my two cents’ worth

Well, well, well! Two days ago, I put on my best pair of smarty pants to write about receiving the wrong change and the implications. I posted “Correct change, please” on this blog, and within two hours those smarty pants were pulled down around my ankles!

I could not tell you about this, but it is important for me to re-examine the lesson purportedly learned in “Correct change, please”. Call it coincidence, call it the work of Ye Gods righting a wrong, or just call it ironic, but I found myself in the same situation as the cashier at the fast food restaurant who gave me incorrect change. [You can re-read the post for details.]

Ahem! A small group of four came into the museum and walked around to see the exhibits. One woman decided she wanted some souvenirs, and selected a bumper sticker and a magnetized yellow ribbon to attach to her car. One cost $2.12 and the other cost $3.21, for a total of $5.33.

When people buy things at the museum, one has to log the purchase in a ledger as well as make change from a cash register. The ledger is simple enough, but I’ve operated the cash register maybe four times since they got it, always after weeks in between uses. In the good old days, one made change from a cash box, which didn’t take much skill. The cash register isn’t that difficult to use, though I am very slow on it for lack of experience.

There are keys to punch for each type of souvenir. Punch the sticker key, then the price. Punch the magnet key, then…what? No key for that, and people are waiting so they can get on the road..! Stumbling around trying to sort the transaction into a category, I discover “other” on a key. “Other” is a term often used on charts or breakdowns of data to show “there are several unrelated categories combined here that represent a tiny percent of the whole, so I didn’t bother to categorize them for you”.

While doing this piddling around, the woman handed me some money, a $20.00 and $.35 in coins, with the intention it’d simplify the transaction. I hit the total button to open the cash register to get change, then realized – shit! – I should have hit the subtotal key because now there’d be no record of how much she gave me and the amount of change returned. No real issue since the cash will total out the same, but how it got there will be a bit vague, I guess. I took two $.01 coins out to further simplify the transaction, then realized…um! How does that simplify it? I should make change all at once.

Perhaps I should set this up like I did the fast food transaction:

The woman wanted to buy two items for $5.33, and gave me $20.35 to pay for it. Her change would be $15.02, $.02 of which I just gave her. I mentally added the two up, but I couldn’t see the $5.33 on the cash register tape. That gave me a bit of a panic. If there are errors on that, I don’t have any training on what I’m supposed to do.

In past, since I rarely use the machine, I’ve simply left notes to the curator so she could figure it out. There’s no curator at the moment. Confusion. I apologised to the woman for being so slow since I am not that familiar with the machine. In the process, the confusion, I also became totally incapable of figuring out how much she had coming back! (“Take that smarty pants!” Down around my ankles, people. Down around my ankles, and they are my best pair of smarty pants at that!)

Where X is the change coming to the woman:

X = ($20.00 + $.25 + $.05 + $.05) – ($2.12 + $3.21)

[I confused things at this point by giving her two $.01 coins of the change coming to her, telling her that’d simplify it for me!]

X = ($20.35 – $.02) – $5.33
X = $20.33 – $5.33
X = $15.00, so I hand her a $10.00 bill and go blank on what further change she’s owed!

I fumbled around, found a piece of paper to do a manual calculation (!) of the transaction since I stumbled using the cash register. Kind of like the time, after I got used to using a pocket calculator at work, I used the calculator to figure out how much 10 times a number would be. Yes, I actually did that! I was embarrassed that day, too!

She, a bit perturbed by now, curtly noted I owed her $5.00 more. I don’t think I thanked her for the purchase, I was so embarrassed after my very public abuse of the young lady at the fast food restaurant. I was very glad to see that party leave.

Besides, her husband was hacking like he had a bad cold, something that I am too susceptible to because of my weakened immune system. I especially was glad he was gone! He’d been standing too close to us, hacking, during this transaction, which was a distraction on top of my non compos mentis [i.e. “senior moment”] breakdown.

This is what I thought I learned from the fast food transaction where I was shorted $.10: “I told myself not to help the cashier again, and $.10 is a small price to pay for that lesson!” And my moment? So, what, if anything, did I learn from my failure to handle a simple cash transaction?

1. Be patient with people who are just learning how to use tools to do cash transactions. I got zero instruction on the cash register, but sort of understand how it works, thanks to making mistakes every few weeks when I have to use it. The young cashier, clearly new at her job, probably knew how to handle exact cash and cash transactions where the purchase price is subtracted from a $10.00 or $20.00, for example, but the extra change on top of the currency I gave her was just enough different from what she expected that she went into a small panic trying to handle me promptly. I got to walk a bit in her shoes Thursday at the museum!

2. You aren’t making things simpler for the cashier by adding a few coins on top of a bill that’s large enough to pay for the whole transaction. It may save you getting some unwanted coins in change, but it is an atypical transaction. Your intent may seem obvious, and may actually save some effort, but it can also confuse. [“Twenty, twenty-twenty-five, twenty-thirty, twenty-thirty-one, twenty-thirty-two, twenty-thirty-three, erm, and I gave you two cents, so, erm, twenty-thirty-four and -five. Um…that right?!” No, you start counting the change, not the amount given you, stupid! “Ten, fifteen! There you go! Thank you for supporting the museum!”]

3. Be patient with myself. I am comfortable with numbers. I salivate over a well-drawn chart. I find statistics yummy. I know how to count out change. So, don’t let a disease-hacking husband, an impatient wife, and an unfamiliar cash register be cause for excoriating myself. Heck, it is ludicrous to think about, but to show self-contempt by spitting in my face, I’d either have to spit into the wind or tilt my head back, spit up, and wait. Don’t be silly!

And that’s my two cents’ worth. Be kind to each other. Be patient. Be tolerant. You don’t want to be be caught in an unsettling coincidence, a provocation of Ye Gods where they must right your wrong, or catch yourself being ironic. To do so is to risk ruining your best smarty pants!