Good Men Project

Throw Beck Thursday: How to Maintain Your Sanity at the Cash Register

cash registerTired of watching your coins fly off the stack of wrinkly bills shoved into your palm? I have you covered.

beckI’m going to get to the world’s simplest and most satisfying hack, I promise, but first a rant. And before the rant, how about a little pre-rant about the post-rant rant? There’s always one Mr. Helper who wants to leave a comment along the lines of, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever read on Good Men Project.This wasn’t advice, it was just a rant.” See, Mr. Helper? I saved you some time by copping to the rant right up front. Now you can spend your free time pulling the heads off of Barbie dolls.

Anyway, one of my first jobs was working in a record store, which now that I say it aloud sounds roughly equivalent to “dispensing phosphates at Old Man Johnson’s pharmacy.” But yes, it’s true: There used to be an abundance of these strange things called “record stores” throughout the land, and I worked at one. My boss was a career retail man, the kind of guy that just doesn’t exist anymore because retail as a middle class career doesn’t exist anymore. He was a good guy, and like all people who are serious about their gigs he insisted on things being done right.

“Right” at the register meant counting back the customers’ change. This is a lost art, but it’s really simple. Let’s say that the customer’s purchase comes to $8.39 and the customer hands me a ten spot. I get her change — $1.61 — from the cash drawer and begin counting at $8.39, like this:

  • Drop the 61 cents into the customer’s palm and say “there’s nine,” and then–
  • Set the bill on top of the coins in the customer’s hand and say “and one makes 10.”

Pretty damned easy, isn’t it? But at some point between the era when I was riding the family mule to work and today, this fundamental money handling skill has become a lost art. Oh, occasionally I run across someone who knows how to count back change, but more often the cashier takes my coins, balances them on top of a stack of wrinkly bills, and then with the steady hands of a surgeon drops the pile of money into my outstretched palm at which time my 61 cents makes a run for the border. Sometimes the tinkling of scattered coins elicits a “whoops, sorry about that,” and sometimes I get the baffled “why’d you drop your change, idiot?” look.

I know that I’m not the only one who is frustrated by this, but my frustration is compounded by the facts that: A) My old boss beat “the right way” into my brain; and B) I’m batshit crazy. I dwell on the tiniest things, or at least I did before I discovered the joy of prescription pharmaceuticals. My shirts hang in color and style order, for example —a place for everything and everything in its place. Routine, process, and order are my friends. “Five minutes to Wapner” is just good planning in my world.

For years I’ve battled with the crumpled bill and coin tower. I’ve asked cashiers to hand me the coins first. I’ve offered lessons on counting change. I’ve asked to have my change set on the counter rather than playing Jenga with the 61 cents teetering atop my dollar bill. None of these remedies worked.

And this brings us to the stroke of genius that will earn me a place on the National Mall. My gift to humanity is this: Reach for your change palm down. Without an outstretched palm in which to pile the bills and coins Jenga tower, your friendly cashier will have a brief moment of confusion: How am I supposed to make his pennies roll under that old lady, he or she will be wondering. This is when you grab the bills out of the cashier’s hand by pinching them (the bills, not the cashiers) between your fingers as if they were a pair of scissors. Then simply turn your hand over and let the cashier drop your 61 cents into your empty palm.

There you have it: a simple, polite, elegant way to ensure that you don’t spill your change all over Starbucks. You’re welcome, humanity!

Or you could just use your debit card, but that’s a different rant.

modified photo Steve Snodgrass / Flickr Creative Commons

originally posted at The Good Men Project

Categories: Good Men Project

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