Helping the elderly and those who have purchased more than an armful of groceries is Cody Michael's job as courtesy clerk at Safeway.
"It's my first job," Michael said. "I like it."
Michael bags groceries in the checkout line of the supermarket and gets to ask the all-important question, "Paper or plastic?"
Michael said customers are usually patient, but he wishes everyone would be more friendly.
"It's easier when they're nice," he said.
Of Safeway's employees, it is the men and women working the registers and teen-agers like Michael who have the most interaction with the public. It is the courtesy clerk's job to escort patrons out to their vehicles and load them up for their trip home.
Michael said that in the parking lot, he will routinely see more of a shopper's family, and sometimes, their pets.
"I'm not afraid of dogs," he said.
Assistant manager Delbert Leavitt said Michael came in with a willingness to learn and that he continues to do a good job.
"He goes out of his way to help customers. He greets them when they come in and helps guide them when they need to find a product," Leavitt said.
Leavitt said customers often make it a point to get in touch with him to tell what type of job the courtesy clerks are doing. He said usually, the teen-agers work splendidly.
"Often it's their first job, so they're eager and willing to do what you ask of them," he said. "I'm extremely happy with everyone's performance this year."
Leavitt said he suspects the teen-agers' parents deserve much of the credit for instilling in them a strong work ethic.
Besides carrying out groceries, Michael's other responsibilities include custodial work. Whenever accidents happen; when jars of spaghetti sauce are broken or mountains of paper towels are toppled, Michael is there to clean up the mess.
"I have to clean floors and spills," he said.
Michael gets time away from customers and mop buckets when he is on cart duty. Shopping carts are worth around $200, and it is Michael's job to patrol the parking lot, gathering rogue baskets.
Michael started working at Safeway one month ago. It was his mother who convinced him to get a job. She threatened to cut off his credit line.
"She said she'd only pay for the basics," he said.
Michael, a student at Soldotna High School, said there are not a lot of jobs in the area for a 15-year-old to work.
"Most places will only hire you if you're 16," he said.
To the relief of Michael and his mother, Safeway hires kids over the age of 14.
"Here in Soldotna we have a tremendous influx in business because of tourism," Leavitt said. "They (teen-agers) are an integral part of the team. We'd be in trouble if we didn't have them. It booms here in the summer."
Michael said he would recommend the job to other teens. He said one thing he respects about the company is its flexibility with his hours.
"You can pick when you want to work," he said.
Michael said it is this courtesy that has convinced him to continue working with Safeway when school begins this fall.
"It is a good job. The staff are all pretty good friends. I always get to see the checkers and the supervisors," he said.
Michael said his parents are proud of him for holding down a job.
"They are glad I got out of the house," he said.
Michael said he likes getting out, too.
"At some jobs, you have to stay inside," he said. "This is better than sitting all day."
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