Ch-Ch-Ch Chump Change

About when did making change for a customer require skills beyond that of a graduate degree in any discipline other than the humanities? Was it sometime between when we in the civilized world abandoned the abacus and adopted the hand-held calculator?

After reaching the cashier, your invoice totals $4.86 and you hand the cashier a five-dollar bill. Quickly, and “in your head” – no instruments, including pencils or paper allowed – how much change should the cashier hand you?

Take a moment. Take another.

Got it?

Note there was no suggestion that you hand the cashier a five-dollar bill and one penny, in order to make making change even easier. That would really complicate things. Plus, you can predict the cashier’s reply: “Oh, you already have enough, you don’t need that [penny].”

Next question: what does the correct change look like? How many round, silver-colored things with that guy’s neck and profile on it and how many brown-colored round things with the other guy’s neck and profile should you receive?

As usual, the questions get harder the farther along we go.

Today’s change-makers, with no age reference implied, find the first task of such daunting magnitude as to defy even the glaring digital answer parked before their eyes.

The second – producing the correct change – is even worse.

Watching them count out the customer’s change is downright painful.

First coins are arrayed across their palms like cards being presented by a Las Vegas casino dealer. Then comes the pointing.

With index finger first poised and then pointed, near audible counting begins. Sometimes lips are moving. Occasionally, noises are heard.

Finally, following this excruciating process demanding computing power of the highest order, the change is unceremoniously dumped in the customer’s hand.

Whew. Not sure we were going to get there. Ever.

The gargantuan size of the Herculean process is such that, often, the cashier is spent by its end. Brow-mopping followed by audible exhaling topped by a self-confident smile of success and an expectation of hearing that favorite phrase, “Good job!”

And no “Thank you.”

Then, the customer carefully places the two nickels and two pennies in their pocket.

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