retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post has a terrific story this morning about Anna Sam, a Frenchwoman who took a job as a supermarket checkout person at age 20, hoping to make enough money to put herself through college.

Sam has, however, done a little better than that – because she turned eight years at her job into a book entitled “Tribulations of a Cashier,” which has become a bestseller in France and may become both a movie and a stage musical.

The Post writes, “The success of her book and the fame it has earned her are proof that, even in an increasingly complicated world, ordinary people can still change things in France by putting forth strong ideas and compelling political leaders to listen. From the beginning, Sam said, her goal was to describe life in the workplace from the perspective of someone who had actually been there, not someone who had studied it in graduate school or read a government report on it.”

And, the story goes on, “Much of the book was designed to bring smiles, such as the description of customers who try to cut in line and act offended when they are called on it, or who continue foraging through the aisles even though the store is closing. There is the couple that get in a violent argument just as they arrive at the register. Or the couple that fake an argument in an attempt to smuggle out their shoplifted sausages. Not to mention the couple that suddenly feels the urge to express ardent mutual affection when all the cashier wants is 9.99 euros so she can move on to the next shopper … Although the tone remains jocular throughout the book, some of the situations described by Sam were not part of the joke. The part-time work schedules, for instance, that spread out the hours in such a way that no day would be free. And the rhythm of beeps that had to be maintained to keep customers moving toward the exits with their purchases.

“The least funny incident, perhaps, was the time Sam watched a mother point at the register and tell her restless child, as if Sam could not also hear the words, ‘You see, dear, if you do not work hard at school, you will become a cashier, like the lady’.”

KC's View:
This book may have been written in France, but you know that American publishers will be hunting for a US version.

Can't wait to read it. And to see the movie.