I am getting very scared about the fact that cashiers who are teenagers and people in their 20s are unable to do two digit addition and subtraction, specifically, giving back proper change, when they are working as cashiers.
I am speaking of American born people, mostly Caucasian people from suburbs and some from quite wealthy towns in my area of Connecticut. Additionally we have a problem with Immigrants (assumed by me to be immigrants since they have thick accents) who are not able to make change either but I have more empathy for them as they are not in their native country and who knows what kind of education they received.
Lastly, there is an issue with all cashiers of all backgrounds sometimes lacking the ability to properly identify American coins and their denomination. Yes I also do mean American born people cannot properly identify coinage.
I am very scared about this.
For the last month I have been doing some errands and making small purchases with cash in Connecticut and Massachusetts. I refuse to use my credit card for transactions under $10 and quite frankly refuse to use it at certain types of shops, for example, at fast food restaurants. I just am used to paying cash at such places and think I should be able to continue to do so. Since we went out of state we had more chances to eat fast food and to do other small purchases, more than my usual.
I used to correct the cashiers and help them. I now refuse to help them along by doing the math for them unless the issue is that they are not giving me back what I am due. I used to also give money back if the cashier made a mistake and gave me too much money. However I now feel that in doing that, although it is the honest thing to do, I refuse to do it out of the principle, and sometimes I don’t realize their error until I leave the store, with cash in hand. If the establishment does not know their cashiers can’t do their job then the person will keep doing it. I think these businesses (grocery stores, fast food shops, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) should realize that their cashiers can’t do math and they should do something about it such as train them or teach them or at least fire them for incompetency so the person themselves starts to realize that their lack of math ability needs addressing. Instead I get people who laugh and joke about how bad they are in math. Give me a break, that is not funny, I am not laughing.
I will inject at this point that I am always polite to all cashiers and other service people. Having worked in those positions (waitress, bus girl, cashier, etc.) in the past I have empathy for all people who do those jobs. I never demean a person for their inability to do their job. I just am sharing with you, my growing worry and concern. As I get older and as the people younger than me begin to control the world that I live in I do get more nervous when I think that in general, stupidity is growing and the notion of ignorance spreading to even things such as simple addition and subtraction incompetence is frightening to me. Add onto this the fact that more people than ever now obtain college degrees and how much is spent on American public education, the fact that people in their teens and 20s can’t even make change and add and subtract money is really pathetic.
I hate walking around with a ton of change in my purse so I like to use it to round off the numbers. This completely miffs anyone under the age of 40 with the exception of the smart Indian guy who owns the gas station up the street from me; he can do his math very well. I am speaking of things like this:
Total of purchase $10.03
I give $20.05
They don’t understand why I am giving the extra 5 cents.
Total purchase 5.67
I give $6.02
They don’t understand why I am giving the extra 2 cents.
This one really gets them.
Total purchase $11.35
I give them $21.50
Wow, that freaks them out. They don’t want any paper money that puts this over $20. They would have preferred that I just gave them a $20 and left it at that.
Another stumper is when I give four quarters instead of a $1 bill, especially if there is other change given to them. They have to actually count the coins and add up the money rather than simply putting in a large bill denomination (like a $20).
Total purchase $4.22
I give them 3--$1 bills, and 5 quarters.
Too much for them to count, I guess?
Also in 1993 I visited Holland for the first time. I was so ignorant about the money there that I preferred to pay with paper money and make a quick transaction. The funniest thing was that the cahiers did not want this. They all, and I mean, all, asked me for change to add to it to use less paper money. I would explain that I am not so good with the coins yet and don’t want to bother them. Every single cashier asked me to show what I had and they’d pick out the right change and explain to me what each coin was and the denomination in a friendly manner. I was very surprised at how patient they were. Things were not rush-rush like here in America where the cashiers want you out of their face as soon as possible. I then began noticing how in Holland everyone was using coins with nearly every transaction and they were quite patient about it.
Back to America in 2006…
Some cashiers give a little outcry when I give this money. Some ask “Why are you giving this to me?”. Some repeat what it is as if I don’t know what I am giving them, as if I am making some mistake. I used to explain, “I want a nickel back not 80 cents” and they look at me as if I have three heads. Now I just politely say, “Just type it into the machine and it will tell you what to give back, I know what I am doing.” If I don’t say that sometimes they leave my change on the counter and just do the paper money and then push my own coins back at me along with the new change. Boy does that burn me up! I am left speechless when that happens and so far have not begun an argument about it.
However a real problem happens when they type in the wrong amount. For example they may assume that I was not giving change to them, and they have put in the even amount. Now the register tells them to give me back X and they stand there with coins from me and they have no clue what to do. Then they have to do the math in their head. Most just ask me to tell them what to give back, and then I tell them. What else am I to do? Should I be asking to speak to the store manager instead of just saying “Give me back 10 cents”.
One day the cashier ran out of dollar bills. Instead of giving me a ton of quarters she tried to give a zillion dimes as she found it easier to count by 10s to reach the dollar points. I refused to take it and made her give me quarters. She tried to protest but I didn’t let her get away with it.
The other day we went to McDonald’s for one Happy Meal. They rushed me through the drive-through. First off, I know it usually costs over $4 and I gave a $20 bill. I was never told what I owed. When I was given the change it had a $10, a $5 and a $1 plus change. I thought that odd but they rushed me off to the next window (the second window is where the receipt is given). It was not until after I parked and could look at the receipt that I realized that indeed the purchase was over $4 but she gave me back $16.66. I have no clue what she was thinking.
Last week instead of giving me a nickel a cashier gave me a quarter. Now that the nickels have those fancy illustrations on them like the quarters do, I guess it is confusing the cashiers. I know they are the same color but they are different sizes too but I guess not all cashiers realize this.
Last year I purchased a take out pizza and tried to pay with a $1 coin. The cashier, about 18 years old, gave it back and said that I mistakenly gave her my children’s toy money. I had to explain and show her that indeed it was real American money albeit not commonly used. I had been given a slew of those dollar coins one day at a store and wanted to use them up. I was miffed when she said she never knew that we had coins in one dollar denominations in this country.
Sometimes I don’t realize what is wrong until I am back in the car. Nowadays they shove the money at you so fast, and they don’t count it out. Especially when I was a girl and a teenager, back when everyone either used cash or check, the cashiers would do a few things differently.
First, they could do their math.
Second, they would tell you what you owe.
Third, they’d count back the change to you, counting up by giving you one coin at a time and then counting up with the paper money to get to the amount they tell you.
Lastly they’d actually thank you for your purchase.
Now the cashiers don’t tell you what you owe, they just stare at you (or they look the other way or talk to their co-workers) and stick their hand out, then they don’t count back the money, they often don’t even make eye contact through this process, and lastly they don’t thank you. I have found myself thanking them but then I wonder why do I thank them when they should be thanking me for making a purchase at that business?
What Is The Root Cause?
I blame the schools for this, plain and simple. There is no reason whatsoever that a teenager or a high school graduate, or a college graduate for that matter should be unable to make change, especially if they are working as a cashier. I just cannot understand this at all, how children and teens can go through school but be unable to subtract double digits.
I also blame an over-reliance on technology. I bet the stores are so worried that wrong change will be given out that they have forced the workers to use the cash register to the point where the cashiers are no longer required to think or practice their math, thereby the "use it or lose it" thing is an issue. When a person doesn't "use it" they "lose it".
Perhaps part of the problem is that more people are using credit cards and debit cards so the cashiers handle less cash. Perhaps the issue is that the over-reliance on calculators in the classroom and on the cashier’s job has made them unable to think through the change making process in their head. Perhaps the dropping of memorization of math facts contributes to this, I don’t know. Perhaps part of the issue is that they are not counting back the change to the customer and therefore they are not practicing their math skills (addition) and they are not also working with the coins to assign the proper denomination to them on a regular basis.
Back when I worked behind a cash register in the mid-1980s, we were not told to use the keys to put in the amount that they gave us. The owner and manager of the shop wanted us to just do the math in our head. I remember clearly once asking about this and I was told “Can’t you make change back?” I said that I could but since the cash register could do it, why don’t we use it? I was told that it adds too many steps and slowed things down. I was told that only stupid people need that feature. With that machine we could punch in the purchases then hit total or some other key and the drawer popped open. It was fast and we made change back to the customer by doing the math in our head and by counting out the coins as we went. If we had used the other feature as everyone seems to do now, we’d then have to do mores steps by punching in subtotal then the money they gave us and then the final button. So we skipped those steps. And believe me if we were unable to give back right change not only would the customers be very intolerant but so would our co-workers and the manager and owner. We were deemed stupid if we could not do simple addition and subtraction and no one wanted to be dumb. Worse, we had to balance out our cash registers at the end of our shifts and boy, had the totals better match! They always did match or else the amount was to be taken from our paychecks! If it was close we often would just pitch in the few cents from our tips to make it even out rather than be shamed or deemed incompetent.
One very disturbing thing is the apathy. The cashiers who can’t do this simple math laugh and joke about this with no shame, “Ha ha I am soooo bad at math!” they proclaim (insert various types of inflection, Valley Girl style, etc.). They smile a cute smile and try to make a joke of it. This is an issue with both females and males. Even the guys aren’t ashamed of their ignorance; there is no bravado there about their competence level or lack thereof. I don’t get the joke and think it is ridiculous that a cashier can work and not be able to make change back.
I really am disgusted by this issue!
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