Today I bought a sandwich at Subway. 12″ ham on “Italian herbs and cheese” bread, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet onion sauce. After tax, the cost was $5.41. I handed a $10 bill to the young guy behind the register. By young I’m guessing 18ish.
As such I was going to get $4.59 in change. His change drawer was pretty much empty, and so while he was getting more change I fished around in my pocket for another penny so as to keep the number of coins to a more manageable 3 total. I offered the penny.
By now you’ve heard the story before. He apologetically said he’d already entered the figure, and I didn’t press the issue. Now you and I (and probably him once he thinks about it) know that it doesn’t matter what’s entered. If he gives me 59 cents or I give him 1 cent and he gives me 60, the value of money in the register is the same and that’s all that matters. Just because the machine says $4.59 doesn’t mean he has to stick with that if I give him more money. Now I’m a pretty easygoing guy so it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Small change will just go in the bowl at home. Still, it would have been nice to have 3 coins instead of 7.
On the other hand I can also defend him because I’ve been there. I’ve worked in the fast food industry at the register. Altering change on the fly is not as easy as the arithmetic makes it seem. Any distraction that causes an error is a potential angry customer, angry manager, and unbalanced register at the end of the shift. Bringing arithmetic into a high-speed high-stress environment is just not something that’s fun to deal with. Much preferred is (in this case) for me to have handed over $10.01 in the first place. That way I get my efficient change and the cashier doesn’t have to do math.
The other issue is scammers. There’s a well-known scam in which a person will pay with a large bill, ask to have it broken into smaller bills, the give some of those bills back for more changing, and go back and forth until the cashier is snowed into giving out much more money than was originally handed over. Generally the rule given by business handbooks is that if the exchanging goes more than one level deep, shut the cash drawer and call for a manager. So modifying the change is itself additionally stressful since it can (but usually doesn’t) portend a theft attempt.
Neither of these is really an issue in my particular case today. I was the only customer in the store, so there’s plenty of time and very little stress. And I was only handing a penny, so a scam would have been pretty darn difficult to run. Still, I can see things from his perspective at least a little bit.
So what do you think, is it better that I let it slide or should I have politely walked him through it in a friendly way? Yeah, I know that in the grand scheme of things this matters about as much as which sock to put on first. But I also know that this is the internet and the cosmic purpose of the internet is to beat trivialities to death.