Heather Gaddis: a cashier with charismaHas dynamic ability to relate to anyone standing at her counter, customers agree
When Heather Gaddis checks out at a grocery store or convenience store line, she hates the same old routine conversation with the cashier in front of her that goes like, “Hey how are you today?” followed by “I’m fine, how are you?” and then ends with an obligatory, “Thank you – have a nice day.”
“I always hated that same old boring conversation,” Gaddis said.
So, when she started working at Dollar General in Bethel almost 2 years ago, 28-year-old Gaddis, who describes herself as a “people-person who loves to talk,” decided that she would insert her own flair into her cashier job, making the job fun along the way.
Almost 2 years later, many customers agree that Gaddis’ naturally enthusiastic personality gives her a dynamic ability to relate to anyone standing at her counter – a customer service ability that many in the professional customer service industry train months and years for.
“Every time I go in the store, I notice that Heather always seems so happy,” said customer Lisa Leatherwood. “She seems to really love her job!”
What’s her secret to sparking a conversation and making a friend in the 2 or 3 minutes it takes to check a customer out while remaining highly efficient on the job?
“My mama and daddy always told me to treat people the way I want to be treated and so I just kind of go with it,” she explained. “I don’t know a lot of names but I know a lot of faces and sometimes a conversation starts with the most random and funny things people will say.”
Other times, conversations are sparked by items crossing the conveyor belt – items like a fluorescent pink poster board purchased at 10:55 p.m. by a customer helping their child with a last minute school project or a “Get Well” balloon purchased to cheer up a friend in the hospital.
One day, a conversation was prompted by a customer buying a Little Debbie oatmeal pie – the same kind her father, Lewis Gaddis, who operated Gaddis Electric before he passed away in 2011 — always used to eat.
“A lot of customers remember Daddy and one day a friend of my Daddy’s was in here and my 6-year-old nephew was also in here pitching a fit and I told him that he needed to stop hollering liked a mashed cat and Daddy’s friend said, ‘Yep, that’s little Lewis right there,’” recalled Gaddis.
At one point, she thought about continuing her father’s electrical business but, since she has an extreme fear of crawl spaces, spiders and heights, she firmly switched her plans against that idea, she decided.
“Sometimes, customers will notice I’m pregnant and ask me about the baby so I tell them that I’m having a baby girl and naming her Katniss based on the main character in the book ‘The Hunger Games,’” said Gaddis, adding that she is excited that her baby girl is due on April 2, her father’s birthday.
Formerly a substitute teacher and preschool worker, Gaddis loves to interact with the kids who come through her line, asking them about their day at school or the kind of candy bar they like to buy or the super-hero shirt that she is ringing up for them.
“I’m basically a big kid I guess,” said Gaddis.
“Sometimes I tell the kids that I always got in trouble in school for talking and that my teacher would put me in the corner and I would talk to the wall!” she added.
Now, she is happy that talking is part of her job – her favorite part.
That’s why she likes being in a central location where she can see her friends and neighbors and be a part of the daily happenings in her community.
“I see it all here,” she said.
“I feel like I attend a lot of funerals here beside the church and the cemetery and we’ve witnessed funerals for some of our regular customers,” she continued. “It hits us hard because we get so attached to people.”
While there are sad moments here and there, Gaddis works hard to keep up the spirits of her customers, often joking around with her co-workers to keep the mood friendly. “This Christmas, two of my co-workers dressed up in red aprons and Santa hats and I called them ‘Jingle and Jangle’ that I had gotten from the movie ‘The Year Without a Santa Clause’ and my co-workers and me and a bunch of the customers got a big laugh over that,” Gaddis recalled.
In moments like that, Gaddis is glad that, when customers walk out the door with their bags in hand, they don’t offer an obligatory, half-hearted “Thanks.”
More often, it’s more like a very personalized, “Bye Heather – see you next time.”