Posted by: Bruce Allen | January 10, 2008

Dear High Roller in Hyattsville–

Dear Mr. BruAl–

Whenever I go to the bank, I like to get my cash in $100 bills. I think it impresses cashiers at retail establishments when I use them to pay for small purchases. What do you think?

High Roller in Hyattsville

Dear High Roller–

Having spent much of the last few years behind a cash register, I’ve come into contact with a number of people who share this feeling with you. People whose order totals $3.76 and who hand you a $100 bill, as if making $96.24 in change is a fun, exciting step toward self-actualization. 95% of these people are men, and 95% of these men are morons. Allow me to elaborate. I insist.

Of all the crummy aspects of operating a cash register for 6 or 8 hours at a time, and there are many, one of the worst is making change. Making change allows one numerous opportunities to turn simple mistakes into job-threatening interactions. One can end up short at the end of the shift, a fireable offense. Make a mistake in the other direction and the customer is literally shortchanged. When a customer realizes he has received too much change and decides not to say anything about it, he consciously adds another small stain to his soul, which contributes to a bad mood. In the latter, the customer almost always realizes the mistake instantaneously, often bringing it to one’s attention in a less-than-kindly way, contributing to two bad moods, his and, at that point, yours. Due to the nature of the job, a fair number of cashiers make mistakes making change. Very few cashiers intentionally shortchange customers. Nonetheless, in these instances the customer usually has a less-than-perfect experience.

As a manager, one of my ongoing concerns was to ensure that both the cash registers and the safe had sufficient change to last until the next Brinks delivery. We did a huge business in $1 bills, quarters and pennies. Our mission in life was to separate customers from their $20 bills, and we mostly sent $20’s to the bank in exchange for $1’s and wrapped coins. A mindless, time-eating, brain-wasting process of counting money. Counting and “cleaning” cashier drawers at the end of shifts, and counting the safe twice a day. Accounting for overs and unders. And having three other managers involved. Driving to the nearby bank branch was, for me, a weekly event, one prohibited by company policy.

An article in Fast Company described a company in California that made a business decision to accept only plastic. No American currency allowed. They seem to be staying in business. I became deeply envious of the managers in that store. Such a move would free up perhaps 20% of a manager’s time. Or reduce the need for managers themselves by 20%.

Without any in-store signage prohibiting bills over $20, $100 bills came to represent all the bad things about my job. Most of the people handing them to you seemed to want to be viewed by those around them as High Rollers, such as yourself. Some hoped you’d comp them, in order to not have to make $97.72 in change. Some just kind of gave you the what-are-you-lookin’-at? routine. All of them presented the opportunity to err making change for or against, and increased the likelihood of having to run to the bank. And all of them required a manager to come up front, put the bill up to the light to determine it was not counterfeit (who would ever know?), and unlock the black box under the register where all of the $20’s were supposedly kept, in order to do what the customer should have done at the bank 15 minutes earlier.

The rest of this is in just plain poor taste. If you’re easily offended, please stop here. Thanks.

The way I explained it to the cashiers was to assume that any guy presenting a $50 or a $100 for a small check is compensating for extremely small genitals. For cashiers, that’s about as much enjoyment as one can get in those situations. So, High Roller, unless you want people to think you’re carrying a mini-package, save your Benjamins for your hookers and meth buys.

Cabbie sees a hand waving from the shadows and picks up a fare late on a warm, rainy night. As the fare steps into the cab, he notices she’s female, completely soaked, and completely naked. She says, “Downtown, please.” He says, “I notice you’re not carrying a purse.” She says, “Yes.” He says, “So, how you gonna pay your fare?” She says nothing, but strikes what can only be called a highly immodest post. He says, “You got anything smaller?”




  1. Dear BruAl:

    It pains me to say this, but it makes me crazy that change makers absolutely cannot master the Rules of Recompensation.

    That is, upon receiving change, According to Hoyle, one should find all bills dress-right-dress, in sequence, with George in front as the Father of our Country, Abe waitng patiently behind as the humble rail splitter that he was, and so on, and all looking forward as leaders should do, present commander-in-chief excepted, of course.

    Yes, I realize that the average change-maker would struggle to enter an order in the coin of the realm, requiring the register keyboard to be labeled with icons of Big Macs and Taco Supremes. But still….

    With this silly obsession, is it yet possible for me to enjoy my golden years in a semblance of a normal life? Or will I remain constantly currency crazed?

    Bummed by Backward Bills

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