I bought some supplies in a nationally known store the other day. I won’t identify the store, but the words “Marks” and “Spencer” appear prominently in their name. The cashier waved the goods across the barcode reader, and then asked me for £24.13. Unusually for me, I had actual cash money on my person, so I proffered a £20 and a £10 note. The cashier opened the till, and gave me 87p. I said “Erm, I think I gave you £30.” She shot back, rather too quickly “No, you gave me a twenty and a five.”
“Oh,” I said, beginning to doubt it myself now, “I thought I gave you a tenner as well as the twenty.” At this point, she rang furiously for the supervisor, who waddled over at leisurely pace. I said that I might well have been mistaken, and she said again that it was definitely a fiver, because she had to put it in a special drawer. A very brief conversation with the supervisor then ensued. The supervisor tapped in something on the till, the till opened, and the cashier handed me £5 and my receipt. The supervisor, who hadn’t even acknowledged my presence, waddled off. I said to the cashier that if there wasn’t a £10 note in the wrong place, I would accept that I’d been wrong. No, that wasn’t possible: I had to accept the extra £5. No-one said it, but the underlying implication was that I’d tried it on, and they would just write off the loss.
So now, I feel guilty at having extracted £5 from this enormous company. What struck me was that, in the olden days, the cashier would probably have put the notes in a clip on top of the till while she rang the purchase up, so it would be very clear what had been tendered; and she would also have probably said “Twenty five pounds” when I gave her the money- two checks to ensure that the transaction was transparent.
I’m still not sure whether she was right or I was. The upshot is that, if I use that store again, I will always pay by card. And my favourite charity is £5 richer.

Photo: TheTruthAbout

CC BY-SA 4.0 £5 worse off by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.