Photo by Haley Ausbun. Beverly “Bev” McQueen, beloved cashier at the Benson Fred Meyer, at her checkstand, number nine.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Beverly “Bev” McQueen, beloved cashier at the Benson Fred Meyer, at her checkstand, number nine.

It’s more than bagging groceries — it’s changing hearts

Local cashier ‘Bev’ McQueen is a concrete part of Renton’s community

For some, seeing a grocery store cashier is just a passing interaction in their day. The grocery store is a place to get what you need and get out, as efficient as possible to go on with your life.

But customers at the Benson Fred Meyer know that the grocery store can be more to that, thanks to the uncompromising love and respect one cashier, standing at checkstand nine, has for each customer she meets.

“When I do someone’s groceries and see them smiling, sometimes it brings tears to my eyes, because I wish I could do more,” Cashier Beverly “Bev” McQueen said.

McQueen’s love for customers has turned into a large community of people who love and appreciate seeing her each time they go to the store.

Standing in the store, away from check stand nine, McQueen is still flooded with hellos from customers walking by. She replies with a “hello baby” or compliments their clothes. Even though she knows almost everyone walking by, she has trouble believing that over a hundred people were singing her praises on Facebook.

McQueen’s been working at the Benson Fred Meyer since January 2000, she started in Greenwood store about 10 years before as a cashier. She grew up in Seattle in a family of nine, and said she was always the comedian in the family, and that bubbly personality has been with her the whole time.

“I’ll do anything for anybody, and I don’t ask for it back,” McQueen said.

Recently a customer and friend of McQueen, Darlene Larsen, wanted to put out a call on Renton Facebook community groups for those who know McQueen. What resulted was over 200 comments, each one describing how much they love and appreciate “Bev.” It included former coworkers, people who’ve moved away and regular customers singing her praises.

One customer, Veronica, posted on Facebook about how her infectious positivity has caused her to look up from her phone more and engage authentically with the people she passes by each day.

Several commenters said they would always wait to be in her line.

McQueen is one of the few long-term employees embedded in the local community, Store Director Josh Dunn said. He has worked at 14 Fred Meyers throughout Pierce and King counties and now been at the Benson Fred Meyer for four years.

Every store has a handful of employees that Dunn calls “catalysts for friendliness.” But it’s rare to see people deliberately seek out a cashier.

Almost every week someone calls or emails thanking Dunn that McQueen is working at the store. People mostly thank him for having McQueen in the store, at a time where so much of retail is the business of instant gratification.

McQueen isn’t the fastest cashier, and that impacts the store’s queuing procedure. Dunn said the standard is to have two people in line at the belt, and one paying. If they see more than the three folks in line they try to fix it. Supervisors try to move customers to shorter lines to help them get checked out sooner. But McQueen’s line doesn’t budge.

“You can’t get her customers to move with a stick of dynamite,” Dunn said.

Going through McQueen’s line is a social event for customers who know her. Most commenters mentioned that they will wait in her line, even as other cashiers open up with no line. Customer Brenda Vander Pol said from other customer’s interactions with McQueen, it’s clear they share about their lives with each other, and that customers are patient and happy just to see her. She can tell others enjoy it as much as her.

Being a cashier is one of the hardest jobs in retail, despite what some might think, Dunn said. They never have downtime, there’s always a customer. Customers all over the store are watching how you behave with others at the check stand.

McQueen wishes she could be as fast as she was when she started, but caring for customers made her excel at other parts of the cashier job as she aged. Every individual is different, when someone brings their groceries up you need to consider that the customer might not be as strong as they look, she said. For that reason, she’s vigilant when it comes to how heavy she packs folks groceries and notices when she thinks other employees make the bags too heavy. She said she can’t even watch other people bag.

“They’re my customers, you’ve got to treat them with love and respect. My mom said ‘Do you best, don’t do it halfway.’ And that’s my dream,” McQueen said. “If I can touch one heart, that’s all that matters.”

Vander Pol is one of those customers who says she’s been touched by McQueen’s actions. She said they’re always willing to wait to see McQueen. They look forward to her every Thursday. She said her genuine interest in people is what keeps them coming back. This is the first time she ever been excited to go to the grocery store.

“She’s not just checking out your groceries, she talks to you and wants to know how you’re doing,” Vander Pol said. “She has to go beyond helping you with your groceries because she’s just so friendly.”

McQueen goes out of her way to say good morning to everyone— she’s a morning-shift cashier. Dunn said she’s never missed saying good morning to him, and will call him out when he doesn’t say it back.

She’s also great with kids. Dunn said as a parent he knows how important that is for customers. He said when people treat his two boys special, it resonates with him, whether a restaurant or other retail environment.

“When a business treats your children with respect and care, it also makes you feel your treated with respect and care,” Dunn said.

During last school year Brenda Vander Pol took her grandson, Ansen, to Benson Fred Meyer on Thursdays. She would take her daughter’s oldest son to school, and then Ansen and herself would go to Fred Meyer. They went to checkstand nine and met McQueen. Quickly, she took to Ansen and was kind to him, calling him her “little man.” McQueen talks to Ansen like a person and shows him respect, Vander Pol said.

One Facebook commenter, Amy, said her children calm down when in McQueen’s presence, due to her steady demeanor.

McQueen said she absolutely loves kids. She tries to talk to them in a positive way, and reminds those kids to help their family with the groceries. Children need to learn, love and respect, and adults need to lead by example when talking to them, McQueen said.

She calls the kids at the checkout stand her grandkids, but she’s also got five of her own, from two children, and one great granddaughter.

Like they were her own family, she buys little gifts for the kids with parent permission. She’s been buying dolls, cards and other toys for them. You never know what heart you’re touching, or if they’ve ever had a doll, McQueen said.

“Maybe they’ve never heard anyone say ‘I love you.’ Maybe they need a hug,” she said.

After summer break, Ansen and Vander Pol started their Thursday outings again. When they got to the checkstand, she had a toy ready for him. Vander Pol said he was so grateful, saying thank you. They gave her a Starbucks gift card the next Thursday.

She had wanted to give him a gift last school year, but she didn’t see them all summer. So she gave that gift to a different boy. Instead Ansen got a little helicopter toy. Vander Pol said Ansen was beyond excited.

Vanessa Lea Robinson, another Facebook commenter, said she moved away for two years, and came back to McQueen who remembered her and gave her a large hug.

Her memory is sharp when it comes to remembering her customers. Dunn said recently someone approached him who used to go to this Fred Meyer as a kid. After returning from college and living on the East Coast for awhile, McQueen still remembers him. People feel an affinity for her, and she does the same for them.

“I think that’s something you can’t manufacture, she’s very genuine and it shows,” Dunn said.

She knows that her customers love her, and she loves them. She will stay at the checkstand when she’s supposed to go on a break just to make sure she helps all the familiar faces in her line, she said she worried about letting them down. McQueen remembers customers easy, she said when you think about people as individuals with different personalities, you just know who they are.

Dunn and some customers are familiar with the health challenges McQueen has faced the last couple years. The store continues to accommodate her, but they know she’ll unfortunately have to retire someday.

“Retail is a tough business, and she’s done it for a long time,” Dunn said. “I know her kids want her to retire but she loves being here, and being active.”

Even though there’s over 300 employees in the store, Dunn said his goal is to know a little about everyone. And what he knows about McQueen is that she’s a concrete part of the store and surrounding community.

McQueen said she knows she needs to retire soon but that it’s a hard decision for her. She would miss her family at the store, and doesn’t want to let her customers down. She’s always saying every couple years she will retire, but she stays busy and wants to stay off the couch as long as she can. So right now she leaves it at that: maybe in a couple years.

When asked how she keeps up her compassionate attitude, McQueen said she believes all humans deserve the same level of love and respect. She said what keeps her in high spirits and able to love each of her customers, is the personality she was “blessed with by God” and how her parents raised her. She’s seen struggles, seen people deserve more love and that makes her want to leave a mark however she can.

McQueen said she prays each day she can make one soul happy that day, so when she leaves this earth she can say she did a good job. She’s happy to see that’s worked, and that customers love her for who they are.

“If you love others and respect yourself, you’ll make it in this world,” McQueen said.

When Vander Pol leaves, McQueen always gives Ansen a sticker. She said you leave feeling better, which is all McQueen has wanted from her work. Whenever “Bev” retires, she will have left the community feeling better, too.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Beverly “Bev” McQueen, beloved cashier at the Benson Fred Meyer, at her checkstand, number nine.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Beverly “Bev” McQueen, beloved cashier at the Benson Fred Meyer, at her checkstand, number nine.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Beverly “Bev” McQueen, beloved cashier at the Benson Fred Meyer, at her checkstand, number nine.

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