I Wonder Can They Count?

By: W.B. (The Savvy Shopper)

I’ve often wondered how many cashiers these days actually know how to count change. It seems to be a lost art.

Say you make a total purchase of $5.98, and hand the clerk a ten-dollar bill and three pennies. You should receive $4.05 back. But if the three cents isn’t tallied in the remittance, it’ll bamboozle many of the younger cashiers, and they’re apt to give you back $4.02. Because that’s what the cash register said to do.

There’s an over reliance on computerized systems in many retail and fast food outlets and they tend to hire people without a lot of experience and/or education. Ergo, what the computerized cash register says is always right. NOT!

Many school districts permit the use of calculators in arithmetic classes. That was unheard of in my day. Not even slide rulers were permitted. (Duh, what’s a slide ruler W.B.?)Ê The fundamental concepts of mathematics had to be learned, not copied from a machine. Maybe it’s time to revert back to that concept.

Another source of wonderment is the accuracy of computerized checkout systems.Ê Are they bar code scanners or bar code scammers?

Most organizations that use such systems make an attempt to keep them accurate. But the heavier the inventory carried by the store the more likely it is that some errors will be made. There’s usually a person assigned in each store to keep the database in the scanner’s computers up to date. But my recent retail experience shows that errors can creep in. Some items get overlooked or input incorrectly, thus the dreaded “price check” from the cashier. The machine is only as good as the data it’s furnished. Sometimes they even refuse one’s input.

There also seems to be “seasonal” variations. For example during the last Christmas season I virtually made the same purchases as I would at other times during the year. Yet the scanners and registers would ring up $15 to $20 more then the usual prices. Why, I don’t know. But it makes you wonder.

Stay alert, shop savvy.

W.B. filed May, 2002, from Missouri.