Changing how I make change: why is how I did it offensive?
June 24, 2006 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Why is not placing change in a customer's hands offensive?

I just started working a summer job in retail (never worked retail before), and today I gave a woman a little more than $50 in change. I spread it out on the counter so she could see that I gave her correct change and she promptly (and harshly) let me know that next time I needed to hand it directly to the customer.

I asked a co-cashier with retail experience if this was a hard-and-fast rule. She said yes, and it was infinitely more offensive because I'm white and the customer was black. (Coworker has lived all her life in the South; I've never lived anywhere but the Upper Midwest and New York City.)

So my question is really many questions: is this a regional thing? An American thing? Am I completely ignorant for not knowing that everyone prefers their change in their hand (everyone excluding me, because I actually don't like it when cashiers place change directly in my hand)? And why is it so offensive: is it because they have to do more work? Or because there's an implication of not wanting to touch them? Or something else?
posted by anjamu to Human Relations (67 answers total)
 
I'd imagine it's because it's harder to pick coins up off a flat surface than to get them dropped into your hand. As a customer I don't care one way or the other, but I find that I do like having the change dropped in hand.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:28 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


(a) It's a pain to pick coins up off the surface.
(b) It looks like you don't want to touch them.
(c) If you need to "count" out the change, you can count it into their hand - hand it to them note by note, counting it out.
posted by Jimbob at 8:33 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


As a customer, I've nearly always received change in my hand. When I was working in the service industry, it simply never occurred to me NOT to place the change in the customer's hand. Also, we were taught to give the customer change first (in the hand), then bills, as it's easier for the customer to manage that way.

The one or two times a cashier has placed change on the counter, I've found it (very mildly) inconvenient, as I have to scoop up the change. Though I certainly wouldn't be offended by how someone gave me my change. For what it's worth, I've worked and lived mostly in Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 8:33 PM on June 24, 2006


Or because there's an implication of not wanting to touch them?

Yep
posted by doctor_negative at 8:35 PM on June 24, 2006


I also find it annoying when a cashier places the bills in my hand first, and then sticks the coins on top, which makes it easy for me to spill the coins all over when putting my change back into my purse.
posted by tastybrains at 8:37 PM on June 24, 2006


I corrected a cashier and from them on he dropped the change on the counter. I then did a Bill Clinton and told him how sorry I was to have hurt his feeling.
From then on he began to drop it back in my hand.
posted by zackdog at 8:37 PM on June 24, 2006


Some people can't pick up change from a flat surface. Think arthritis or something similar. (Not that it's easy for anyone.)
posted by smackfu at 8:39 PM on June 24, 2006


As a bank teller in college, I would count the money out on the counter, then scoop it up and hand it to the customer, not bothering to count out the coins, of course. Making them pick it up is inconvenient and it does come off as if you don't want to touch them. I don't like to touch people in general, so I had to consciously think to do it every time.

I also find it annoying when a cashier places the bills in my hand first, and then sticks the coins on top, which makes it easy for me to spill the coins all over when putting my change back into my purse.

Seconded.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:39 PM on June 24, 2006


I think the "offensive" part is regional, but it is a universal rule.

Also, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE count back change... a simple:

"Seven Fifty Six Total.... Out of Twenty (its important to say out loud what they gave you, to keep everyone honest).... Forty Four Cents makes Eight (place coins in hand), Nine, Ten, and Twenty (Bills start in left hand, pluck out each bill as you count it, arrange bills facing the entirely the same way as you count back to customer (face up and top towards palm of right hand is what I do/did...)


This is seriously one of the easiest ways to make sure you give back correct change and offer the proper respect to the customer. If you just dump all of the change back into the customer's hand, they will assume that you want nothing to do with them and they should get the hell out of your sight.
posted by hatsix at 8:45 PM on June 24, 2006


Not the case in Korea, at all.

It seems a little idiotic to me, to be honest, but then, so do a lot of things people do.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2006


I also find it annoying when a cashier places the bills in my hand first, and then sticks the coins on top, which makes it easy for me to spill the coins all over when putting my change back into my purse.

The reason why cashiers do that is so you can use the bills as a crude funnel to slide them into your change purse, other hand, or pocket. That's why I did it.

I agree that putting change onto the counter tells the customer that you're either lazy or don't want to touch the person. I wouldn't take it personally. As long as your smiling, being complimentary, and genuinely giving them good service, if someone says something about this, you can tell them (in your head) to fuck off.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2006


Erm, because picking up a bunch of coins is a huge pain in the ass?
posted by delmoi at 8:49 PM on June 24, 2006


The reason why cashiers do that is so you can use the bills as a crude funnel to slide them into your change purse, other hand, or pocket. That's why I did it.

Do people actually do that? It saves a lot of time and hassle to just have the coins placed in the palm of your hands.
posted by tastybrains at 8:53 PM on June 24, 2006


I'm white and the customer was black.

Oh man, you stumbled into some ugly racial history. During the decades of Jim Crow segregation in the United States, one of the ways blacks were demeaned is that physical contact between the races was prohibited. When a black person had to buy something from a white person in a store, the money was set on the counter in each case so that white hands would not be "dirtied" by touching black hands. For blacks, white people placing their change on the counter was like separate restrooms, like having to step off the sidewalk when a white person was coming the other way, like being called "boy." It was part of the daily humiliation of segregation.

You unwittingly reenacted this ugliness when you put the change on the counter. You didn't know the history, but as a black person, she did.
posted by LarryC at 8:57 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


In France, no one has ever handed me change, except in the street market, and then only occasionally. Each retailer has a little ceramic tray next to the cash register. The customer places his money in the tray, the shopkeeper picks it up, makes change and places it in the tray. At the markets people improvise if there is no formal countertop, etc.

Ditto on placing change in the hand first, then the bills. This works much better for me.
posted by shifafa at 9:02 PM on June 24, 2006


I also find it annoying when a cashier places the bills in my hand first, and then sticks the coins on top, which makes it easy for me to spill the coins all over when putting my change back into my purse.

Same here. Which might have been another reason I did it.

I used to give people change in restaurants, and I never was corrected on how I did it. I can't say that I didn't put it in their hands either, though.

And just so we're all clear, I've learned my lesson on what to do; I just want to know why (some) people are offended if you don't. Not annoyed, offended.

Keep the responses coming!
posted by anjamu at 9:05 PM on June 24, 2006


Not the case in Korea, at all.

Stav, interesting you'd say that. When Koreans started moving to NYC in significant number (during the 80s, I believe), many set up small corner delis (groceries). Often these were in underserved areas, including nonwhite-majority neighborhoods. Initial happiness about having nearby shops often led to complaints about perceived subpar service. Eventually deli owners learned to acculturate and smile at customers, hand them change, hire some local kids, etc.
posted by rob511 at 9:10 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


LarryC, that was the gist of what my co-worker implied (and what I was afraid of).
posted by anjamu at 9:11 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wow. It's not your fault, but I'm surprised the woman was so polite. To me, this is one of those situations where there's no automatic right or wrong way to do things, but there is a cultural norm, and once you act differently from the norm, people will look for or assume reasons why.

For an opposing example; if I lived in a culture where putting the change into a pot was normal, and a cashier handed to me, I'd wonder if they were flirting, thought I was too stupid or clumsy to pick it up myself, or something else.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2006


I also find it annoying when a cashier places the bills in my hand first, and then sticks the coins on top, which makes it easy for me to spill the coins all over when putting my change back into my purse.

Even more annoying are those troglodytes who pile the coins onto the bills and then hand them to you together. Arrgh!
posted by dobbs at 9:24 PM on June 24, 2006


I guess also, putting the change on the table is the norm in a restaurant. Interesting.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:25 PM on June 24, 2006


After the LA riots, I read somewhere that being a shopkeeper is an extremely humiliating profession for a Korean.
posted by brujita at 9:27 PM on June 24, 2006


It's not your fault, but I'm surprised the woman was so polite.

Polite she wasn't. I apologized, and her response was "Yeah." I felt ignorant and humiliated afterward.

She had her reasons for being harsh, but this wasn't a gentle reminder.
posted by anjamu at 9:41 PM on June 24, 2006


In Japan too the norm is to count back change with the notes first and then place the coins on top. It's more entertaining that way because the coins frequently bounce off and you can play "Chase the Coins" with the other customers.

Some local places though count back the notes and give you a chance to put them in your wallet/purse/backpocket before giving you the coins.
posted by gomichild at 9:51 PM on June 24, 2006


What I mean is - this is so loaded, I think many people in her situation would have demanded their money back, called a manager and made a big scene that would have included challenging you or the store directly for being racist.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:55 PM on June 24, 2006


When I started working retail, I said I'd put the coins in the customer's hand first - because as a customer, that's how I like it. But I ended up doing it the bills first way, because I wanted the customer to see that I was giving them the correct change, and I'd say "$5 and 50c", and hand over the change as I said it.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:02 PM on June 24, 2006


What I mean is - this is so loaded, I think many people in her situation would have demanded their money back, called a manager and made a big scene that would have included challenging you or the store directly for being racist.

I mean, yeah, I guess. I think the accusation would fall squarely on me, as almost everyone else who works at the store is black (it's not like I singled out my one 'black co-worker' to ask about it, I just asked her because I know her best).

Had she called a manager, well, I can't say what they would have done. They never specifically trained me to give people their change directly - and I am still very new at this job - but it would have been easy to fire me. Then again, if she had made a scene, I think I would have quit on the spot just for feeling so ashamed/humiliated/ignorant. No one would have needed to fire me.

My bosses like me, and I think they're smart enough to tell that I'm clearly not racist, but even having to address the issue would have made me feel like I couldn't show my face in there again.
posted by anjamu at 10:03 PM on June 24, 2006


But I ended up doing it the bills first way, because I wanted the customer to see that I was giving them the correct change, and I'd say "$5 and 50c", and hand over the change as I said it.

I'd do the same thing- only, I would keep the change in the bills like a funnel and flip it over at the last moment so the coins did land in their hand first after they were able to see the coinage. It's kind of tricky at first to prevent spillage, but it's very convenient to show the change clearly and get it to them without causing aggravation.
posted by jmd82 at 10:10 PM on June 24, 2006


I hate having change placed in my hand, but it does seem to be the norm. It annoys me because I assume that the cashier dislikes physical contact with strangers as much as I do, and that we are enacting this asinine ritual which we both find distasteful out of some mindless sense of class roles; but I find it difficult to avoid, to the point where, even if I have my hands at my side, the cashier will stand there holding my change out in midair until I get the hint. (Most annoying is when the cashier is female and, if I'm unable to avoid brief skin-to-skin contact while taking my change, looks at me as though I've just groped her on the subway.)

But I'm not black and have no idea what racial baggage may be attached to this interaction.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:24 PM on June 24, 2006


It's not offensive.
Your customer severely overreacted.

That said, yes, in just about every store, the tellers hand the money to the customer directly.
posted by madajb at 10:28 PM on June 24, 2006


"My bosses like me, and I think they're smart enough to tell that I'm clearly not racist, but even having to address the issue would have made me feel like I couldn't show my face in there again."

And that is a very very sad thing. You should not feel bad at all for what happened. The customer should get over herself and not assume that there was some racist intent just because you're white. Sounds like she came across as an ass for immediately flinging up the race card. Or she should have accepted your apology.

Chalk it up as a lesson learned. That's about all you can do now.

And here's an important tip - wash your hands frequently throughout the day. No, not because the customers are dirty slobs, but the coins in the drawer might not be that clean. :)
posted by drstein at 11:04 PM on June 24, 2006


The customer is always right. I'm glad I don't work in retail.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:05 PM on June 24, 2006


As someone who is presently an assistant manager (which also involves a fair piece of checking) at a grocery store in the pacific NW, this is how it goes down for me in cash transactions:

1. The customer hands me whatever amount and I verbally acknowledge it saying something like "22.10 out of 40."

2. I put the money they gave me in the drawer and count out the change into my hand silently, bills on the tips of the fingers and coins tucked into my palm.

3. If there are more than three bills of a single denomination involved, like giving change for a $10 purchase out of a hundred dollar bill, I'll count the bills back to them. Less than four I assume they can count the bills by "grouping" wherein the typical person can look at a fan of money, see there are clusters of size [x,y,z] of [a,b,c] types and it's not necessary to count to know it's correct. I then pass the fan of money to the customer, wait a moment then drop the change in their hand... so I'll say "x dollars" (pass the bills and wait for them to adjust) "and y cents" funneling the coin change into their hand using the outer edge of mine.

I figure if someone really trusts me so little as to imagine I would rip them off on the sub-dollar level, there's a lot that's probably already gone wrong.

Hatsix demands that change is counted back in that stilted and rediculously slow "1.99 our of 5.00... .01 2, $1, 3, $1, 4, $1 , 5" technique. Out here no one does that, and the only time I'd do it is if a mentally handicapped person or young child was using a large bill (i.e. greater than 20). As for getting the amount right... pay attention, know what you're doing, that's a huge part of your job as a cashier. If you have to do that to get it right, fine, but I don't know anyone that needs to.

As for touching hands, the only time I do is when a customer is dropping change into my hand and uses the sometimes creepy, sometimes alluring "palm sweep" technique to deposit it in my hand. Even then, I never set the money down, it is "hand to hand" but with no contact being made.

I've had no complaints to date, just praise, but things may be different where you are.

Safest rule: do whatever the local bank tellers do.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:07 PM on June 24, 2006


I never realized until now why I hate that funnel thing. I invariably have to funnel the change into my other hand (which is probably carrying what I just bought) and then stuff the bills into my pocket, and then drop the change on top. It just doesn't work change first.

That's another reason I use my debit card a high percentage of the time - even though it takes significantly longer and it clearly irritates the clerks.

Oh yeah, and so this isn't a 100% derail - I used both hands to give the change back when I was a youngster - one hand for the bills, the other for the change. You can tell what order they want it in by what hand they put their hand under. Also, I'm not a fan of casual touching, black white or other, but it's not often you actually do touch the other person in the transaction. You just have to give it some time and you'll get the technique down. Keep some Purell handy though, cause money and customers are dirty.
posted by hoborg at 12:00 AM on June 25, 2006


That's another reason I use my debit card a high percentage of the time - even though it takes significantly longer and it clearly irritates the clerks.

thinking back to my cashier days. I loved debit and credit - I didn't have to count it at the end of the day or at the the till (I worked in the hardware dept store and sold things like lawn tractors sometimes), and I always got nervous when there was a lot of cash around.

I live in Canada which doesn't have any of this racial history. As a former cashier and customer, I like the stuff handed to me because its hard to pick up money off a flat surface.
posted by Deep Dish at 12:53 AM on June 25, 2006


oh yes, and people who hold coins/notes in their mouth and then hand them to a cashier should be executed.
posted by Deep Dish at 12:53 AM on June 25, 2006


in that stilted and rediculously slow "1.99 our of 5.00... .01 2, $1, 3, $1, 4, $1 , 5" technique... the only time I'd do it is if a mentally handicapped person or young child was using a large bill (i.e. greater than 20). As for getting the amount right... pay attention, know what you're doing, that's a huge part of your job as a cashier. If you have to do that to get it right, fine, but I don't know anyone that needs to.

Don't listen to this nonsense. If you are working retail with cash, learn this method, love this method, use it whenever you feel it is even mildly appropriate. Always use it for anything over $20. It does not mean you or the customer is stupid. You get busy, you are thinking of 5 things at once, the last customer was an asshole, you want to go on break, etc, etc mistakes happen. I worked a cash register for a few years, and I will tell you I counted change back more and more the longer I worked there. It is the mark of an experienced worked, not a retard.

Don't count the change, just the bills. It takes a few seconds more and people appreciate it. Also, very importantly, if someone decides to change the amount they gave you after you have already rung it into the register, this is always the best way. So many times I have seen this happen where I dig out a $20 for a $12.76, then realize i had $15 (or whatever), and watched the cashier go white in horror trying to figure out the math on the spot. Just count out your change: 4c makes 80c, 20c makes $13, $14, $15 even. Also, if someone comes back 2 minutes later and claims you gave them the wrong change (this WILL happen, especially if you don't count back) you will have a mental reccolection of counting their change back and can probably verify (at least to yourself) who was in error.

As for placing the cash in their hand, i would have to say yes, coins first, then bills. This goes hand in hand with the count it back method. Not on the table. It is the money itself that is dirty, not the person. Cash your hands frequently.
posted by sophist at 2:05 AM on June 25, 2006


Wash. Wash your hands frequently. Cash on the brain.
posted by sophist at 2:07 AM on June 25, 2006


Interesting insight into the practical consciousness of social interaction.

Sometimes when I am paying for something and I have my hands full or whatever and I have to put change or bills on the counter I always feel a strong urge to pick it up and hand it over in person, and if I can't, I find myself apologizing for leaving it on the counter. Weird, because I can't really articulate why I feel that way. So the norm flows both ways too, it appears.
posted by Rumple at 2:21 AM on June 25, 2006


"The customer should get over herself and not assume that there was some racist intent just because you're white."

Or, you should get over yourself and realize that evoking an act that was explicitly racially offensive just a few decades ago might be insensitive. Worse, you might want to not act so entitled if you're not culturally literate enough to realize the fact that you're being insensitive. Kudos to the poster for wanting to be thoughtful.

Part of being good at a retail job is being good at dealing with people. Sounds like anjamu has the desire and willingness to achieve that.
posted by anildash at 2:38 AM on June 25, 2006


At casinos (at least the stinky riverboat kind) the cashiers do exactly what anjamu describes doing: Count the money out on to the counter and let the customer pick it up (only after the counting has finished). This makes it easier for the transactions to be double checked on cameras and keeps everyone honest (no slipping extra bills to a friend or shorting someone a 20 every hour for a little walking around money for the weekend). I suppose that in the vast majority of retail stores, the amounts involved don't warrant the extra precaution.
posted by jaysus chris at 2:44 AM on June 25, 2006


It's not just an American thing. I've seen some ugly cultural mismatch here in New Zealand, where Indians predominate in some small retail niches. They are brought up not to touch other people's hands and try not to touch you when they hand over change. (There may be some caste aspect to this but I've never delved into the reasons why). Anyway, it really causes offence to people from the other cultures living here, who believe that they are being treated as dirty or unclean.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:12 AM on June 25, 2006


Physically, I don't really have that much of a problem with change being placed on the counter (although it's kind of a pain to pick it up). But, I do realize that some cashiers do it because they're jerks and knowing that some people are like that and use such a seemingly meaningless gesture to display any sort of malice annoys me.

What's worst is when people don't even place the change on the counter, they just kind of throw it and change goes rolling everywhere.

When I worked in retail I always put the change in peoples hands and if a bill was soggy or ripped, I would put it in the bottom of the till and give them a cleaner one instead.
posted by blim8183 at 5:21 AM on June 25, 2006


Also, I find the not wanting the reluctance to touch strangers kinda strange... especially when you're already touching money which is far far nastier. I mean, you don't even have to really touch them to hand them change.
posted by blim8183 at 5:23 AM on June 25, 2006


I have a mild OCD distaste at touching strangers. As a customer, I used to put my payment on the counter instead of into the cashier's hand. My wife had to convince me that this was rude. I now agree with her, but it was actually a case of me trying to apply The Golden Rule. I'd assumed everyone was like me -- they'd rather forgo hand-to-hand contact when possible. I thought I was doing the cashier (and myself) a favor.

That's the problem with The Golden Rule. It should be rewritten as "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you -- unless you're a psycho, in which case you should do unto others the opposite as you'd have them do unto you."
posted by grumblebee at 5:24 AM on June 25, 2006


It should be noted, that in the original description, the woman who recieved the change, while being offended, DID NOT make it into a racial situation. She might have seen it that way, but the woman never claimed that it was.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 AM on June 25, 2006


So the consensus seems to be that in the US, convention calls for the change to be given directly hand-to-hand. By contrast, every cashier in Japan has a small rubberized tray into which money is placed. This is the kind of non-unversality of custom that makes me want to throw my hands up, say the hell with it, and do whatever I want to do.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:18 AM on June 25, 2006


Defintely regional. In Europe and Japan you most often deal with the little tray. LarryC points out the necessary background for the US, where I think actual contact is necessary. I'm a little annoyed by the fastidious types i_am_joe's_spleen describes, who resist this touch and drop the change into my palm. Like blim8183 points out, everybody involved has already touched the money, and who knows where that's been.

I would prefer receiving the change first, and then the bills, as hatsix described, counting up to the total. Trouble with that is it requires math skill, which isn't used when the cashier's just verifying the change as calculated by the register.

What I hate is the recent trend of the transaction finishing with the cashier insisting on handing me the receipt. Put it in the bag, dammit! And don't make me ask you to!
posted by Rash at 9:07 AM on June 25, 2006


In mainland China, coins are considered kind of a hassle and people will sometimes offer a mild apology if they don't have enough paper notes and have to give you "ying bi" ("hard money").

Paper money is usually handed back to the customer with two hands to show respect. You aren't expected to drop everything and accept the money with both hands, though, and people will laugh if you do.
posted by Adam White at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2006


There's a convenience store near my office where the cashier uses a little tray for change, which seemed odd the first time he used it. Now I like the ritual aspect of it.

I considered the possibility that using a tray might be class-based. Maybe the implication is that I don't want to touch the cashier, not that the cashier doesn't want to touch me.

Counting back change is a dying art. Most of the cashiers I deal with just read the change due from the screen on the cash register.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:35 AM on June 25, 2006


What Jaysus Chris said. It was actually a bit awkward for the first few years casinos came to Mississippi, because the dealers and tellers aren't allowed to hand you the money at all. So it's not an issue; the money must be laid out on the table, where it can be recorded by the cameras in case of dispute. I heard this explained many times to people who would have preferred it another way.

And it's not just the riverboats that do that; the practice originated in Nevada and it's been the same in every casino that follows general US practices.

Once you get used to doing it that way it's a hard habit to break when you're in a different situation, but if anyone ever called me on it I'd just explain the casino security habit thing.
posted by localroger at 10:20 AM on June 25, 2006


Eh. You did nothing really wrong. I've been a cashier in plenty of places, and a delivery boy too.
There is a cultural difference, in that a lot of Asians (and others, but this mostly comes up when I'm shopping at Asian supermarkets) won't touch you, as touching a customer is overly familiar and disrespectful. We're Americans, we are overly familiar, so it's OK to touch but not required. Her freaking out was just her freaking out, and can be dismissed without a worry. If you stay in retail, plenty of people will freak out on you for no reason. It's OK.

As for the counting it out, the important part (at least in my experience) is to make sure to verbalize the amount they give you, and be aware of it. People will try to scam you by claiming they gave a bigger bill that they did. It's similar to why you never look away from the till/customer while the till is open— you don't want an opportunity for till tappers to present itself. I always handed them the bills first, then did the change, so they could see them separated, but that's no big deal. You learn to count up faster and faster in your head, so you can get quick on doing change and bills as two discrete parts.

Most tellers will count off twice, once into their hand and once onto the counter, then hand the bills to the customer. I liked to count out change too, as kinda a bit of patter while I'm doing something (rather than just having the customer staring). Not a big deal either way.

(Oh, and I say all this with about seven years behind a till and never once being off by more than $5.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 AM on June 25, 2006


One of the nicest interactions I had was at a bar in Ibiza. I paid for the beer and the barman came back with my change, reached over, took my hand in his then placed the change in it. It was a very subtle gesture, but the memory of it stayed with me.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:47 AM on June 25, 2006


Anil Dash: Or, you should get over yourself and realize that evoking an act that was explicitly racially offensive just a few decades ago might be insensitive. Worse, you might want to not act so entitled if you're not culturally literate enough to realize the fact that you're being insensitive.

Whoa, Anil, don't hold back or anything.
posted by WCityMike at 11:35 AM on June 25, 2006


This makes it easier for the transactions to be double checked on cameras and keeps everyone honest (no slipping extra bills to a friend or shorting someone a 20 every hour for a little walking around money for the weekend).
Indeed- Casinos put a huge amount of money into security and in Vegas, even carrying an item which could be used to cheat (such as tack to mark cards) can be a felony. Laying out the money helps to prevent any confusion (and cover the teller's ass). It's kind of like in blackjack, you can't just say, "Hit me," you actually have to hit the table x2 so you can't go back and say you never said, "Hit me," to cover the dealer's ass.
posted by jmd82 at 11:44 AM on June 25, 2006


UK (ex-)shop worker here. I always used to hand change to the customer (and it drove me mad when they put the change on the counter in front of me). This was mainly because before I worked in the shop, I worked as a mystery shopper, and I knew what kind of critieria cashiers are judged on.

These include: making eye contact with the customer, saying please and thank-you, handing them their change, telling them how much they owe you, rather than just relying on the cash register ("That's five pounds ninety-nine then, please,"), repeating what they have given you ( "Thankyou, that's ten pounds"), and the change you are giving them ("... And that's four pounds and a penny change"). Good customer service isn't just about ticking boxes, of course, but it helps.
posted by featherboa at 12:18 PM on June 25, 2006


If this is the worst customer interaction you have during your retail career, you will be quite blessed indeed.

Hand sanitizer is your friend.

These kinds of stories make me sad that we don't have a real racial dialogue in America. These aren't just scars, these are fresh wounds. That being said, no one in the world is "culturally literate" enough to know every single culture's possible faux pas, so don't beat yourself up over it. The woman was being unreasonable, because she didn't give the cashier the same benefit of a doubt that all people of all cultures and races deserve. That kind of assumption is, in itself, a type of prejudice, but we can approach it with kindness and understanding because of the history involved.

Race may have nothing to do with it. Some customers just have their own personal hang-ups.

Aside from Ask Metafilter, we don't talk about this stuff, so there's no course to become educated, even if it were possible.

That being said, I don't remember how I returned change. I think I sometimes returned it on the counter, with, presumably, no ill will.
posted by Skwirl at 2:21 PM on June 25, 2006


In the United States, the accepted polite way is to hand the customer their change. Larry C and Anildash are right about the race aspect, though politeness is also expected between those of the same race (just for less charged reasons.)

Also, the manager, knowing that you were new to retail, should've covered some of the basics.
posted by desuetude at 2:47 PM on June 25, 2006


I worked as a mystery shopper, and I knew what kind of critieria cashiers are judged on.

I have too, and I don't think I was ever asked that question, which is why I was so perplexed. I'm pretty sure this customer was no shopper, though, because they're definitely supposed to keep themselves in check and save it for the forms.

Thanks, everyone, for enlightening me on the topic. I appreciate the many and varied responses. While I'm in the States, at least, I'll give people change directly.

I do usually ask "Receipt with you or in the bag?" but that's because I know some people - my mom! - like to have it in their wallet.
posted by anjamu at 3:46 PM on June 25, 2006


This situation is so common and so sensitive that I have even seen it addressed in training videos; this situation is usually described as "The Untouchables" and considered a a form of discrimination, or as a way of sending a customer the message that you wish to avoid touching them at all costs. And yes, it cited historic racial tension as the origin.

Part of the reason why managers have to address this is because of how subtle it is; this is the kind of tactic that racist fuckwits still whip out to this day because it is so hard to prove that they had any negative intentions-- yet a customer in that situation can undeniably feel their hatred.

That's not to say that she thought you had this in mind. But she was good enough to point it out to you, so that someone even MORE sensitive doesn't seriously take offense.
posted by hermitosis at 4:56 PM on June 25, 2006


"Or, you should get over yourself and realize that evoking an act that was explicitly racially offensive just a few decades ago might be insensitive"

The OP clearly had no idea that there were any racial attachments at all. Did you even bother to read the thread?

Asshat.
posted by drstein at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2006


By contrast, every cashier in Japan has a small rubberized tray into which money is placed.

Ah yes, common in Korea, too, and universal at banks. Actual cash is so rarely used here these days (my wife regularly uses credit cards for purchases of a couple of dollars thanks to the lack of any fee attached and our policy of never carrying a balance, and it's actually faster than using cash) that I'd forgotten about that.

I sometimes actually feel a little strange and childlike, handing over cash at the grocery store sometimes.

Also, I wasn't aware of the racist history aspect in America, but I should have guessed; so much social interaction there seems tainted by it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:19 PM on June 25, 2006


I would prefer to have the change laid out than dumped in my hands bills and all.
posted by toastchee at 6:09 PM on June 25, 2006


"But she was good enough to point it out to you, so that someone even MORE sensitive doesn't seriously take offense."

Well, except she didn't point it out. She flipped out and left the poster asking here.
posted by klangklangston at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2006


It's unfortunate that people innocent to complex histories and minute social mores will sometimes find themselves scolded in the midst of some unintended faux pas. As was the case here. Living in L.A., I often find myself subject to sideways glances by cashiers belonging to one of the myriad cultures in the county, and I'll either shrug it off or try to find out why. I'm not going to downplay the customer's reaction, since it's obvious some powerful emotions were stirred. It doesn't mean ill was intended, but I think we have to accept that there's always a certain degree of eggshell walking when it comes to culturally diverse places.

Jingoists would say, "Learn our ways or git."

Progressives might say, "I'm not like the jingoist. You're safe, so get over it!"

Either is arrogance, I say.
posted by evil holiday magic at 7:28 PM on June 25, 2006


I read a book for a class called Living With Racism: The Black Middle Class Experience that discusses this very issue. It is based on interviews, and it was very fascinating to see the perspectives of the interviewees, and I recommend it highly to put your experience in context. In this thread, we have heard the history of racism, but this book will reveal how racism still shows itself today (well, as of 1995), and how it is perceived. One of the signs of racism that came up again and again is when the cashier or customer handed over change very carefully in order to not touch hands.

This actually freaked me out when I read it, because I don't really feel comfortable touching any stranger's hand and generally avoided it, but then because of the book became hyper-aware and when working retail made sure to touch everybody's hands. While trying really hard to seem natural and nonchalant. Oh well.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 10:15 PM on June 25, 2006


If you want to do this really well, I would
-take the bill/s the customer gives you and set them on top of the cash register
-tell them what they gave you and what the cost is ("$5.95 out $10")
-count back change ("[nickel makes] $6, 7,8,9, and 10")
-pause between coins and bills (to allow dumping coins somewhere)
-ask if they want their receipt in the bag (most of us prefer the receipt in one place, but not the other, and you won't know which until you ask -- I hate it when a cashier just puts the receipt in the bag, because I usually don't see it, and then I wait for them to give it to me and have to look for it to verify that I have it)
-pause slightly, then put the bill away in the drawer (you've given them time to say "but I gave you a twenty?!" and yourself proof that they gave you a ten, or that you messed up)
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:38 AM on June 26, 2006


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