Do younger people pay with folding money only?
August 30, 2006 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Have you noticed a link between a person's age and whether he/she pays for purchases with exact change?

Recently, when paying for a purchase that totaled $15.10, I handed over a twenty-dollar bill and a dime. The proprietor, a friendly and pleasant guy, joked, "You're too young to be paying with exact change." This led to a discussion of what "exact change" really means, reasons why a person might want to add the dime, and so forth. All in all, a nice way to waste eight minutes.

I rarely pay in cash, but when I do I often manipulate my change -- for various reasons: to get quarters for parking meters, to get rid of coins/ avoid getting a lot of new ones, to get rid of singles or to get more, depending on my needs.

I'm almost 50 years old, by the way. I remember when a candy bar cost a nickel, but I don't think that really has anything to do with the denominations of coins and bills with which I choose to pay. Or.... does it....?
posted by wryly to Society & Culture (77 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm almost half your age but I pay in the method that allows me to receive back the amount of crap possible to carry around. This includes my choice of credit cards vs. cash, as well.
posted by kcm at 3:24 PM on August 30, 2006

I usually see older people doing this. I'm 22 and try to do it whenever possible--it just makes things quicker and means I won't be walking around with lots of ones and change.

A couple months ago I was at a fast food place and ordered $4.25 worth of food. I handed the girl behind the counter $5.25. She stared at me blankly, slowly handed me back my quarter and proceeded to give me $.75 in change.
posted by null terminated at 3:25 PM on August 30, 2006 [5 favorites]

er, receive back the least amount of crap possible
posted by kcm at 3:25 PM on August 30, 2006

Before I went on a serious pocket diet, I carried a small rubber coin holder (I refuse to call it a change-purse) so that I could corral my change easily. I would have been about 20-22ish. Many of my peers expressed wonder at the tiny contraption, and inquired where they could buy one (the answer is "a drugstore").
posted by MrZero at 3:28 PM on August 30, 2006

I do the change manipulation thing all the time, and I just passed 30. I also pick up pennies off the street.

One thing I do notice is that when I manipulate change, the age of the cashier is inversely proportionate to the amount of hesitation s/he shows when making the change. I love it when a teenager looks at me like I'm crazy when I give them a twenty and sixteen pennies for a $17.66 bill.

Oh my god, I did not just say "a teenager".
posted by Shecky at 3:28 PM on August 30, 2006

I hand over the $20 without the dime, pocket a handful of change, bring it home, put it in a big jar until it fills up, then bring it to the bank and cash it in for real money, which I spend on something frivolous. Best no-interest savings account around. It's also lazy, like me. I'm 35.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:31 PM on August 30, 2006 [2 favorites]

I only have my personal anecdotal evidence, and that says the guy is 100% correct (although I don't know if 31 qualifies as "older").
posted by uncle harold at 3:33 PM on August 30, 2006

A couple months ago I was at a fast food place and ordered $4.25 worth of food. I handed the girl behind the counter $5.25. She stared at me blankly, slowly handed me back my quarter and proceeded to give me $.75 in change.

Argh, I remember when I was a 16 year old cashier, and I did a similar thing. Unfortunately, the customer was a nasty old man who decided to belittle me and rant about how incompetent children are nowadays until I cried. So, be nice to young, dumb cashiers, they probably just don't know any better.

Anyway, since then I have always manipulated my cash to receive as few coins as possible. But as a cashier I did note that it was typically older customers that were especially diligent about it.
posted by gatorae at 3:34 PM on August 30, 2006

I don't think it's age related. I think it's personality/opinion related. My husband feels like it's helping the cashier to have the exact change. I think it's taking up their time to be scrumbling around in the bottom of my purse.
posted by b33j at 3:35 PM on August 30, 2006

The real question is whether or not the change/money is ready when it's time to pay. When I was a cashier, I noticed that people who are surprised to be asked to pay and have to root around for their purse/wallet were uniformly women.

Men seem to have the money in their hands much earlier, correct change or not.
posted by bonaldi at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2006

I think it has to do with at least two things, as well as simply being arsed.

1. Ability to do mental arithmetic. You'd be AMAZED at how many people have problems adding up coins. Just watch them in a low-rent coffee shop sometime. Older people are more likely (IMO) to have been taught at least the basics of mental arithmetic.

2. Inflation. Small denomination coins have a higher perceived value the older you are. "When I was your age, a quarter MEANT something" etc.
posted by unSane at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2006

You are not helping them, not in any way, you're just taking up everyone's time, the same as cheque writers and small talkers, now STOP IT!
posted by Cosine at 3:43 PM on August 30, 2006

I'm the same as mcstayinskool. I just hand over a note, collect the change and dump into a big jar when I get home. I'm 24, so I guess I support your theory.
posted by afx237vi at 3:44 PM on August 30, 2006

gatorae, same thing happened to me when I was 16. I hated it when people handed me seemingly random change on their bill. For some reason I could never figure out what they were trying to do. For the record, I have now taught Statistics at the college level and spend most of my days now working with loads-o-numbers.

That experience could be why I don't bother with handing over coins in order to get paper back.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:44 PM on August 30, 2006

I once did this, but never do any more. I think I stopped for two reasons. First, I once thought I was sparing the cashier some trouble, but then I worked a cash register for a while and realized cashiers have little else to keep them from being bored. Also, since I generally eat at home now, I almost never buy more than one thing in the same day, so I rarely have the coins in my pocket to pay exact change anyway.
posted by scottreynen at 3:45 PM on August 30, 2006

Change manipulator, late twenties. Someone who would know pointed out to me that I never used to do this. And I had in the last year or so mentally noticed that I had started to enjoy the habit. Maybe I'll grow out of it and learn to love the coin once more.
posted by einekleine at 3:47 PM on August 30, 2006

I never did this until I worked retail as a teenager. The resulting exposure to coins and their manipulation converted me, and fifteen years later, I still give exact change when I can.

Amusingly enough, I am poor at mental arithmetic... but not when making change, having been trained to do it for the job.
posted by vorfeed at 3:53 PM on August 30, 2006

I worked at a fast-food restaurant when I was in my late teens, and I noticed that it was usually older people (say 60 +) who would give exact change, young-to-middle-age people (late 20's to 50's) would be the change manipulators, while teenagers and early 20-somethings would just throw a 20 at me and pocket the change. After a couple of months of handling change I started being a change manipulator. Handling the coins made seeing the potential combinations easier.

You are not helping them, not in any way, you're just taking up everyone's time, the same as cheque writers and small talkers, now STOP IT!
posted by Cosine

Tough. If I can pass some of these worthless pennies off and get useful quarters back, you can just wait your turn, buster.
posted by lekvar at 3:58 PM on August 30, 2006

My name is blister. I am 29 and I have a "Change Manipulation obsession\compulsion". ;)

I do whatever results in carrying the least amount of crap in my pocket. Usually this means trying to make exact change or putting change in a tip jar or take\give a penny jar. I prefer this route, instead of the extra change falling out of my pockets and into the seat of my car.
posted by blister at 4:00 PM on August 30, 2006

I'll frequently hand over change in order to get whole bills back, but I have difficulty doing arithmetic accurately and quickly despite all efforts by educators, so I never bother to manipulate change to get quarters.

When I worked in sales jobs, I didn't mind at all when people handed me the change, or even if they manipulated to get quarters if they were nice about it. But people who devised complicated schemes to the precise denomination of their choice back as change annoyed the crap out of me. There's always some guy who does stuff like hand over $6.35 for a $1.65 item to get back the five. Oh, for pete's sake.
posted by desuetude at 4:01 PM on August 30, 2006

I am 25 and I always attempt to minimize the small change I get back by handing over the difference. This is not "exact change," but I am not sure what one'd call it.

It's usually faster than having to wait as the cashier counts out a fist full of loonies and quarters, etc.
posted by clord at 4:08 PM on August 30, 2006

I should add that I only do this when I have change on-hand (in-hand) and that it doesn't seem to inconvenience the clerk. Most type in the amount you gave them into the register and are told the amount to return.
posted by null terminated at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2006

I worked a checkout at a video store in high school and I can say that as long as you make with the money quickly, the change manipulation does speed things up. I am fairly good at mental arithmatic (thanks to Mr. Kingerski and 3 years of his mental math exercises) but really that's no excuse.

The POS systems I've worked with always let you enter any amount of cash payment, so if you can't do that math, just enter $20.10 instead of $20.00 .

I could imagine that this might not be universal.
posted by utsutsu at 4:10 PM on August 30, 2006

i think the aarp sends out a book when you hit a certain age. it specifies that you should pay in exact change--pennies when you have them....and also that you should negotiate discrepancies in your grocery bill at a point in time approximately 8 seconds after the checker has started assissting the next customer...
posted by troybob at 4:10 PM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Argh, people handing stuff over like that and expecting no coins back drives anyone that actually knows how to count change insane. You are supposed to count upwards to the amount they've given you (good for verification AND it makes counting the change dead easy).

So you pay $20.10 for a $15.10 purchase. I grab:

Nickel - $15.15
Dime - $15.25
3 Quarters - $16.00
2 Toonies ($2 coins) - $20.00
Dime - $20.10

Now I have to consolidate the coins to a $5 bill. Pain in the ass. Not that I'm blaming you... :-D

Oddly enough I figured this was something younger kids did since anyone OLDER is old enough to have worked a till that doesn't give change and *had* to use this method (or a calculator, or HOPE they never make a mistake in their head).
posted by shepd at 4:16 PM on August 30, 2006

I used to do this, until I moved into an apartment that had coin-op washers. Now I make it a practice, as some others have said, to always pay in bills. I then bring the change home and keep it in a jar.

The jar has also been known to fund Slurpee runs to the 7/11 across the street.
posted by rossination at 4:28 PM on August 30, 2006

I am 33 and I give exact change or manipulate change whenever possible. I don't remember the last time any cashier actually counted back the change up to the amount given. And back when I worked in retail (high school), we did have a register that didn't do the math for you. I think that's not very common anymore, at least in the U.S. Heck, at some fast food places, they have pictures of the food items on the register buttons; those workers are not expected to be able to make change in their heads.
posted by candyland at 4:30 PM on August 30, 2006

I work on a checkout in a convenience store, and in my experience people of all ages will try to give me change so as to recieve the most 'round' change possible. Then again, I am in the UK, and we have a lot of heavy coins in our currency... the lowest denomination note is £5 (~$8), so coins are a bigger part of transactions over here.

If it's of any interest, people buy cigarettes with the exact change very often (it's because they know how much they cost in advance) and kids buy their sweets with exact change when they can be bothered to figure it out.

I think it comes down to how busy you are combined with a healthy amount of perfectionism/OCD.

Some people just don't like change.
posted by Acey at 4:34 PM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I tend to pay with $20s for a $15.10 purchase and either throw the spare change in the tipjar or the bottom of my messenger bag. loose change gets tossed in a change jar when I get home.

I'm 38. I have worked plenty of cashier and retail jobs and am quick with math and making change. frankly it doesn't matter much. I personally want to minimise the time I'm standing there at the register and get the hell out of line.

back when I was a cashier / retail clerk /waitron as a teen / early twentysomething the people who fumbled around in their bags/pockets/purses and made the lines longer drove me batshitinsane.

plus women's clothing often doesn't have pockets in, which also makes me nuts. its why men usually tend to be so much quicker to make change - they have a handy spot to keep it.

all in all I think it mainly boils down to a personality thing, and the age thing? quite possibly just a confirmation bias.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:35 PM on August 30, 2006

Fuck coins. About once every four months I take the coins to the machine and get about $100 in paper money. For the most part I'm cashless now. Since more and more places don't require a signed receipt, it takes even less time to complete the transaction.

I don't care much if others pay in coins if they have them ready. Too many times I'm stuck behind people with a little coin purse [that is when you know you're old and is not gender specific] taking too much time to find those three cents so they can get a dime back.
posted by birdherder at 4:37 PM on August 30, 2006

I don't do this in the U.S. but I do in the UK.
posted by grouse at 4:40 PM on August 30, 2006

shepd, why not just count up in whole dollars?
when i worked behind a cash register i never minded if people wanted to fish around for exact change. it was fine with me to wait if it meant i didn't have to fish around getting their change. but perhaps my cashiering preferences are in the minority. at 25 i like to manipulate change but i always worry the cashier won't get it, ala null terminated's experience. so i'll give a dime if the total ends it .10 but not if it ends in .60. as far as age goes, i learned change manip from my mother, certainly not from my peers.
posted by nevers at 4:40 PM on August 30, 2006

The proprietor, a friendly and pleasant guy, joked, "You're too young to be paying with exact change."


I'm almost 50 years old, by the way.

I think you're taking his comment too literally. Perhaps he's just thanking you for making his life easier by flattering you. I.e. tell a smart woman she's beautiful, tell a beautiful woman she's smart, and tell an old guy he's young.
posted by randomstriker at 4:48 PM on August 30, 2006

I am 21 and do this. I always go for whole bills. I only carry cash when I go bar hopping though. Credit cards are way too dangerous when drinking ("Shots! Everyone shots!")
posted by geoff. at 4:54 PM on August 30, 2006

And for the math-challenged like myself, counting back change is the ONLY way I can do it correctly. Again, if it's just to get whole dollars back, I'm fine, but if it's to manipulate for quarters or least amount of coins, it completely flusters me.
posted by desuetude at 4:54 PM on August 30, 2006

I'm 22 and have been a "change manipulator" (I love it!) since I worked as a grocery-store cashier five years ago. I even have a little leather change purse.

Yes, I said 22, not 72.
posted by Zozo at 5:05 PM on August 30, 2006

I'm 45, Canadian and a part-time change manipulator/exact changer who was taught how to make change in elementary school and who worked in retail as a teen.

Sometimes I just hand over a twenty (today at Shoppers) instead of making change, but when my wallet starts getting crammed with pennies, silver, loonies and toonies, I play the change game promptly and efficiently with cashiers (later today at the dollar store), or I dump handfuls of change into the Tim Horton's camp fund jars (the last time I was at Tim's).

I used to just dump extra coins in a jar and bring it to the bank, but that was just one more source of clutter and a chore. And I save more money by automatic transfer to my RSP funds every month anyway.
posted by maudlin at 5:09 PM on August 30, 2006

I'm 16 and I've started using exact change recently because I noticed I was getting major penny buildup. It's very satisfying to simplify my change purse (I use a change purse inside an altoids tin for a wallet, so if I get too much change I can't close my wallet).
posted by MadamM at 5:38 PM on August 30, 2006

You are not helping them, not in any way, you're just taking up everyone's time, the same as cheque writers and small talkers, now STOP IT!

Sorry, wrong answer (and not actually an answer to the question). It does help, when the total is $6, to get $11 instead of $10, so I don't lose four singles that I could use on the next person who doesn't have anything other than $10.
posted by oaf at 5:39 PM on August 30, 2006

Oddly enough I figured this was something younger kids did since anyone OLDER is old enough to have worked a till that doesn't give change and *had* to use this method

I'm 55, used to work a cash register, always appreciated customers smart enough to have exact change ready, always give exact change myself when I have it. Never understood people who carry around dozens of pennies and nickels and then store them in glass jars. What a pain in the ass! But different strokes for different folks, and I do know a guy who when he was finally completely broke was able to feed himself for days on the change he found around his apartment.
posted by languagehat at 5:42 PM on August 30, 2006

I think it has to do with a host of factors - how much change I'm carrying, how accessible it is, how many different bill denominations I have...

Also, I'm a math major, but I could imagine where people who are less mathematically inclined might just pay with larger bills.
posted by Zephyrial at 5:43 PM on August 30, 2006

I have to say, I'm of the "pay with cards for most, pay with paper when necessary and pay with coins only when absolutely necessary" variety.

besides the fact that saving one's change annually brings close to 500 bucks back come January, it occasionally gives me dimes to drop in meters, pennies for railroad tracks and great wads of silver money to throw on playgrounds to make the kids fight it out for the quarters.

but if some people want to count out their small change, then I suppose that less offensive of a hobby than matchbook collecting...but not by much.
posted by rileyray3000 at 6:03 PM on August 30, 2006

Anything that gets rid of pennies is copacetic.

Manipulating your change to get back a 10 rather than a five and four ones is also copacetic.

Not being prepared when the time comes, and wasting a bunch of people's time is just flat out rude.

Giving a young cashier a hard time for something stupid is also rude.
posted by popechunk at 6:12 PM on August 30, 2006

I used to do the exact-change thing when I lived in a state that had a sales tax. Now that I don't, and I hardly get any pennies from my transactions, I do not.
posted by furiousthought at 6:17 PM on August 30, 2006

Sometime change manipulator here--31, male, New Yorker. I have rules, though. I do not look for change much when the purchase ends in $ .51 or more. I am not allowed to look for change for more than five seconds or so. If I know the price of something in advance, I have change ready when I get to the counter.

I think that people have rules about payment that are closely tied to age and gender. Like (I think) most men, I view it as shameful to pay for anything under $20 with a credit card. I notice women fumbling around for change with their purses much more often than men do with the contents of their pockets (I suspect this has to do with purses being generally larger than pockets). I notice women of a certain age paying for everything with a credit card. Where I grew up, I still see a lot of women paying with checks at the grocery store.

This may have to do with gender roles--men want to be seen as having the ready cash to pay for anything, and want to look like they don't really care. Women are not expected to be this way, so they don't care.

I'm still annoyed when people hold up the line, though.
posted by lackutrol at 6:33 PM on August 30, 2006

What I meant there is that women don't worry about looking like they're (too) careful with money.
posted by lackutrol at 6:35 PM on August 30, 2006

I suspect this has much to do with what country you live in. I am a pay-with-bills-only kind of guy, and when I recently visited London (from the US) I was amazed at the ease with which I accumulated upwards of $20 worth of coin over the course of the day. I quickly learned to be a change manipulator, which was complicated additionally by the incongruity of the 20p coin vs the quarter.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:17 PM on August 30, 2006

I think I'm in the middle ground. I mostly pay with banknotes, get change in coins, and then every once in a while, when I can see the person at the register isn't busy, I'll bring out a big old handful of change and pay with that.

So I accumulate coins until they start to weigh me down, say I've got ten bucks in coins in my pocket, then I pay for a ten-dollar purchase entirely with coins.

Contributory factor: in Australia where I live we haven't had copper coins for years, so there are no pennies, and the one and two dollar denominations have been coins, not banknotes, for quite a while.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:35 PM on August 30, 2006

I go both ways. Instead of a wallet, I have a pouch-thingy on my belt, and I keep coins in a zippered pocket on the pouch. When it gets too full, I count it all out and pay in coin or exact change. Otherwise I use bills or the debit card. When I do use change, I minimize the amount of fumbling around by simply grabbing a bunch of change from the zippered pocket, estimate the amount, and count out the few cents I'm off. I hate pennies, though. And people who don't have any money ready or checks filled out when they are waiting in line to pay.

For those of you who don't get the change jar thing... well, I have a friend whose father got a big, big start on the grandkids' college fund with accumulated change.

I believe modern cash registers have destroyed the ability of retail clerks to actually make change...they may know how to make it, if they have to, but no one counts it back properly! My mother, a bank teller at one point in her career, taught me how to count back change 35 or so years ago. At least some clerks have the smarts to put the coins in my hand first, instead of dropping them on top of the bills and hoping they don't slide off.

We tend to keep odd accumulations of change around...a bunch in the car, on the dresser, in the old CD spindle cover behind the lamp table. Such accumulations are used for soda machine runs, impulsive 7-11 Slurpee stops, and the occasional donation to the First Church of Starbucks.
posted by lhauser at 7:37 PM on August 30, 2006

28, pay exact change and exact cash when I can, exact change and exact cash as second-best option. Cash if I don't have change. And debit if I don't have cash. I learned it from watching mom.

lhauser makes a good point about accumulated change adding up, though. I had a friend in high school whose parents started a change jar when we were freshmen. When we graduated, there were at least five or six jars full of change on the kitchen counter at their house. They took it to the bank and used to to fund a six-person trip to Disneyworld.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:53 PM on August 30, 2006

exact change and inexact cash as second-best option
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:55 PM on August 30, 2006

27, and nothing beats the magic moment of paying with exact change and, in the process, using every last coin in my wallet's coin case. (My purse is heavy as it is and I like to mimimize the amount of metal I'm carrying around. And in Japan, our smallest bills are equivalent to a $10.)

The cashier was probably just trying to be nice by paying you a compliment about looking young, while the whole "change manipulating" thing depends on a person's personality and number of pockets.
posted by QueSeraSera at 8:48 PM on August 30, 2006

shepd, You can still "count up" when someone gives you extra coins. Just count the biggest denomination currency first, and devolve to smaller denominations as needed. This minimizes change, and should be practiced by anyone who knows how to give change correctly in the head.
posted by clord at 8:52 PM on August 30, 2006

If it's small, I grab a handful of change out of my pocket (if I have any - I try not to), and quickly hand over the relevant coins to the nearest 10c or 20c. I hate 5c coins. I'm good at math, though - I hate watching people who can't add round figures in their heads do this.

If it's anywhere near note territory, I pull out my wallet, hand over a note that's closest, and throw the change in my pocket. At night, the change ends up on the table, where my wife picks it up and hoardes it so she can pay exactly for everything. We're 32. Australian currency might affect this, though - we have $1 and $2 coins, as well as a 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c, so anything up to $5 (or even $10, if you had to make change for parking) is fair game for coins, and thus exact change.

I don't see handing over a $10 note and a 20c coin for, say, a $5.20 purchase as making exact change - it's just cutting down the crap in your pocket. Exact change is having the $10 and the 20c, but insisting on counting out all of your other coins first to see if you can make it that way. Or paying for a $9.95 purchase with a five and a bunch of coins rather than handing over the $10 and throwing the 5c away.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:52 PM on August 30, 2006

In the US, we have pennies -- one cent coins. They're pretty much worthless -- the copper and zinc they're made of is actually worth more than $0.01. But for some reason, stores continue to charge items at $0.99 or $0.97. And each region of the country has different sales tax rates, so those always round up to penny amounts. It's kind of silly.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:15 PM on August 30, 2006

I'm always in favor of minimizing the number of coins I have to carry, whether that means handing over coinage or using my debit card. If your time is so valuable that the fifteen seconds it takes for me to get coins out of my wallet is an imposition to you, I humbly suggest this: leave your house earlier.
posted by Dreama at 9:27 PM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I do it to keep the coins I'm carrying to a minimum. It's a hiker thing. Or maybe a former frequent flyer thing. I'm 39.
posted by Opposite George at 10:01 PM on August 30, 2006

im 26 and id rather the hassle of getting change than digging for change to begin with while someone is staring at me. but then maybe thats cause im unorganized to begin with? im also a regular to the phrase 'keep the change'.
posted by trishthedish at 10:24 PM on August 30, 2006

cash is good, spare some change?
posted by Vindaloo at 10:50 PM on August 30, 2006

Sorry Dreama, but 15 seconds really is too long.
posted by QueSeraSera at 12:41 AM on August 31, 2006

I'm 28, and I've been doing this at least since I was 20. Even better is when something costs 17.45, and you give a math-challenged cashier 22.45. They look at you all crazy-like, so I just tell them "Trust me on this one, put it into the till and see what the change is" - the look of shock is always good for a laugh. But I do it even more now that I'm in Ireland... those extra couple coins (2 cent and 50 cent which we don't have in Canadia) tend to fill up the pocket quite quickly if you're not vigilant... I wasn't vigilant when I first got here, and within a month I had 29 euro worth of change in my pocket!
posted by antifuse at 1:56 AM on August 31, 2006

I've done it since my early twenties. If I can't see how to do it immediately, I don't bother though. And I agree, it is profoundly satisfying to use the last coin in the change purse.
posted by teleskiving at 2:37 AM on August 31, 2006

I'm 27, and I've been doing it ever since I started buying things. I think it is a bit eccentric, perhaps a sign of OCD. Perhaps that's why it shows up more often in older people, when eccentricities finally shine.
posted by knave at 7:06 AM on August 31, 2006

Thanks all for the tip of giving the big change/bills first. Guess I've been doing it only halfway right for all this time. :-) I'll give that a go next time, assuming I'm still stuck at the till.
posted by shepd at 7:42 AM on August 31, 2006

Even better is when something costs 17.45, and you give a math-challenged cashier 22.45. They look at you all crazy-like, so I just tell them "Trust me on this one, put it into the till and see what the change is" - the look of shock is always good for a laugh.

I HATED this. Not because I'm a retard who can't count, but because I was trying to be cheerful at my slave-wage job while having my patience tried by folks who apparently also needed me to help them organize their wallets by acting as a change machine. And then would get all condescending about it. Though in my case, the look given wasn't of shock. It was of thinly veiled contempt.

(antifuse, no offense meant to you personally.)
posted by desuetude at 9:09 AM on August 31, 2006

35 here, and I've got one I haven't seen in this thread yet: I'm a bill-minimizer, but not a coin-minimizer. That is, if a purchase is $6.25, and I don't have any fives in my wallet, I'll pay with a ten and two ones ($12, change=$5.75), rather than just the ten (change=$3.75). But I won't check to see if I have a quarter on hand, unless I need it to minimize the bills given back in change (say, if I only have a ten and one one).

I think it's because coins are removed from my pants pocket as soon as I get back to my desk, car, or home (I'm one of those "store them up and cash them in all at once" people), so large numbers of coins building up over time aren't a problem. Bills stay in my wallet, though, so excessive numbers of bills make for a fat, difficult-to-fold wallet.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:17 AM on August 31, 2006

I'm 26 and I'm a total manipulator. I learned it from my mom (who also taught me to do other forms of math in my head) and the only time I didn't do it was when I had a wallet with sucky change-holding facilities. Now that my wallet has a good change purse, I am back at it.

And desuetude, if you're working a cash register, you are a change-making machine. That's your job. And why would you want to count out ones when you can just take out a 5? I swear based on how long it takes cashiers to get money out of the till, any time I spend looking for change is more than made up for by getting less back.
posted by dame at 9:57 AM on August 31, 2006

Also, my boyfriend's habit of constantly leaking change because he just shoves it in his pockets totally reinforces my minimization drive. I already have to pick change up when he leaves.
posted by dame at 9:58 AM on August 31, 2006

My husband is 55 and tries to give exact change. I'm 38 and think it's a pain in the ass. We've agreed to disagree.
posted by deborah at 10:23 AM on August 31, 2006

Forgot to say: loonies and toonies go into a jar for spending on something frivolous.
posted by deborah at 10:25 AM on August 31, 2006

Marginally related, I once saw the door guy at my favorite bar take the coins out of his pocket and throw them into the street at the beginning of his shift.

Onlookers stood aghast (he was literally throwing away money) and he just shrugged and said he hated having change in his pocket, and the sound was driving him crazy.

posted by Famous at 10:48 AM on August 31, 2006

And desuetude, if you're working a cash register, you are a change-making machine. That's your job.

I worked sales jobs without dedicated cashiers, like small bookstores. Sometimes without the fancy cash registers that calculate change.

Re-reading original question, I think the comment was based on the stereotype that older folks are more careful with their money.
posted by desuetude at 11:15 AM on August 31, 2006

Change manipulator, 27. I picked it up cashiering in my dad's shop as a teenager. I always appreciated the (mostly older) customers who did it for me, so I decided to adopt it too. I do feel bad when it confuses someone, since it confused me the first few times too, but I think on balance it's better for both the cashier and the customer, so I keep at it.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 11:42 AM on August 31, 2006

Well, if you were making change, then it was part of your job. And if you can do math and recognize what 22-17 is, then it doesn't really matter what kind of cash register it is, does it?
posted by dame at 11:42 AM on August 31, 2006

I haven't noticed an age bias. I do agree with subsequent posters about the gender bias, and I think it is because nearly all women have change purses, or at least purses, whereas most men are going to have the coins jangling around in their pockets.

For myself, I give exact change wherever possible if I'm not slowing things down. I even do it if sales tax is going to apply.

It helps the cashier tremendously if you tell them what you're doing as you're doing it.
posted by lockedroomguy at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2006

As others have pointed out, this will somewhat depend on where you live. In Canada (and Australia, and the UK, and apparently Japan) there are lots of coins and you get a LOT of heavy money in your pocket/purse very quickly if you go with the only-pay-with-bills method.

In Canada, for instance, the smallest bill is a $5. If you never used coins and on your way to work you buy a cup of coffee:
$2.02*, change = 9 coins; 1 toonie, 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 3 pennies
Then at lunch you grab a pack of gum:
$1.23*, change = 7 coins, 1 toonie, 1 loonie, 3 quarters, 2 pennies

You now have $6.75 in change, and it's in 16 coins!

Because of this, I am a change manipulator. I'd pay for the second purchase with the toonie, 2 dimes and 3 pennies from the morning's purchase and end up with only $1.75 / 4 coins change. Huge difference for minimal effort. Even if counting out the 23 cents is too much jerking around for you, paying with the toonie and a quarter from the morning's change ends up with $1.75 / 10 coins and you still have a $5.00 bill in your wallet. To me, this is much more desirable. YMMV.

*(these are actual tax-in prices at the gas station I used to work at)
posted by raedyn at 8:50 AM on September 1, 2006

I'm 40 and I've been a change manipulator for a long time. Sometimes to maximize the number of quarters available to me for laundry, or, when I had an in-house washer, to minimize the number of coins that were taking up space and adding weight to my pockets. Or, to get singles when I need them for the vending machine, or get rid of singles when my wallet is getting too fat with them. I do the math in my head, I try to get my change ready rapidly, and I've only once had a cashier not understand the math of what I was doing.
posted by matildaben at 3:59 PM on September 5, 2006

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