Checkout Operator

The Job and What's Involved

Checkout operators work in supermarkets, department stores and other shops. They help customers who have selected their shopping and take payment for goods.

The work can vary between employers and types of store but is likely to include:

  • Operating a computerised till system with a barcode scanner.
  • Entering prices into the till system by scanning the items the customer has chosen.
  • Weighing and pricing certain items, such as fruit and vegetables.
  • Using special tools to remove security tags.
  • Packing and wrapping purchases.
  • Processing store loyalty cards, coupons and vouchers.
  • Using the till to check the total cost of purchases and informing the customer.
  • Taking payment by cash, card or cheque.
  • Using a chip and pin machine to process card payments.
  • Giving the customer change and a receipt.
  • Giving 'cashback' on card payments if the customer requests it.
  • Giving the customer any coupons or promotional items they are entitled to.
  • Answering customer queries.
  • Changing till rolls as required.
  • Keeping till areas clean and tidy.

It is important for checkout operators to work quickly and efficiently so that other customers in the queue do not have to wait too long. They are often the only employees of a store that customers meet, so they must be polite and friendly to create a good impression.

They also need to work accurately because the till must balance at the end of the day, and any differences between the sales recorded and the payments taken are investigated by store managers.

Checkout operators report to a supervisor who is on hand to help with any problems such as unpriced goods, complaints and refunds. Checkout operators must be aware of some aspects of retail law such as the age restrictions on buying goods like alcohol and knives.

In many stores, checkout operators spend time away from the till, filling shelves, checking stock or working on a customer service desk.

Checkout operators usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week. This is likely to include weekend, evening and early morning work, sometimes on a shift or rota system, to cover store opening times. Many large supermarkets and some other stores open 24 hours a day, especially at busy times such as the weeks before Christmas. There are usually opportunities for part-time and temporary work.

Working conditions vary according to the type and size of store, but they are usually clean, warm and well-lit. Some stores play background music. Stores can be very busy at certain times of the day.

Checkout operators may spend long periods of time sitting or standing, although they are given regular breaks. Most stores provide a uniform for staff.

Salaries may start at around £10,500 a year. Some checkout operators receive benefits such as staff discounts and subsidised canteen meals.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are opportunities for checkout operators throughout the UK. They work in a wide range of retail outlets, including stores selling products such as food, clothing, music, hardware and electrical goods. Checkout operators also work in places like self-service restaurants and cafes. Employers range from small, independent shops to large national chains.

Vacancies are advertised in Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices, local newspapers and shop windows, and through the websites of retailers.

Education and Training

It is possible to become a checkout operator without formal qualifications, although candidates are expected to demonstrate numeracy and communication skills. Some employers require candidates to have four or more GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths.

Some people enter this career through an Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

Practical and numeracy tests may be part of the recruitment process. Experience of working in retail or customer services is useful.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is given on the job. Larger companies may provide short in-house training courses.

It may be possible to work towards an NVQ/SVQ in Retail Operations at Levels 2 and 3.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A checkout operator should:

  • Be confident handling money and giving change.
  • Have good customer service skills.
  • Be comfortable using computerised tills and barcode scanners.
  • Be honest and trustworthy.
  • Be polite and friendly.
  • Be able to work quickly, efficiently and accurately.
  • Be able to work under pressure at busy times.
  • Have good communication and listening skills.
  • Have a smart and tidy appearance.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Show initiative.

Your Long Term Prospects

Checkout operators with good people and customer service skills may be able to progress to supervisory and management roles.

Promotion opportunities may be better for those working in large organisations.

Get Further Information

British Independent Retailers Association, 225 Bristol Road, Edgbaston,Birmingham B5 7UB
Tel: 01295 712277

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