Counting Change

counting changeYou know what bugs me? Well, a lot of things bug me, but this post is about something that’s bugged me for a long time. It also concerns a lesson learned about things that bug me. And it’s about why this post is being written in the first place.

Let me start with that last one. (Because it just now happened again!) I have notebooks, Post-It Note collages and scribbled note collections of blog post ideas. But new ones pop up constantly (like the idea I thought of while writing this paragraph). Some of the new ones are so demanding, they shove the patiently waiting ones aside. The backlog is building, yet my time is short. Very aggravating.

Which brings me to the post’s point: my aggravation about counting change.

cashierThe post’s title has a lovely ambiguity (in fact, with a title like that, you probably thought this was YA New Year’s post), so let me be specific: I hate the way cashiers count change back to you these days!

This has always bugged me.

It seems completely wrong, and I’ve always wondered why it went on. Hasn’t everyone experienced it many times by now? Doesn’t everyone hate it? Why hasn’t it changed; why does it continue when everyone hates it?!

Well, actually, yes, things that everyone hates do continue; we call that life.

But more importantly there is the second point of this post: I was startled to discover that, no, not everyone hates it. In fact, not only do they not hate it, they like it.

balanceWhich brings up two things I think are so important.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are very few universals when it comes to likes and dislikes. There are some things that are so far beyond the pale that we all agree they are Dead Wrong, but most things in life are a matter of taste.

Secondly, that a form of give and take is vitally important to a balanced view of the world. Putting your own ideas and thoughts out there — interacting with others — is key to obtaining a balanced view. If you can’t support your own beliefs and ideas in the “public market place,” how can you be sure they’re valid?

Along with that, however, it has to be possible to debate those ideas as ideas without it getting too personal. That can be hard to do, especially when our ideas reflect cherished beliefs about the world.


I never said that!

You sometimes hear the (supposed) quote, “The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results.” It’s oft attributed to Albert Einstein, but old Al never said anything quite that blatantly wrong.

(Einstein is said to be the most misquoted person in history. He is sometimes used to make other ideas seem more cogent.)

Indeed, there are many situations in life where trying again and again is the key to success. Any athlete understands this.

What’s more important is the real definition of insanity, which is the degree to which your view of reality does not correspond with the commonly held version.

kettle of fishNow, granted, that opens up a whole kettle of fish regarding the commonly held version, but let’s leave that for another time.

Let’s (for now) assume the commonly held version is the closest version to actual reality. (There are other kettles of fish we’ll leave unopened, such as whether actual reality exists at all.)

The bottom line is that, if your views of reality don’t agree with that mainstream view, then either you are a True Visionary (and, really, how likely is that?) or you may need to rethink — and perhaps adjust — your point of view.

[We’re funny that way. We blame politicians for changing their views and we blame them for not changing their views. I would opine that anyone whose view of the world has not evolved over time just isn’t paying attention.]

moneyFor instance, he said trying to drag this post back on topic, you could believe that everyone in the world hates the way they give change these days.

And then one of the first people you mention this to has a completely different take on it.

After your head stops spinning around, you realize that, rather than being a Universal Bad Thing, maybe it’s just another one of those things that personally pisses you off.

But it really does piss me off, so I’m going to blog about it anyway.

amount tendered

The big orange key!

Now, I’m not talking about the fact that cashiers don’t count the change back.

These days, they just key in the Amount Tendered and the machine tells them how much money to give you back. (I took pride in never doing that, in having the basic simple math skills to count change, but then I’m a geek.)

It is true that people are increasingly innumerate (the mathematical equivalent of illiterate) these days, and a bit of counting change would likely be a Good Thing for them, but that’s a different battle.

No, what I’m talking about is the way they put the bills in your hand first and then dump the change on top.

I’m saying the proper way (the “old-fashioned” way) is coins, first, securely in the cup of your hand with bills counted out on top.

These days it’s bills and then coins, all counted down. My contrary friend says this makes it easy to slide the coins into a coin purse.

the book

Change counting is now considered so challenging it requires books!

Maybe I’m just a clumsy git, but I’m always worried the coins will easily slide off the bills and go rolling all over the floor.

I’ve even had cashiers be so sloppy with the coins, the coins escaped and took off on their own!

I always have to very carefully slide the coins into my other free hand so I can pocket them. (Which means  I need both hands free, and that can be an issue in the cafeteria line.)

Sometimes, if the line is long behind me, I just wad everything up, jam the whole mess into my pocket and sort it out later. Maybe it comes from being annoyed at people who, for example, wait to start writing the check until after the cashier has completed ringing everything up. I don’t like having people waiting behind me.

At any rate, there it is. I hate the way they count change today. Am I alone in this? (Like that would be the first time, but then, you see, I am a True Visionary, so I’m used to it.)

rantAnd let’s face it, one of the joys of having a blog is the ability to rant about exactly these sorts of things!  One more whiny voice in the wilderness we call, “The Web!”

And, no, I’m not (at this time) going to tell you the idea I had while writing the second graph, but I will likely share it with you if I can pull it off.

First I’ll need several pounds of ostrich feathers.

And some mangoes.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

24 responses to “Counting Change

  • heysugarsugar

    Ok ( I know you were just waiting for my response…you ready?)
    so if you come into my Tearoom and up to the counter to pay and it amounts to lets say for example £5.25 in sterling and you hand me a £20.00 note
    ( which will secretly annoy me greatly and I will smile sweetly and say ”do you have the correct money sir by any chance?” really meaning :-

    ” dig deep in your pocket you bastard, I know you’ve got change in your pocket and your hiding it and people like you today are killing my cash register and I am slowly but surely running out of silver sterling because of sods like you wanting my change for the car park meter down the road and dont you know I am 7 miles from the bank you bloody tourist?” …
    *smiles ever so sweetly*

    So you reply ” sorry I don’t have any change” and stubbornly hand me that note.
    and I hand you a £10 note and four £1.00 coins .(because we don’t have pound notes in uk any more) because I have now run out of 50p coins (because of people like you buying little things and paying with notes all day) I give you 70 ten pence coins and a 5p coin on top of that £10 note and larger coins are you going to shout at me?
    I never verbally count out the change to you because that annoys me, it sounds pretentious and anyway I will only cock up and say it wrong ! I will just bung it in your hand and smile beautifully and say ” thank you sir, please come again” ….and glare as you walk to that bloody car park meter with my change!!
    did that help in this debate ? lol

    • Wyrd Smythe

      😆 I’d walk away thinking, “Man, she smiled ever so sweetly, but I could feel those laser beam eyes slicing and dicing me into little cubes!”

      Well, I’m at least apologetic when I only have a bill. I still lean towards paying with cash when I can, so I usually do have close to the right change. I think for me a lot of it boils down to how much time I have between knowing the price and paying.

      In a cafeteria line, you’re rung up and pay immediately. No time to dig for change. But if I’ve been given a bill, say in a restaurant or tearoom, then I feel I have time to root around for the right change. Although in a place with service, I’d be leaving a tip, so I’d just hand you the bills and say, “Keep the change.”

      • heysugarsugar in U.K. we don’t generally get tipped…the evening staff do, as evening Bistro pay more and tip the I save all those and give them to her at the end of her shift. but its normal day to day places, the U.K. rarely tip…only lovely visiting Americans tend to tip us.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        So,… one difference between Englishmen and canoes is that canoes tip!

        American tipping has gotten to the point of being seen as a requirement! We’re all told over and over about how the waitrons’ salary assumes they will earn tips, and generally speaking 15% is all but required if the service is acceptable. I’ve had a lot of friends who’ve worked tables over the years, so I’m sympathetic to the rigors and requirements.

        I try to be generous and it just seems really smart to treat very well the people who bring you food.

        And when the service is notable, I am often very generous. I’ll leave a note or speak to the manager if the service stands out for being especially good (or especially not).

  • charmarie221

    aw, man… now I don’t have anything to say, cuz you said what I already said… although “coin purse” was a bit odd phrasing for me… on my most recent blog I touched on the “Happy Holidays” hot button that affects so many people and leaves me baffled… perchance you have strong feelings about this?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      True, the “change purse” phrasing is mine. Your phrasing was “change part,” which is pretty close. I just took a little creative license. 🙂

      (Okay, okay, I was too lazy to go back and find the message for the exact phrasing. Ya caught me!)

      Happy Holidays Hot Button? Me have strong opinions? What… have you been reading this blog or something? (I’ll drop by directly.)

  • charmarie221

    mine wasn’t such a rant, though, eh? more just a “settle down” folks… although my follow up comment to yours might have been a little more pokey…

    change purse brings to mind a grandmother with her little pouched, metal-pronged-opening cracked leather coin purse… you really DID see my current pics, didn’t you???

    • Wyrd Smythe

      😆 You jest, but I have a change “purse”. Little leather pouch with a zipper I tuck in my back pocket, because (a) I don’t like jingling when I walk, and (2) I was tired of all the change falling out of my pocket every time I hung by my knees from a tree branch.

      And to save you asking: yes. Perhaps not as frequently as once, but I’ve always been of the opinion that people don’t climb trees often enough. There is something very special about climbing a tree. Nestling in its branches, looking out at the world, or hiding snug within its canopy.

      No, people don’t climb trees anywhere near often enough.

      Well,… most of’m don’t…. 😀

  • charmarie221

    funny thing, tree climbing… every day after school, Riley wants to play for a bit in the grassy area outside the building. Okay fine, run, play, be free, watch out for the mud. Last year she figured out how to climb up one of the trees… only she and 2 of the boys in her class were able to make the climb.

    This year she is once again up, not just that one, but 2 different trees. 2 other boys and 1 other girl are able to scale them, in addition to the original 3. One time she climbed down to tell us one of the boys was stuck in the tree. We thought he had climbed too high and scared himself, but turns out his foot was literally stuck in a forked branch up there.

    Every day, up the trees, higher and higher. She ruined a fairly expensive pair of tennis shoes and numerous pairs of leggings going up and down the rough bark. She has hung stuffed animals from the branches, after climbing up holding the animals in her mouth. She has picked the weird smelling fruits from one of the trees and gotten in trouble for throwing them at my car windshield.

    So bottom line, the girl can climb trees. Does climb trees. LOVES to climb trees.

    I bought myself a Kindle this Christmas because I wanted something smaller than my netbook to take on trips to relatives houses to check email when we traveled. Then I realized it could also be used to download games. Trendy games like Bubble Burst and Angry Birds. Games I had never played before NOR had my 6 year old. And the fact that she had never played any sort of finger-on-the-screen games actually concerned me.

    I’d seen kids her age and younger sitting with iPads and iPhones and Nexus 7’s playing games while Riley ran around climbing trees! So here all the world was lamenting that “kids today” don’t do enough outdoor activity–taking walks and hikes, swimming and running, riding bikes and climbing trees. And I’m all “Yeah yeah, she’s got the outdoor crap down cold; let’s see if she can kill some pigs on Angry Birds.”

    Guess what? she can.

  • charmarie221

    I, on the other hand, sound completely crazy!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      No, not to me. Indeed, I’m getting the sense we’re lumber from the same tree. The world has possibly been trying to convince you you’re the crazy one—it’s been my ass like that since forever. But I’ve come to realize I’m one of the ones outside the asylum. Don’t let them fool you; the insane are wily. (But the keepers are much, much worse.)

  • charmarie221

    or perhaps the inmates are running the asylum! sane, crazy… I don’t judge too much… mean/spiteful, you have got to GO

  • It's only P!

    Don’t sweat the small stuff. 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      And it’s all small stuff.

      But then what would I rant about? 😕

      • It's only P!

        Nothing, absolutely nothing, because you don’t need to rant in order to get attention. It got record low Likes. Entiendes Mendes? 😉

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I don’t rant for attention, I rant to get it off my chest! (Or often for comic effect.)

        From now on, every time a cashier hands me change that way, I’ll probably remember this post (and the comments) and smile hugely.

      • It's only P!

        Hhm, Meinherr, Freud might beg to differ. 😉

        As an empath who’s only recently learned to protect herself I find that reading rants leave me exhausted and feeling tight-chested. That’s just because the vented energy enters my energy field via the laptop screen. Yes, I am that weird. I can smell cigarette smoke when someone lights a cigarette in a movie. I’m probably some kind of ET.

        But then again, aren’t we all?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, you’re a far more gentler sort than I am, is the thing. Probably a better person, too. I’ve always had a bit of “bull in a china shop” in me, and I’ve always been one who gets mad at things I think are wrong. The former is just clumsiness and social ineptness, but the latter seems to me the flip side of passion and sensitivity and caring. I don’t seem able to separate them; they’re bound together.

        It reminds me of what I’ve heard from people who are bi-polar. Medication makes life more “normal” (or even-keel, anyway), but it also makes life more dull (“gray” is a word I’ve heard several times). Being off meds brings a lot of problems, it can make life unlivable for some. But at least they feel alive. It seems that way to me; being someone who lacks that deep passion (which, yes, sometimes drives me into territory that makes everyone uncomfortable) doesn’t seem like living to me.

        A lot of good change can come from anger… Magna Carta, American Revolution, Women’s Sufferage… I really do believe in outrage as a driver for social change. But embracing the idea means embracing anger as useful, at least sometimes. It’s not something I fear or am utterly repelled by, and I confess I have trouble fully appreciating the reaction many do have to it.

        And I’m not entirely sure that, maybe sometimes, making people uncomfortable is always a bad thing. I have long seen myself in a role as an agitator and agent of chaos, because I do have a strong belief that that’s where true growth and progress occurs.

        Or, I dunno… maybe I’m just a big asshole! It’s really hard to tell sometimes.

  • charmarie221

    don’t sweat the petty stuff… and don’t pet the sweaty stuff… was that carlin too?

  • Derek

    You still use cash? Actuall I do as well at the cafeteria and I too wish they would put the change in my hand first. I actually wish they would hand me the change as they count out the bills and that way I can slip it into my pocket as they take the time counting the bills and then I’m totally ready to slide those bills into my wallet. But really, I rarely use cash anymore and I never carry coins unless I just got change.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      As you know perfectly well, despite being a life-long geek and career computer programmer,… I’m still a bit of a Luddite. I think we’re entirely too promiscuous with technology sometimes (actually, that’s not a bad idea for a blog post), so I’m still a hold-out in many areas. For one example, doing any banking online is still many years off for me; I don’t trust the interweb technology just yet.

      So, yes, I deal in cash for most OTC transactions. That is changing, though. I’ve been using a credit card for my major grocery buy for years, and have started using it for smaller grocery stops. And I’ve been paying at the pump for a long time, too.

      The day is coming when your smart phone will be your bank card and that one device will directly debt your bank account (in a 100% secure way). I’ll climb on board then.

      I did almost include a bit of rant about paying for small purchases (such as lunch in the cafeteria) with a credit card, but (A) I can appreciate some people might want to fully monitor their spending, and (2) I have to admit it no longer causes any delay (can be faster, since there’s no change giving process). But these days you don’t even have to sign any more. Just swipe and go.

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