# Store clerk doesn't understand cash.

There are three kinds of people in the world: people who can handle math, and people who can’t.

No kidding. A couple of years ago, there was a fish & chips stand at our local farmers’ market, \$6 per order. A high-school aged girl was behind the table and the mother was frying the food I ordered two orders and handed her a \$20. She turns to her mother and says, plaintively, “He gave me a \$20. . .” And the mother asks “Okay, so how much does he get back?” I thought the girl was going to start crying, so I said, quietly, “Eight dollars.” A high schooler who couldn’t subtract 12 from 20? Makes me despair for our school system.

I think the Mint did make posters. But that change-over happened long enough ago that all the posters would be long gone.

The machine did give the correct amount; the clerk could not count out \$16.85 correctly.

Here’s something that happened to a friend of mine a 20 or 30 years ago. There had been a power failure so that transactions had to be by hand. My friend bought something for \$1.99 and gave the clerk a couple dollars. She took out a pencil and paper, wrote down 2.00 and under it 1.99 and then painfully said “borrow one, but you cannot borrow from 0 so you have to borrow from 2 leaving 1 and ten in the tens place. Then borrow 1 from ten leaving 9 etc.” She correctly carried out the arithmetic and came to an answer of 1 cent and looked at him and asked whether that could be correct. He agreed but he was really nonplussed. And so am I. (Does nonplussed mean minussed?)

I’ve worked retail, in a convenience store. I am, not bragging, genuinely smart, as such things go. Academically gifted. Straight As in math.

At the end of an eight hour shift, I was brain fried. Even the simplest arithmetic might as well have been a Riemannian manifold. Have you ever just read or said the same word over and over and over again until it didn’t seem like a real word anymore? It was like that, but with numbers and mathematical operations. A couple of my co-workers were high school drop-outs, but didn’t have the same sort of problem. Their brains were just wired differently than mine. A couple of my co-workers started the shift without being able to reliably do simple math, though.

Some people are genuinely innumerate. Some people are lazy. And some people are just tired when you happen to interact with them.

Hah! I was buying a bottle of spices at WF once, marked down. Scanner rejected the substitute barcode, cashier did it manually and flubbed it, so register said \$1900-odd. We both look at register, then at each other, and he says, “Well, it IS Whole Foods…”

I’ve wondered if, had I been a corporate Secret Shopper, that would have gotten him fired. I loved it, if course.

I’d given up bothering to carry change, even before Covid19, in part because of incidents like these. Trying to optimize change just isn’t worth it anymore.

Those little sliding change thingies? I remember those from when I was a kid in the early 1970s. I thought they were as cool then as they are now.

But yeah, some people just don’t know how to make change.

I’ve seen that it’s polite to treat the customer – and therefore the change – with respect. It’s put on a tray and presented to you. You can both see it on the tray. You accept the change. If you want to count it as you put it away, the transfer has already taken place: you’re counting your own money, which is a little miserly, but nothing to do with the clerk. The clerk does the same after accepting payment from you.

Sure; that is how, to give a dangerous example, a dosage of 5.0 mg on a prescription turns into 50 mg, or a bottle of iodine is grabbed instead of morphine sulphate. It’s not because the doctors and pharmacists involved are all morons.

There are three kinds of mathematicians: those who can count and those who can’t.

See post 41.

There have been a few times in the last year where I have given the clerk
some bills and a Kennedy half dollar, When I got my change back it was obvious
that they had thought I had given them a dollar coin with the bills. I guess not
many people these days have seen a Kennedy half dollar coin.

Easy mistake to make. Half-dollar coins are bigger than dollar coins … it just seems like they oughta be worth more.

That’s the method I was taught when working retail back in the early 1970s; it’s foolproof and easy to learn. I was a little surprised to see people referring to store clerks being “bad at math” when they can’t make change; if you do it the way GaryM describes, you don’t need math at all!

Give someone a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and hope they don’t mistake it for a quarter.

Kind of tangentially related to what this whole thread is about. I tried to get my kids (young teens at the time) to watch Paper Moon with me and after we got past the argument about how it’s not in colour, so not worth watching, they couldn’t read the opening titles. Literally could not understand that the shapes on the screen represented letters.

This thread reminded me of something that happened a few years ago. I was at a fast-food place, ordered at the counter, and the total was \$8.01. I have no problem with rounding off a penny, but I didn’t think it was my call to make in this case. I owed them the penny, so only the clerk can waive that debt. I offered the guy \$9.00 (I probably even said “here’s nine”). I fully expected him to give me back one of the singles, rather than count out 99 cents. He put the nine dollars in the till, and then started to serve the next customer in line. I had to point out that he owed me change. He seemed unbelieving, and even a bit cross, that I’d given him more than \$8.00.

He did give me back a dollar, and I put it in the charity box next to the register.

What say you, Dopers? Was I wrong for offering to pay the full amount; can I just assume that pennies don’t count anymore?

At a convenience store, I figure they use the change dispensers for speed more than for accuracy.

Mangetout, sorry Paper Moon didn’t meet with a warmer reception in your family. Maybe try again now? It’s a longtime favorite of mine. So much good stuff packed in there! A great cast, funny dialogue, beautifully bleak Great Plains B&W cinematography, terrific chemistry between Ryan and Tatum O., etc.

I’d say, Robot_Arm, that you were within your rights to offer more money than the actual charge if you didn’t have a penny on you, and then to request your change when the clerk didn’t just shrug off the single cent and give you back a dollar.

Remember how they half-heartedly tried to get the Sacagawea coin right? At least they made it a different color that time. I wonder how many people under the age of 25 would know what one of those was if they were paid with it.