So yesterday I bagged groceries for 5 hours at Nijiya Market. It was my first day and I was pretty nervous, but the people there are so great and helpful that it wasn't so bad.
Most of the time I spent bagging for Stephen and Ivan. They are a couple of jokers :D Goofy guys who both have DSs, so that's cool. I also met Vivian and Yuuka. It was weird because there are four lanes arranged in two little islands of check-outdom, and it was split by sex for most of the time (i.e. except when I was bagging for the boys.) Vivian apparently has seniority among us regular employees, but she seems ok (even though the boys told me to be careful around her.) Yuuka is really fun and talkative. She is taking Japanese in college. The evening head cashier is Judy, who I saw for a bit in the beginning, but then she left me with the guys.
I think there are actually more Chinese speakers working here than Japanese. The managers tend to be Japanese, but many cashiers seem to be Chinese. There are also a good number of Mexican guys who stock (so they told me) and a smattering of other things (which includes me and I think possibly one other Caucasian.)
Anyhow, let's see. Bagging groceries. It's actually more complicated than you might think, unless you know a bit about Japanese culture. You will sometimes hear that they have a penchant for wrapping, and I would say it definitely comes through in their grocery bagging practices:
- Anything cold must be put in a small clear plastic bag (inside the other bags.)
- Fish and meat must be separate in these bags.
- Toiletry items and glass items (sometimes other small things) go in small paper bags
- Prepared food (from the deli or whathaveyou) should go in a separate bag.
- Don't forget to ask how many chopsticks they want!
- Sometimes you need to put regular paper bags inside the plastic bags.
- If it's heavy you double bag
- Some people also bring in their own bags.
I'm trying to think of other things. These are all...theoretical ideals, I think. Most people seem pretty easy-going about it, although they still give tips. Sometimes the customers are more insistent than the people I work with! I almost didn't put a package of chicken in a clear plastic bag once and a lady reminded me. Basically, I think it depends who you are bagging for, but I'm trying to make good habits, because, like I said, some customers are very picky about it. I mean, really, everything should be separate. But sometimes it just seems like putting a bag of chips on top of some chicken (which has been clear plastic bagged) isn't so bad. Stephen told me to bag it how I would like it to be bagged, like how I would find it convenient. To tell the truth, though, I don't care as long as nothing is damaged when I get home! I try to follow the rules ;D
What else did I learn? Well, Stephen showed me the basics of the register, but I don't start that until next week. I learned how to validate parking (which only applies if the total is over $30.) Eventually I will have to count my drawer at the end of the day, but since I'm not actually cashiering yet, I didn't have to stay last night. Oh, I know what else I did. Learned a little bit about produce. Need to learn the codes...not to mention the names of some of the items. It's a little like being in preschool again. Mizuna, shungiku, tokyo negi...
- Locker in the break room. Comes with an improbably tiny key that I feel would be too easy to snap in half or lose.
- Very starchy light blue oxford shirt, blue company windbreaker jacket, blue company apron (i.e. the awesome uniform. This stays in my locker at work.)
- I get half off the deli food, supposedly anytime. This means big bento lunches for about $3.50 and onigiri with salmon for 75 cents. I had one of the latter as a snack the other day, and the boys were right-- I will need practice opening the package. There are also assorted salads, sweet potatoes, fried octopus and chicken, etc.
- At the end of the day, we are apparently allowed to take home extra deli food if we like. Not sure exactly how this works. As I was leaving everyone told me to "Take a bento! Ask Alex first, but, just take one!" So I did.
Today I will read through my NIJIYA MARKET EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK for CASHIERS as directed. I guess there are a couple more papers for me to sign...
I'm excited because I think even if my Japanese doesn't markedly improve, my knowledge of Japanese food WILL. I'm so envious of these people who check out with assorted dried bits of things and vacuum packed whatever that is and frozen noodles, oddly colored pastes, etc. I want to know what all those things are and how they taste and what you do with them! I'm gonna find out!