Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Counting my Centavos

I recently opened Abby’s coin banks and took away her collection of P.05’s, P.10’s and P.25’s after hearing the news that so much of these coins have been “saved”, there isn’t much left circulating around.

Now, before anyone starts thinking how patriotic I am by wanting to spare the government from spending P.80 centavos for each P.05 centavo coin made, and nominates me for membership in the gallery of nationalistic martyrs … well, that’s only my second consideration. My foremost concern actually is the preservation of my own equanimity. You see, one of the things that are guaranteed to raise my hackles is getting shortchanged, and I’ve been getting a lot of that long before that news came out.

Cang’s is particularly notorious for this practice some time ago. I’ve had enough of my change lacking as much as P.15 centavos each time I’d buy from them, I finally demanded an explanation. You see, my thinking goes along these lines: Since I’m paying the exact price being demanded for the merchandise I’m purchasing, I expect to receive the exact change due to me! Is that too much to expect?

About two or three years ago, when I demanded for that explanation, the cashier at Cang’s answered dismissively that they didn’t have the coins. The lady did not even bother to glance up as she spoke to me. With my blood pressure shooting up to record heights, I said, “So … you don’t have P.05 centavo coins? I can help you with that!”

I marched to Veteran’s Bank and had a P20.00 bill converted to P.05 centavo coins. (Looking back, I should have made it P100 or better still P500, but on second thoughts, that would be too heavy, or most likely, I didn’t have that much money at that time. Knowing me, I would have gone for the P500 if I had that amount right there and then!)

Needless to say, I went back, got something and paid with my plastic-full of P.05 coins with a parting shot: “There! Now you can give the right change to all the customers!”

That incident also got me started at counting my change to make sure that I’m given the right amount. I always call cashiers’ attention to any mistake, whether it is to my advantage or the stores’. I once gave back P50.00 excess change. The cashier practically grabbed it from me without a word. I sighed wondering where good manners have gone.

Two months ago, I almost lost P1.00 in a single day: shortchanged by P.25 at Lee and by P.75 at Fortune Mart. No big deal to most, but it mattered to me.

I’ve heard comments like “singko ra bitaw”, the point being, “why bother?” What is it with these kinds of people anyway? Is it a matter of pride? That being seen making tilok (scrapping the bottom of the barrel) of the lowly singko s'tabos might risk being thought of as destitute?

Or do we simply have too much we can’t be bothered with singko anymore, or diez or biente singko for that matter? Don’t we all know that there can’t be a million without even one centavo?

If you’re a student living in anticipation of your next allowance, try this: see if inadvertently finding a single piso won’t send you singing praises when you’re down to your last singko pisos, with next allowance not due for two more days.

With conditions as they are now, I am sure that the public would understand if stores are unable to give exact change. However, I demand that storeowners should train their cashiers to take the time to explain their lack of coins and to ask if it was all right with the customer concerned.

Indeed, there are those who’d ask if you had P.35 or P2.85 and so on (so it is easier for them to give a round change), but we still see plenty who’d just casually hand over change that’s a few centavos short, fully expecting the customer to accept meekly like the proverbial lamb.

This should change. Consumers, we should be more vigilant and assertive of our rights.

Storeowners, teach your employees Good Manners and Right Conduct. That’s basic.

1 comment:

RTS said...

I would often be "short changed" by tricycle and easyride drivers. But, it seems the price for traveling changes so often that I can't keep up with what the actual price is.Besides,I'm often charged a different rate because I'm a foreigner.From my point of view,in the end,the cheater suffers more than the one being cheated.