Donna Horak, 54, slowly unloaded her cart at the supermarket cash register — one item after another, piling them high onto the belt. Fuming, Keith Choice, 27, waited behind her, clutching his one item, highly irritated.
Fed up, Horak turned on her heel and addressed Choice directly.
“I was here first,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how many items you have.”
And that’s when Monique Oakman, a longtime supermarket trainer, spoke up. It was her job, late in June, to turn a class of Horak, Choice and 20 other people with criminal records into polished, polite and professional cashiers for Brown’s Superstores, a chain of 13 local ShopRite and Fresh Grocer supermarkets led by chief executive Jeffrey Brown.
Brown had promised that all the students who graduated from an Uplift Workforce Solutions six-week class would get jobs as cashiers, and that day was a dress rehearsal, absent the uniform and real money. Cash registers and shelves stocked with groceries had been set up to create a model checkout line at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, which provided a classroom for the program. The students themselves had written the scenarios.
“What should the cashier do?” Oakman asked.