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Top Tips for Checking your Change

Last Saturday in Heuston Station, I bought a few things in one of the shops there. I received my change back, had a quick look to make sure it was correct and left the shop. I went to buy a paper in another shop and took out my change to pay for it.

The €2 coin in my pocket that I thought I’d received in the previous shop was actually a Turkish 1 lira coin. They’re remarkably close in how they look, and in their size.

The 1 lira coin above right is actually only worth €0.56. Fair play to the shop concerned, they took back to Turkish coin without any issues. Particularly given that in many shops you now see the sign below.

How many times have you noticed this sign when you’ve out shopping? And how many times have you actually taken heed of the sign and counted your change – or are you like me and have a quick look without actually checking in detail.

Have you been shortchanged recently? Do you think shortchanging is becoming more prevalent? If this Consumer thread on Boards.ie is anything to go by, it very well might be.

Inspired by all this, and to refresh my own memory, check out the following Top Tips For Checking Your Change when out shopping.

  • When paying for items, know yourself in advance how much you’ll have to pay by mentally adding up the cost of the items as you’re selecting them.
  • When handing over money for items, know in advance how much you will expect to get in change – don’t depend on the cashier or the cash register.
  • Be suspicious where the display of the cash register is hidden from view. You should always be able to see this display to see what price are the items that are being rung in, and what you’re total cost is, how much they’re entering in as having received from you, and what your change is.
  • Be extra suspicious of cashiers who keep a small calculator close to the cash register. These can be used to keep a running total of the amount of extra money in the till. With a cash register in front of them, there should be no need for this calculator.
  • Always pay attention to the note that you are handing over to pay for your goods. Know whether or not it was a €10, €20 or €50 etc – and know how much change you should be expecting.
  • Being aware of the money you’ve handed over will strengthen your position if you’re short changed, or you get change of a €10 when you actually handed in a €20. If such a situation occurs, be polite, stand your ground, and if necessary, ask for the manager. Remember that most cash registers are covered now by CCTV so use this if necessary to strengthen your position.
  • When you get your change, don’t feel hurried into walking away from the cashier.
  • Before you move away from the cashier, count your change (notes and coins) to ensure that you’ve been given the correct amount.
  • Be careful to distinguish between €1 and €2 coins, and also between 50c and 20c coins. Turn coins over if needs be to confirm.
  • Only when you’re happy that you’ve received the correct change should you move away from the cashier.
  • If you have not received the correct change, politely address the cashier and explain that you don’t think you’ve received the correct change. Hand back your change, and your receipt, and state what actual money you had handed in originally.
  • Politely explain that you are short by whatever amount, and ask that the cashier checks, and returns the correct change this time.
  • If the cashier is unwilling to assist, give them one further opportunity to address the situation before asking to speak to a manager. Remember, there is always someone in charge, so don’t be put off by such excuses.
  • In this situation, as all others where you need to complain, remember to follow the Value Ireland Tips on How to Complain.
Observations and Things to Watch Out For
  • Unlike in days gone by, change is seldom counted back into your hand by the cashier in a shop, or a barman in a pub. You’re just handed back a lump of notes and change. You shouldn’t let this put you off counting your change before moving on.
  • An observation on a couple of websites where people are talking about being short changed is where a customer has noticed being short changed and has asked for a receipt, or has simply highlighted that they think there is a problem. In some situations, the cashier has immediately handed over extra money without even checking to see if it was incorrect or not. This has indicated to people that the cashier concerned deliberately short-changed them – why else pay over the remaining change immediately. If this happens, you should report your concerns to the manager immediately.
  • Remember that not everyone who may give you incorrect change is out to rip you off. People can make mistakes, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you get your correct change. Always approach people who you think may have made a mistake politely, explaining clearly your concerns.
  • If you are regularly short changed in a particular shop, or by a particular person in a business, on the next time that it happens, ask to speak to their manager. Again, remember that there is always someone in charge, so don’t feel put off by asking to speak to such a person.
  • There are some situations more than others where you may be more likely to be short changed – either intentionally or unintentionally. These may be in very busy shops with a large throughput of customers. Busy cashiers mean a higher possibility of making mistakes.
  • Bars and night clubs are places that are also busy later on in a night, and where there’s an expectation that people with alcohol consumed may not be as weary as sober customers.
  • If you’re out in a pub or night club for a night, and you’re regularly going to the bar, if you’re seen to be regularly checking your change, it’s unlikely that unscrupulous people will try to take advantage of you.
  • While it’s nice to deal with a cashier who is amiable and chatty and passes the time of day with you, don’t let this distract you from your business – paying for goods and checking your change. While not every cashier is out to rip you off, such behaviour may be an attempt to distract you while they short-change you.

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