearing aids. Visit her website at