Use Your Head


I ordered a bowl of veggie chile and brown rice at lunch today and it came to $8.01. I asked the clerk if he could break a $50 and he nodded that he could. As I was thinking about dropping my 99 cent “change” into the tip jar in front of me, he asked, “Do you have a penny?” I checked my pocket and said, “No, sorry.” What do you think he did next? Right; he handed me $42 in change. I wasn’t sure if he was doing me a favor, slighting the store, or was just plain too lazy to count out the 99 cents. What do you think his motive was? What do you think I did?


Okay; here’s what happened. I did not leave a tip because I considered his move to be stupid, as he made it difficult for me to tip anything less than a dollar, which was a bit high on an $8 tab. I am a big tipper, but his move showed me that he wasn’t interested in the tip and was willing to short the register by a penny to avoid counting out the 99 cents to me. Even asking me for the penny was dumb if the tip jar in front of him had any meaning to him and his co-workers.

12 Responses to “Use Your Head”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Is it just me, or has change counting become a lost art with the incorporation of modern POS systems?

  2. Ramona Perkins Says:

    His motive was to not have to count the change back to you because he didn’t know how to. I think you would have done what I would have done. Which is to teach him how this is done. When I worked in retail we would have to say the purchase price then the money we were given. Example:
    $8.01 out of fifty. Then count the change back. Counting change is definately a lost art. They don’t do it anywhere these days. The cash register tells them what they should give back and that’s what they do is just put the change in your hand. No counting. Bob Dylan’s song that he wrote 50 years ago sums it up “the times they are changing” technology has made this possible.

  3. Runaway Says:

    He probably was low on change because someone needed to make a bank run for rolled coins. Maybe they throw their tips in and exchange them for dollar bills. and come up with whatever is short in the register.

    People do the best they can with the tools they have. I would have asked the dude why he did that. Maybe it is their policy when they are low on shange, or expect to be because it happens often. Maybe they take a few cents out of their tips and put it in later. Been there, done that. Restaurant people can usually make change.

    I think you didn’t tip him at all. I would have asked other customers if they could spare a penny. I do that all the time when they tell me they can’t make change because they are down to their last dimes and nickels, pennies or quarters. Lighten up people.

    Did you at least peek at his drawer to see what the deal was. Lean over and get the jist of the situation. I’ve done it. No big deal. At least you ate.

  4. Retailmagic Says:

    Today’s point of sale systems have made it even easier for under-qualified, clerk type people to get and keep a job in retail. We are getting closer and closer to “Robo-Clerks.”

  5. patty Says:

    I thought the clerk was doing you a favor.
    I have had the same thing happen to me and I thanked the person
    who did me the favor.
    I too, did not want 99-cents in change when I had just cleaned my
    pocketbook out.

    It was thoughtful on the part of the server that he gave you the penny
    and probably pulled that penny from the tip jar so as not to short his

  6. All Business Says:

    Ron’s update hits the nail on the head. I like to tip, but please make it easy for me to do so. There’s no mileage in making the change process “easy” for anyone. I am equally bothered when the total is $7.98 (or so) as I feel bad dropping the 2 cents in the jar, but I will rather than digging for a dollar. Make it $8.02, give me the right change and I will reward the person behind the counter. I usually (in a case like this) keep the quarters and tip the rest. Do the arithmetic; it all adds up. Chances are his/her hourly rate is a small amount and the tips meaningful. As Ron said in the title of this post, “Use your head.”

  7. vidsolve Says:

    Patty hit the nail on the head pretty much. I would guess the clerk did not want to burden you with 99 cents change, he might have been thinking only of your welfare and possibly not at all about a tip. I would figure that most people have a couple of quarters in their pocket already and appreciate not getting a ton of change to add to the heavy metal pocket. Then you could tip from what you have already with no pressure from the clerk. I was not there, but i would say overall he did you a good deed. Everyone has different feelings about change, most appreciate the clerk putting in a penny or three to give me bills only, which i personally appreciate. What offends me the most is if i ask a clerk for a penny and they say no, and dont look me in the eye with a smile, think about how much more impersonal that is!

  8. Richard Says:

    I was thinking along the same lines as Patty as well. As a wise man once said, “No good deed goes unpunished.” I hate getting a ton of coins back and have to lug them around in my front pocket so they can wear a hole in my leg.

  9. Richard Says:

    I had a few more thoughts about this since my little post in response. This one has been haunting my thoughts a bit. I think that the concentration on the subject is coming from a single word used in Ron’s post. I, really, don’t think it is a big deal, but it has stuck in my craw. The word that is haunting me is the word “stupid.”

    “Stupid” is a word that I have used and unfortunately I still use. Still, every time I use that word “stupid” I find myself being ashamed. I would very much like to rid myself of that word, but, alas, so far, I have not been able to do so. And, because of my struggle, well, I do not judge or condemn others for using a word that I cannot seem to get myself not to use. But, I still do not like to see it or to hear it – it gives me a shudder. Because, every time I have claimed something or someone to be “stupid, “ I have consequently found three or four times as many things in myself to be even more “stupid.” For me, at least, the outward exclamation “stupid” has been more of a mirror than any kind of useful, meaningful classification of what others are doing.

    Aw, what the heck! The reason I pay attention to Ron’s blog and to his work is because not too many guys like him come around in this world, and when they do come around it is a good ides to shut up and pay attention – he is more than generous with his extraordinary wisdom and ability and skill – that is for sure. So, maybe for now, I should just shut up and take the position that he knows what he is talking about, and then quietly ruminate on these haunting thoughts that have invaded my mind . Even though it may be a tiny little interaction at a soup counter, I would not be surprised if somewhere from within there springs a solid life lesson.

  10. Ron Says:

    Ron Here;
    Richard is right; “Stupid” is a bad word. I should have said something like, “shortsighted” or “wrong priorities.” I surely did not expect this post to get this much attention. Some that I think are much more powerful don’t get any comments at all.

  11. Waitress Says:

    I think it’s interesting that the smallest bill in your wallet is a $50 but you feel that $1 is way too big of a tip to give someone for serving you lunch.
    FYI less than a dollar on an $8 tab is just cheap and not tipping someone at all because they saved you a penny is what is really stupid.
    In a lot of instances the waiter is the one that counts the register down at the end of the night and if it’s short they make it up out of their pocket.

  12. Ron Says:

    I appreciate your remarks and want to be sure we are clear here. One thing I think I failed to mention is that this was a kiosk type place and no one actually “served” me at all. Secondly, I don’t think $1 is too big, I am actually known to be a 20% tipper. What happened here was my reaction to his reaching into the tip jar, regardless of the motive. The money in that jar belongs to him and his fellow employees.
    Yours as well as some of the other’s comments to this posting have made me rethink my actions (reaction) here. The good thing is that I frequent this place a lot and have had the opportunity to make up for my rash behavior many times over.

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