Posted in Service Industry

Accepting Change


Can we agree that most people have trouble accepting change?  I know I do . . . but then, my issue has more to do with how it is given.

I think we can all agree that no one knows how to count back change anymore.  It’s a lost art for which none of us are willing to fight any longer.  The electronic gadgets tell us how much to give or expect back, and we like it that way.  Furthermore, coins are seen as mere fractions of money, not worth the metal into which they are pressed.  Most of us check the dollars, and toss the coins in a tip jar, penny dish, or the bottom of a bag.

My message today is about the physical handing over of the change.  There are two acceptable ways to hand back the balance of one’s payment.  The coins can be given with one hand and paper bills with the other.  However, this requires both cashier and customer to have both hands empty to begin with.  Most often, our hands are occupied with purchases, purses and receipts.  The drive-thru window makes this most difficult with both individuals reaching through what amounts to a hole in their space.

Usually change is received through a one-handed ordeal for both giver and receiver.  To be correctly accomplished, the coins should be dropped into the receiver’s palm, with the bills set either on top, or in the fingers.


Never . . . this bears repeating . . . NEVER should the bills be set in the hand with the coins sliding around on top!  This is a recipe for disaster.  The customer must quickly close the hand, hoping to capture the unpredictable coins, or risk them rolling across the counter, bouncing on the floor, or worse — losing them forever under the car at the drive-thru window. Customers waiting behind will be tapping their foot and rolling their eyes at the blundering transaction.  “I’m sorry” and “my fault” rarely help the situation, and I guarantee this dance is repeated daily at all hours of all establishments.

I plead my case with the fervor of one who has watched the counting back of change go the way of the dinosaurs.  The popularity of debit cards is making the passing of such skills swift.  Indeed, I rarely use real cash myself.  Dare I be one of those pompous elitists who takes it upon myself to instruct every cashier I meet on the correct procedure of giving change?  Um . . . no thanks.

Lest you think you are off the hook because you don’t work in retail, please note:  The counter has two sides.  I actually have worked in retail, and for every person who tossed his coins on the counter (were they afraid to touch me?) there was one who dropped skittering coins on top of the bills and left me to play goalie with their payment.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the loss of these coins is leading to the lag in our economy.  How many millions of dollars . . . nay, trillions! . . . could be lost in the gutters near countless hot dog stands, emptied from cashier waste baskets into the landfills, or swept away by cleaning crews?   May I go as far as to say it is your patriotic duty, when acting in the role of a customer and/or a cashier, to hand off currency in a responsible manner?


*Bonus points:  Just break out and be one of the pompous elite.  As the coins are undoubtedly about to be dropped on top of your paper currency, say, “Uh-uh-uh!  Let me show you the correct method for handing off change . . . ”

A+ for anyone who does that.

Peace . . .


Trying to make sense of it all and . . . for the most part . . . doing it.

16 thoughts on “Accepting Change

  1. omg….I am always so bewildered when I see people counting out change. Even some of the older folk too now.

    I suppose that with the advent of computer cash registers that is what happens though. But when I was younger and worked in a store, I was taught to count from the smallest denomination first, then the larger … I watch others and they do it backwards to me…they count the larger coins out first.

    Example me (using US currency): If something costs say … $3.17, I would count back the change as –

    (3) pennies
    (1) nickel
    (3) quarters
    (1) single dollar bill

    The wording would be said … three eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five, four dollars, five dollars.

    But normally I see the register showing the change automatically ($1.83). I see a dollar pulled from the register, then the quarters, etc. I know this works too … it just seems….backwards from what I learnt.

    Sadly though, I will not be getting any of your bonus points for explaining how to hand back change … I am kind of wimpy nod nods.

    1. Oh I’m wimpy too. That’s why I am trying to employ other people to do it! You are totally counting back change correctly, but when the computer tells me what to give back, I count up from the biggest, too. But when someone would question if it was right, I would always start from the smallest.

  2. Ha! I wo t be getting your bonus points for telling someone how to give change, but when I find loose change about to be tossed on top of my bills I close my hand and ask them to wait a moment while I transfer the bills to my other hand. Plenty of cashiers have given my dirty looks, guess I am slowing them down, but it really annoys me to try and catch everything.

    I’ve worked retail and as a bank teller, no one seems to know how to give change or receive it. The thing that is really bad is when the register tells them exactly what change to give but can’t get that right.
    One night I stopped at a drive thru window with 4 hungry boys, our order came to $18 and change, yes this was a long time ago, I kept waiting for my change then noticed the kid running the register couldn’t figure it out. I had given him a $20. He kept pulling out change then bills looking at it and my $20, putting it all back and trying again. In the end he handed me $16 and change. Seriously!

    Btw, never try to give extra pennies. If your change would be $1.76, don’t add the penny so you will get $1 plus 3 quarters. Unless you want to see them get completely lost. I’ve had cashiers hand it back to me because they couldn’t figure it out.

    1. LOL! Oh I know . . . the extra pennies mess them up, particularly if they have already put the dollar amount into the register and know how much to give back. Thinking on their own is not an option.

      You reminded me of a time when I went to the bank to deposit a check. I asked for the $20 I was requesting back to be given in 4 5-dollar bills. She said, “I’ll bet you would!” As if I was trying to scam her. I just looked confused and said, “If you wouldn’t mind.” And as she counted it out, she realized I wasn’t trying to pull one over on her. I could see the gears turning, but she kept a pretty good poker face.

      1. How funny, what ever happened to customer service with a smile? There’s another idea for you, we’ve lost all politeness in how both customer and workers communicate.

    2. As a cashier, I never worked out ‘why’ people gave me the extra penny (in the example, in australia it’s a little different). Now, as a ‘buyer’ I do that *all* the time so I get more notes and less coins! Thankfully, I know what the change should be almost always, so that helps me help them :p

      My butcher still counts out as per Irish Katie’s procedure – bless him!

  3. You explained the proceedure for collecting cash back so well that I will be looking for the first opportunity to practice. It’s frustrated me for many years to have sales clerks hand back change and not be prepared to collect it without it going everywhere. BTW, my EX was a tosser. It embarrassed me and I would speak to him about the rudeness of it. Wish I had seen that behavior before I married him. My guess is he’s still doing it to every clerk he gives (throws) money to.

    1. Oh . . the tossers. I wonder what they are thinking? I really did think it was because they were afraid to touch me. And if the coins fell on the floor, I would always make them wait for me to find them before I handed over the goods! I’m a shameless passive aggressive!

  4. Coin complications have reached new heights in Canada now that pennies have been discontinued! The cash registers have been re-programmed to round the change up or down, but everybody pauses and wonders if they are getting short-changed. If the cashier enters the amount paid wrong and has to figure out the change manually, forget it! ($3.87 = $3.85 and not $3.90, etc.)

  5. I am a little dismayed at clerks who don’t get the change stuff also. I will give a five dollar bill and 2 pennies when it is $3.02 and because they were not paying attention they won’t right away give back the two dollars. Amazing reliance on the computer and cash register!

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