Nothing ruins a perfectly good shopping experience faster than getting stuck behind the customer from hell at the check out line. The customer from hell is a person that takes the simple transaction of paying for goods and turns it into a major ordeal that lasts longer than the superbowl. If you get stuck in line behind this person time will stand still and the cute clothes you are trying to buy will be out of fashion by the time you get to pay for them. Here are my best shopping strategies for identifying customers from hell in the check out line so you can avoid them.
Problem customers fall into a few basic categories. There is the confrontational customer. The confrontational customer will argue at length and continue complaining even if they get what they want. I got stuck behind a confrontational customer at a local retail store who accused the (perfectly polite) cashier of throwing her credit card at her instead of handing it to her. The manager was standing next to the cashier and she was explaining to the customer that she had addressed the customers concerns about her transaction. I stayed in line at that cash register because I could tell by the tone of the manager and her words that she was wrapping things up and was not going to spend all day arguing with this drama queen customer. If the incident was at the beginning stages, when the customer is making ridiculous accusations or demands and they are speaking with a cashier, not a manager, I would have gone to another cash register.
I try to be patient when standing in line, but I don't have patience for customers who turn the simple transaction of buying items into an insanely complicated ordeal. You can always spot the "complicated" problem customer by the number of transactions they are trying to accomplish all at once. This customer has a lot going on, from multiple receipts for multiple returns eventually followed by a purchase or exchange, assuming there is no problem with the returns. This ridiculously complicated series of transactions may involve the cashier performing a variety of transactions on the register, multiple forms of payment and possibly performing advanced calculus to be sure all the math comes out right in the end. If you get behind a complicated customer, immediately start looking for another register to pay for your stuff because trust me, this customer is going to take a while.
Another customer from hell is the high maintenance customer. Signs of a high maintenance customer include trying to get a better deal than they are entitled to and/or demanding lots of undivided attention from the store sales people. I got behind a woman at a clothing store who was buying a dress. The cashier had to explain to the customer multiple times that the sale price for the cocktail dress she wanted was $65.00 for one dress, not 2 dresses for $65.00, then she had to explain to the customer why one of the dresses was more expensive than the other. When the cashier left the register to help the customer find a dress to fit her size and her (unrealistic) budget, I left too. I walked over to the shoe department, where there was no line, and paid for my clothes, which were not shoes by the way.
The second I realize I am stuck behind the customer from hell I start plotting my escape. My favorite tactic for escaping problem customers in large department stores is to look for a specialty department with a sales person at the cash register. Many people assume you have to pay for goods at the main checkout registers, but I can often get checked out faster in the electronics department of a big box store or the costume jewelry department or shoe department of a department store than if I had stood in line at one of the main registers. Even when I have to wait in line at the checkout I am always polite to the cashier because after dealing with problem customers all day they deserve to be treated nicely. Heaven knows the cashiers don't need to deal with another customer from hell!