You get given too much change in a store...

You pay for some item, say (£/)1.99 with a (£/)5 note, the cashier gives you 8.01 change (thinking you paid with a ten), you notice immediately, but do you own up? or will you pocket the extra and walk out smiling?

A few years ago I would have considered it a good return on my investment and would have pocketed the excess change… it’s my lucky day.
Now, I would point out the excess and return it to its rightful owner (not me) as soon as possible.

I’ve always given the excess back. I’d want them to do the same for me.

If I notice immediately I give the money back.

If I notice after I left the store I keep it. It is not worth my time/energy/gas to go back to the store to return $8 because their cashier wasn’t paying attention.

I would give it back.

If it’s a large amount, they’re gonna be short a lot, and the cashier will be blamed. That’s not fair, even though he or she did give me too much back.

If it’s a small amount, they might not be short much, but someone will notice. Plus, if I play the part of the Good Samaritan and return the not-mine money, who knows? Maybe they’ll give me a coupon or a discount on a future purchase. You never know. It can pay to be the good guy. Even if they don’t offer anything, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I did the Right Thing.

I was once given US$20 too much back in change. The following thoughts ran through my head in about 0.4 seconds:
“Too good to be true” … “probably is” … (George Carlin’s voice) “You know how to get rid of counterfeit money? Put it in the collection plate at church” … (unknown news reporter’s voice) “twenties are the most frequently counterfeited bills because they’re large enough to get change back from and small enough not to attract attention” …

At which point I handed the bill back to the guy and said, “Thanks, this is yours.”

I’m pleasantly surprised so far.

Speaking for myself, I will always give it back if I notice straight away, I like to think that (especially in small stores that I use frequently, so I get to be known) it just might be useful if I’m falsely accused of something or other (and this has happened to me before, although it didn’t go as far as the police) and I need a character reference.

I always give it back, definitely. I give it back if it’s a dime too much.

What’s odd/sad is how genuinely surprised some retail staff are when I do this.

It’s happened to me several times - and I always point out the error to the cashier. The most interesting reaction was the girl at the McD’s drive-thru - she gave me change for a $20 when I’d only given here $2. Poot thing was nearly in shock when I pointed it out and gave her $18 back.

What amazed me was how many of my friends said they’d have kept the money… didn’t know I consorted withthieves…

I paid for some stuff at a Dunkin Donuts one time, and the cashier gave me back a Susan B. Anthony silver dollar as part of my change instead of a quarter. I noticed it when I got home, pointed it out to my wife, and went back to get the correct change.

The cashier could not believe that I would drive back to his establishement just to give back $0.75. He was stunned. I didn’t think it was a big deal.

I would definitely give it back if I noticed, even though sometimes people are pissed, like you are calling them out on their mistake or something.

If it is too late to give it back, I make sure to donate it somewhere because I couldn’t keep it.

I am, I feel, always growing as a person.

Years ago, I usually kept it. My rationalization was as follows:

  1. The store accounts for such losses in their pricing.
  2. If the cashier doesn’t do that often, they won’t be fired.
  3. If the cashier does do it often, they deserve to be fired.

But then I had an epiphany of sorts, and realized I was just being a jerk. Now I’m scrupulously honest in all things. I’d return the change.

I also don’t pirate software, which is exactly the same thing as shoplifting.

I just give it a real quick lookover; you know, if there should be bills, make sure there are indeed bills. I don’t actually count it, because sometimes I’ll get too much, sometimes too little, and mostly just right. It all evens out in the end.

I always give the excess back. It’s the right thing to do.

OK, how about if it wasn’t money, but goods, consider:

You pick up two of something, but the cashier only charges you for one.

Does the price make a difference to whether you tell them about the above?


You get outside the shop and a fair way down the road and you notice that your 2-year-old child, whose pushchair you casually parked next to a rack of stuff, has picked up something and stashed it in the pushchair - do you go back?
(This actually happened to me and before you call me stupid for leaving the chair next to something the kid could pick up, let me tell you it was a two litre bottle of lemonade that she pulled out of a shrink-wrapped crate, after tearing through the plastic wrapping)


This has happened to me before. I saw a spice rack that I wanted and it looked like there were two or them for $3.96. I thought, “Hey, two spice racks for $4, great deal. I’ll get a box.” I paid for them and took them home and they sat there for two weeks before they finally got hung on the wall. My SO is the one who discovered that there were 2 individual boxes. There was a flap sticking up on each box and some how they got stuck together. If I’d known this at the time I would have said something but since 2 weeks had gone by I didn’t do anything about it.

If I get too much change back I always say something unless I’ve already left the store. I would feel really guilty if I kept the money knowing that I had the chance to speak up and make it right.

My mother on the other hand, is too honest for her own good. We were leaving Wal-Mart one day (I was about 10 at the time) and she noticed a quarter sticking out of one of the soda machines. She pulled the quarter out and a whole shitload of change came out in the change return. She must have spent 15 minutes digging all the change out of that machine and picking it up off the ground. She had about $5 in change and she took it back into Wal-Mart and told the lady at the service desk what happened. The lady looked at her like she was a nut… returning 5 bucks in change. Anybody else would have either ignored the quarter sticking out of the machine or else dug out all the change they could and run off. Not my mother though. :rolleyes: I swear, sometimes I think she’s a friggin’ saint… it drives me crazy.

OK, let’s see if this is ethics, or showmanship!

You stop in at the convenience store on the way to work, just like always. You get in line, just like always, and as is often the case, the arrogant snot from downstairs at the office is in line ahead of you. Both of you go through the line, he buys twenty lottery tickets, you buy one. Things are a bit confused at the check out counter. You grab your ticket, your donut, your coffee, and he grabs his stuff. You go your separate ways.

Comes lotto day, you pull out your ticket. Oops, tickets! You have an extra one. One of them has your usual choice, always the same numbers, Myrna Loy’s birthday, and the chapters of your favorite biblical verses. You know which one is yours, and you are pretty sure the other one must be the Snot’s. He wins.

Who gets the 15 million dollars?

Makes a difference when it’s more than pocket money? But ethics are ethics.


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle ~

A little or a lot, I give it back. A while back I got home before I realized I had been charged $70 for $156 worth of developing and prints (from a two-week dive trip). Went back to the store and paid the difference. The clerk was amazed.
The good news is, it rubbed off and my kids (all grown up) do the same.

I give it back if I notice it right away. If I don’t notice it until I get home, and if it’s small change, I just let it slide. Sometimes I probably shortchanged and don’t notice, so it all comes out in the wash.

Excellent case in point: the vending machines in our building malfunction all the time–eat your money, fail to dispense your candy bar, fail to return change, give you two of something, or give you stuff for free. I figure in the end, it’s all good, so I neither file a claim when it doesn’t work, nor attempt return money and/or product if the error is in my favor.

If a cashier overpays more than, say, five bucks, I’ll go back and return it, even if it meant an extra trip.

As for Triskadecamus’ example, for a larger amount of money, I’d be more motivated to return it. If I accidentally got the guy’s pack of Doublemint or something, I might not go out of my way to give it back, but a winning lottery ticket? How could I keep it in good conscience? A $15 million dollar lottery award would affect every aspect of my life! I’d go out to my new car (pang of guilt) to drive to my new house (pang of guilt) and watch my big screen entertainment center (pang of guilt). . . I couldn’t live like that, no matter what a creep the guy was.

Even if we’d both done random draws so it was unclear which if us had purchased the winning ticket, I’d explain the situation and offer to split 50-50 with him

Triskadecamus, all I can say is I hope I’m never faced with that situation, or if I am, the other person is Bridget Fonda instead of the Snot.

Rachelle, I’ve never won a “jackpot” like your mom did at Wal-Mart, but when I find money at a vending machine or get the candy bar for free or get two bars instead of one, etc. I usually just keep it.

I know that contradicts my earlier post, but a mature ethics is by definition complicated and has exceptions. In the case of vending machines I figure the times I lose money in them without reimbursement (and I never seek reimbursement from the establishment that hosts the machine) balance the times I get freebies out of them.