Change First, Then Bills

The cashier – one of the the most widely used yet under-appreciated members of our economy. From gas stations to grocery stores, you find cashiers just about everywhere, but rarely do you find a cashier who is competent. That is to say, there is more to cashiering than ringing up a customer, taking their money and giving them the correct amount of change. There is also giving the customer their change back correctly.

I know most businesses don’t train their cashiers in this seemingly minute aspect of the job. I wasn’t when I first became a full time cashier. Actually, it was an experience I had on the customer side of the counter shortly after landing this cashiering job at a Minneapolis liquor store. I noticed I had a more difficult time managing my cash when the coins were placed on top of the bills, but if my coins were placed in my hand first and then the bills, it was much easier. Placing the coins on top meant crushing my bills in my hand to hold onto my change, whereas with the coins being given first the cup of my hand held my change, perhaps with a few fingers closed, but my thumb and forefinger could hold onto a few bills without crumpling them. This latter method also made it considerably easier for me to place my cash back into my wallet. This became my standard method for giving my customers their change.

While that was many years ago, I still notice when cashiers give my my change wrong, and it seems it’s grown more prevalent over time. Perhaps it’s not entirely the failure of retailers to properly train their cashiers in the finer points of cash transactions, but maybe there is also the lack of common sense that pervades so many levels of our society today. I once asked a cashier who gave me my change incorrectly why it was they gave me my bills first, and then my coins. “So that you see I gave you the change,” he said. I replied, “because I wouldn’t see or feel the coins if you gave them to me first?” He didn’t really have an answer for that.

This pet peeve reached a boiling point for me this Christmas when a young man at a downtown retailer gave me my bills then placed the coins on the very edge of them. The coins instantly slid on the paper and fell all over the counter. He apologized, but it was too late – I had already gone a bit over the edge myself. I apologized to him because, frankly, he was an immigrant and I didn’t want him to think it was him personally. I may have snapped a bit inside, but Christmas is hardly the time for incivility. I told him, “it’s not just you, but you need to give change first, then bills!”

Now I feel a bit possessed, and I take it back. Perhaps it is a failing of retailers to not train their cashiers in the finer points of cash transactions. How else is the cashier to know if we can’t rely on common sense? We’re talking about a society in which “Contents May Be Hot” appears on coffee cups, after all. I fail to see how any customer should feel compelled to train a cashier who is already on the job, though they sorely need it. Then again, it is incumbent on the customer to let management know when there is a problem with the service. I, for one, am not dissuaded by the thought of taking my opinion up with management. I rather relish the idea of improving cashiering skills as it beats the alternative of picking my change up off the floor.

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2 Responses to Change First, Then Bills

  1. 71LesPaul says:

    I love the cashier rant Drae.. yer killing me! May someday I be your cashier and you hand me a $20 bill for something that costs $5.07 so I can pour 3 quarters a dime a nickel and 3 pennies on top all the bills and watch them roll away while smoke pours out your ears. ha.

    I think cashiers are trained to count the change back as they hand it over to make sure its right so they start with the bills. OK Thats 10,11,12 dollars and thirty four cents.. Thanks and c’mon back.

    I have a couple cashier pet peeves but they are more specific to drive through cashiers. 1. Please speak clearly into the microphone. 2. Please fill up my coffee all the way. That is all.

  2. Drae says:

    Well – the old fashioned way would have you give me the 93 cents first, because that would make 6 dollar, and then 14 makes 20… but hardly anyone gives change that way anymore, which is too bad. It could improve math skills if everyone had to give change the old fashioned way…

    And since I wrote this, no one has given me my change back incorrectly.

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