Change over Dollars

Something evil has happened in retail, and I’m not talking about the latest glut of sub-standard merchandise from China. No, this is something far more sinister, and it affects us all, or at least all of us that still use cash.

For some reason, whenever I buy something, my change is now handed to me bills-first, followed by the receipt, with the change placed carefully on top of the pile. With the change delivered to me in this fashion, I am then dismissed and expected to get out of the way for the next customer who is no doubt eager to pay for her venti frappa-cappa-chupacabra so she too can be on her way. The problem is that I can’t, because I am now immobilized with indecision as to how to deal with the pile of financial paperwork in my hand.

I like to keep bills folded up in my pocket, preferably all facing the same way, in ascending numerical order. Realizing that this makes me a tad, shall we say, obsessive, I have learned to deal with a fair amount of pocket disorder provided that I can stop and sort the contents of my pockets at various points throughout my day. The change is impossible to sort, so it all goes into my right pocket, left to jingle and wallow in entropy as the universe sees fit. Receipts, unless they are important for travel expense reporting, go into the trash. Receipts to be saved go into my wallet. I generally don’t sort receipts until it’s time to report my expenses, but what’s important is that they belong either in my wallet or in the trash.

Imagine you’re me for a minute. Anxiety about the constant state of disorder in your life makes normal conversation difficult, but you’ve developed a mask of false confidence that allows the world to believe that you’re a normal, contributing member of society. Just as you think you’ve got the day under control with a fix of nerve-steadying caffeine on the way, some nimrod meticulously piles bills, paper and change into your hand in such a way that you simply must deal with it before moving on.

I should point out that there are stores that practice actual customer service and ask politely whether or not I would like my receipt in the bag. To this I enthusiastically reply, “Yes! And thank you for asking!” ┬áThose establishments are, however, sadly rare.

I travel a lot, and as a result, I often find myself in airport gift shops. My daughter likes chocolate, and insists that I bring her samples from around the world so that she might expand her palate in ways unavailable to her since she doesn’t drive, work, have a bank account, or contribute to society in any meaningful way. She is adorable and she’s mine, though, so I buy her chocolate, usually from airport gift shops where everyone is cranky, harried, and generally not in the mood for shenanigans.

In an effort to improve everyone’s day by not forcing them to watch me sort my handful of disorder, I politely state the fact that, “I don’t need a receipt” when making my purchase. That can seem a bit brusque, which is fine when I’m in Newark Airport trying to do anything I can to get the hell out of Newark Airport, but in kinder, gentler parts of the country, I’ll offer a smile and politely ask not to receive a receipt.

So what happens when I specifically ask not to be handed a receipt? Nine times out of ten I get a receipt piled up on my money with a nice decoration of change on top. This is why I don’t talk to people any more: nobody listens! I was trying to help. I was trying to make everyone behind me have a better day by not having to deal with me in front of them in line, but now I have a freaking receipt, wedged between my bills and change, and I need to deal with it!

In this situation I have no qualms about being me. I made an effort and they ignored me, so in retribution I stop everything, make a point of not moving, and calmly sort it all out right there in front of God and everyone.

I suggest that you follow my lead and sort out your financial paperwork while standing in line. Maybe the corporate kingpins will take notice if we all stand proud and delay corporate profits en masse. Maybe the way of things will go back to the way it once was. I suggest an uprising of consumers against this heinous practice of receipts and change over dollars.

Unless you’re ahead of me in line, in which case get out of the damn way.

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