It’s all about the change darlin’ – it’s all about change

by lulujane on January 1, 2011

it is just changeWhen I was very young, I knew how to count change. By that, I mean that if someone bought something for $2.31 and they gave me $5, without the aid of a calculator or cash register, paper or pen  telling me how much the change was, I could give someone the correct amount of change.  My sense is that this simple task is becoming a lost art.

Since computerized cash registers have calculated the amount of change , it has become common for a cashier to complete our transactions by just dumping a handful of change into our hand.  And me, like most other customers do not count, do not question; we just put it into our purse or pocket and off we go.

The same can be said for signing a Visa slip when charging a purchase.  The casher rings up or scans a number of items and has us sign the Visa chit, and we do so without first being shown the receipt to make sure we are authorizing the proper amount.  In fact, we don’t even get to see the cash register receipt before signing. Ditto for checking a restaurant receipt when dining out.  Many people look only at the amount of the tax to help them calculate an approximate 15% tip. In some stores an electronic screen is in view so we can watch items being recorded; other stores do not allow us this courtesy.

When and how did we become so casual in our relationships with money and cashiers?

I keep my cash register slips and compare them at month end to my debit and credit accounts.  A couple of times I thought there was an error and when I checked with Visa discovered that the merchant name from another city that I didn’t recognize was actually a vendor at a local arts and craft show.  When I saw one of my adult sons toss away a cash register receipt I wondered aloud if he checked them against his statements. He doesn’t and asked me “really mom, have you ever found a mistake?’. In his own way he was telling me that I worry too much and am wasting my time.  Admittedly, though I have been painstakingly executing this task for many years, errors have either been small and few or non-existent.  Does this mean I don’t have to do this anymore?

This all came to mind yesterday when unexpectedly a cashier actually counted the change into my hand – not going from the amount of the purchase to the amount given to her, but by verbally matching what she gave me with the amount on the cash register screen.  This is not a common practice. Usually I am told the amount of my change, or not, and then it is given to me.

I believe that if I were in almost any store in North America and the power went out, the cashier would have to decline the processing of my purchase because he or she would’t know how to give change.  I think that is sad.

I get annoyed with myself for being so blase’ about being given a handful of change and without even looking up, tucking it away without checking it and moving on to the next store to do the same.  However, I am heartened when an alert cashier tells me I have given them too much money.

Most of the time in these transactions I am dealing with  ‘small change’  and yet I continue to wonder when I hand over the cash or sign an authorization slip  if I am putting too much trust into machines and people I don’t even know.

Perhaps it’s all about the change darlin’ – it’s all about change.

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