Exact change

UnknownI hate to sound like an old crotchety woman but WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY??? Let me start by saying that back in the day, I could ring a pretty efficient register. I could key in items, add tax, note which items were tax free, and here’s the best part; I could figure out how much change the customer was due and count it back to them properly and politely. There were no computerized cash registers to tell us ringers how much money to return and because of that, we could actually figure it out in our heads, make sense of it and count it back to the paying party.

Let’s contrast this with today. Last week I was at a certain Christian hobby store and my bill came to $21.52. I was holding a twenty dollar bill and a five dollar bill. I hadn’t yet handed them to the cashier. She, however, took it upon herself to ring in $25.00. But as I continued to dig around in my wallet, I found a single and .52 cents. I said, “Here you go,” and handed the young lady $26.52. The look on her face was sheer panic. She began to stutter and I feared she might shortly hyper-ventilate.

“Are you okay?” I inquired with serious concern. “I…I… I…already rang it in,” she said.
“Well, that’s okay,” I spoke as if I were coaxing a would-be jumper from a very high ledge. “You just need to give me a five dollar bill and we’re good to go.” Unfortunately, this continued to baffle my young friend. All color had drained from her countenance. “I…can’t do that,” she stammered. “I need to give you the change from the $25 I rang in.”

I thought about explaining that I didn’t really want four dollars and .48 cents shuffling about in my wallet, and that I had actually simplified the equation by supplying her with the extra $1.52. But since there was a long line of religious crafters behind me, I chose to simply give her the $25 dollars and move on with my life. After all, WWJD?

But this kind of event is occurring more and more frequently. Yesterday I stopped in one of my favorite bath stores. I ended up spending $32.25. I happen to have been carrying a $100 bill that I wanted to change into something smaller, so I paid with the bill and a shiny new quarter. Once again, panic ensued. The young gal behind the counter stood there stunned, looking at me as if I had handed her Rubles or Euros or Yen. After what felt like an inordinate amount of time she called for a manager to check the validity of my hundred and asked what she should do with the extra quarter I’d supplied. Luckily the manager, a ripe 30 something, keyed in the precise amount and the register responded that the customer was due the exact sum of $68. The sales girl then grabbed some cash from the drawer in a haphazard manner and dumped a wad of cash into my palm.

Gone are the days of counting back change to a customer so that she knows she is, in fact, receiving the correct amount of cash return. But seriously, how do you know you are getting the appropriate amount of change? I mean, computers do make errors, as do impulsive youth. I carefully counted back my change in front of the young woman, hoping that perhaps I could teach her by example a more appropriate way of delivering change to a paying consumer. She merely looked at me with annoyance for delaying the other customers behind me in line.

Look, I have no problem with the fact that all salespeople appear to be under the age of 15. Likewise, I’m not one of those people who walks down a hospital corridor wondering why all the doctors barely look old enough to drive. I appreciate that we are a young, vital society and that the youth are the future of our great nation. But there really is a need for young people to be able to do basic arithmetic in their heads and if we are to be a capitalist society, people need to understand how to count money, make change and respect the purchasing process.

There, I’ve said it. Now I’m going to sit in my rocker, crank up the phonograph and enjoy turning on and off the lights with my Clapper.

My two cents…literally


So we’re hanging at Z Pizza, me and the boys. Levi’s just inhaled his second humongous slice of za and Eli’s barely touched his first. “Mom, can I go get another piece?” my bottomless pit of a son asks. I sigh a bit hopelessly as I contemplate how we’re going to feed him for the next 9 years until he turns 18. “Of course,” I say, forcing a smile. I reach into my wallet and hand him a five. “This should cover it.” Of course the counter is 4 feet away, so if my fin doesn’t suffice, I can step in and cover the difference.

Levi orders politely and pays for his pizza. Then he brings me the change. “Here you go,” he says, as he places a few coins in my palm. “Mom,” he adds, still gripping a penny, “Can I have this for the ‘take a penny, give a penny’ pot by the cash register?” I once again oblige and he bops back to the counter, penny in hand.

When he comes back to the table he looks really perplexed. I notice a penny still clenched between his thumb and forefinger. “I don’t really get this,” he says looking at the penny. “It says ‘take a penny, give a penny.’ But now I’ve just got a different penny. I mean, what’s the point?”

“Honey,” I say trying not to laugh, “they don’t mean ‘exchange’ a penny. The idea is that if you have an extra penny or two, you can leave them for someone who might need a penny sometime in the future. Does that make sense?”

“But why would anyone ever NEED a penny? You say all the time that they’re just worthless pieces of copper that ought to be done away with.”

“That’s true,” I concede. “But people do still use them and sometimes it’s easier to borrow a penny and not end up with a fist full of change.” I quickly realize that this simple concept is morphing into a complex dissertation. “Like if your bill comes to $20 and two cents, you’d rather just pay the two cents than walk away with 98 cents.”

He’s a smart kid, but I can see he’s having trouble wrapping his mind around this. “Whatever,” he harumphs, eyes grazing the ceiling, “Grown-ups are just…weird.”

“Yes they are,” I concur. “Now why don’t you sit down and eat your pizza.”

“Actually,” he announces without a trace of regret, “I’m not really hungry anymore.”
And with that, he tosses his perfectly good slice of uneaten pizza into the trash and I erupt like a verbal volcano. “You just wasted four dollars. We could have at least taken that piece home, or your brother might have wanted it. Why would you do something like that?”

“Because mom,” he reasoned, pointing to a sign on the wall above my head, “It says ‘please discard all uneaten food into appropriate trash container.”

I thought about explaining that sometimes grown-ups don’t actually say exactly what they mean. But I let it go this time, too tired for yet another foray into the realm of his intellectual curiosity.

“Come here, you silly boy,” I said opening my arms for him to snuggle into. He obliged at first and then pulled away.

“Come on, mom,” he said quietly, as he wiggled out of my embrace, “someone might see us.”

I let him go, a bit sadly I must admit. Guess my little guy’s growing up.