What is the role of the cashier? Surely it is not that of the helper. The cashier is, at base, the low-level security guard. The cashier is the executor of arbitrary access guidelines. Her most basic job function is to ensure that if one attempts to access a thing without “possessing” a defined number of points (USD in my context) that one will meet violence (or the threat thereof) at the hands of the appropriate person. In order to mask the arbitrary and violent nature of the relationship between customer and cashier, the cashier must convince the customer (and himself) that his role is that of the helper.
What then is the difference between the cashier and the bureaucrat of the totalitarian state dispensing rations? I’d suggest that the primary difference is in form of the categorical “gun” held to each of their heads. With the latter it is concentrated: if she does not uphold the guidelines of access, she faces the literal gun of her supervisor. With the former it is diffuse: if he does not uphold the guidelines of access, he faces the gun, not of his supervisor, but of the police officer, or, in an even more dispersed form, the metaphorical gun that is the threat of homelessness and starvation.