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Free Character Writing Prompts #45: Clerks, Cashiers and Receptionists

This collection of character writing prompts focuses on our favorite question, money and phone call takers: clerks, cashiers and receptionists. They take deal with your service requests, take your money and receive your phone calls every day. We often make every effort to get around them as quickly as possible but as writers we must take every opportunity to understand the people around us. I've been a receptionist before for a temporary staffing agency and in a clerk position for various other gigs and I've worked among some amazing and driven people working their ways to the top along with people who hate their very existence. These people, of course, all have their stories and can be extremely fleshed out as amazing characters by the writer who puts in the effort.

1. All day long he rang up customers at a health food grocery store and he wanted every customer to enjoy their time at his register. He would use strange accents, funny hats and a strong sense of caring to each encounter. After a while, he knew almost all the regulars' names and this made his job even easier, since those customers knew to expect the best from him. They almost always tried to get into his line because he simply made the shopping experience more fun. What does he enjoy the most about being a cashier and what is his future in the grocery industry?

2. He was a temp on his first day when the company began to take a downturn. He was tasked with answering the phones, but there were so many calls that other employees were helping out. In a climate of fear and panic, he had nothing to worry about, since his job was only going to last a couple of days anyway. This gave him a calm demeanor and made him a sort of go-to guy as the company began to crumble. This further reinforced his belief that working full-time for someone is dangerous, while filling in every now and then had its benefits of low accountability. What are some ways in which he's able to help the company in its final days?

3. She had been a personal assistant for this up and coming male executive for about five years now and she'd come to one conclusion. She could completely run his business for him and it would thrive without all of his stupid mistakes. She was caught in the plight of being the brilliant Watson to a bumbling Sherlock Holmes and she was tired of it. She began taking evening courses for a masters degree in business management and using the contacts she'd gained to find a new job. Her goal was to have her former executive working for her someday. Will she achieve her goal and how well does she do when actually running a business herself?

4. She was faking it. If she smiled at you while you were purchasing something from her retail store, it was because she was faking it. If she gave you a kind glance and discussed merchandise with a giggle, it was because she was faking it. She absolutely hated everything about her job and when she went home, she immediately fixed herself a vodka tonic. She didn't have any aspirations of a higher position or becoming the store's manager, she just wanted to get her paycheck and not think about what she did for a living on the weekends. What are some jobs she might actually enjoy and what left her so cynical as far as life goals went?

5. He'd tried his hand at many different trades. He'd worked in automobile repair, insurance sales and even a bit of gardening. Through opening his big mouth or doing something uncouth, he'd lost every single one of those jobs. Now, a cousin had given him one last chance of making copies and typing up invoices at a small business. He was in deep credit card debt and knew he couldn't afford to lose this last-ditch job. He was nervous almost every minute of his position and he tried to act like the perfect gentleman who was practically mute. He'd had several close calls of almost saying something that would have gotten him canned, but he relented just in the nick of time. Will he be able to keep this job and what are some of the things he's said to get kicked out of previous positions?

6. When people asked him if he just, "Answered the phones," he responded with a big belly laugh. He was much more than a simple receptionist at his job, though he didn't expect other people to really understand that. From his perspective, he kept the entire business together. If it wasn't for him, meetings would run late, accounts would be unbalanced and the company would crumble. Sure, he answered the phones, but he actually connected with the people on the other end. Every day it was his goal to be the best administrative assistant in the business, with hopes of getting a raise and increasing his pride. What are some things he did to stand out from say your average admin?

7. Whenever she put on her uniform as a grocery bagger, she felt proud. After all, she was only 16 and she was already helping her mom pay the bills. Sure, she kept a little bit for herself so she could go to the movies every once in a while, but she knew that adults needed more money than teenagers anyway. Her mom always gave her a giant hug every two weeks when she handed that money over. The job wasn't terribly exciting but she enjoyed seeing the multitudes of different people every day. She thought to herself that maybe she'd be like the businesswoman in the pantsuit one day or the mom lugging around two toddlers. She wasn't sure what she wanted to be yet, but it was just amazing to her to have the option of being like one of the adults who came into the store. What was it that made her so loyal to her family and what will she decide to do upon graduating from high school?

8. She had been a housewife for her entire life and when her marriage fell apart she knew she'd have to get a job. She got a job working for an up and coming online publication. She barely knew how to type at first, but one day, she stayed at the office nearly all night long and learned every aspect of the system. She ended up becoming a major asset for the company, giving a middle-aged perspective when it was needed. She even got a promotion and gained her own column on the website at one point. How did she feel as a member of the working world after having been out of it for so long?

9. He loved working the cash register at night, because he was a master at skimming just a little bit off the top. He made sure that the amount he took wasn't noticeable and that aside from his thievery he was a model employee. He was smart enough to cover his tracks so that his bosses thought that an item was damaged here or stolen by a customer there. They were never suspicious over the five years that he worked there and they actually praised how observant he was, since none of the other employees ever seemed to report lost or stolen merchandise. He didn't feel bad at all stealing from his bosses, after all, they weren't exactly the most moral people he'd ever met. What was it that made him feel that stealing was a legitimate choice for him in his job?

10. She was hired for her looks, but nobody expected that she applied to bring the company down to its knees. She was a spy for a rival organization that was looking to get a leg up in the market and she was the perfect candidate. Absolutely gorgeous, smart as a tack, but easily able to feign ignorance when accidentally logging into classified parts of the company. It took just a few months for several important e-mails to be leaked to the general public and for the system's accounting to go haywire. She wasn't a vengeful person, per say, but the company had fired her father several years earlier for what seemed like no reason at all. And nobody messed with her daddy. Will she feel any sort of satisfaction when the company files for bankruptcy a few months later and why? 

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Done with Character Writing Prompts about Clerks, Cashiers and Receptionists? Go back to Creative Writing Prompts. 

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    Written by Bryan Cohen

    Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.

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