Why do cashiers hand you the coins on top of your paper bills?

This post is a petty gripe, but I suspect that it's shared secretly by anyone who uses cash to buy things.

The transaction is pretty simple. Unless you start the day carrying coins, you will pay for something using a larger denomination than required – “change” must be made.

The cashier reviews the till readout and pulls the appropriate amount.

What follows is logical from one perspective: counting out the change to back-calculate how much you gave.

Example: You buy $16.73 in groceries and pay with a $20 bill. The cashier pulls three $1 bills, one quarter and two pennies.

“Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty-seven cents is $20”

The bills are placed in your hand and then the coins. It’s a simple, codified way to ensure the arithmetic is accurate.

Next you either wad the entire handful into your pocket, purse or wallet, or you have to get the coins into your free hand without them dumping on the floor (they slide off of the paper, like water off a ducks bill, (ha!)) and pull out your wallet to insert the bills and then put the coins in your pocket.

If the cashier would place the coins in your hand first, you could easily drop them into your pocket and the receive the paper bills.

I started this by saying it was a gripe, however, it’s one of those things that just happens and it’s inconvenient because it’s always been that way. The change counting scenario I gave above could be reversed and you would start with the coins. This has happened to me with a rare few cashiers and I always walk away smiling on the inside.

I’m not saying this is a huge inconvenience we need to fix right away. I am saying it’s a thoughtless act that is also inconvenient.

I might be overlooking a more compelling reason for the current system, but perhaps it’s just one of those “always been done that way” behaviors. Strange how such a specific behavior could be so widespread.


2 thoughts on “Why do cashiers hand you the coins on top of your paper bills?

  1. I have absolutely thought this before. I’d be interested to read a further post on other “it’s always been this way” factors you see. Good stuff.

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