One of my first jobs was working in a retail store. As a teenager, I wanted to complete the work in the easiest way possible. To that end, I was as lazy and ignorant regarding transacting retail cash sales as most of the cashiers I encounter today—desiring to rely on the technology of the automated cash register to tell me how to make change in cash transactions. The owner’s daughter explained to me shortly after I was hired that I would be counting back change properly and taught me how to do so. Although initially resistant, I am so very thankful to her for this small, important life lesson. Although I no longer encounter daily cash transactions as the receiver of payment, I regularly use this skill as a consumer.
What IS “Counting Back Change”?
In most retail establishments, the salesclerk will just read the amount the cash register has calculated to be the cash (coins and currency) due back to the customer from the retail sale and will hand that change to the customer in a pile of coins and bills. Rarely do I encounter someone who actually counts the change back to me. If the clerk does not do so, I count the change back to myself audibly, hoping the clerk will learn a new skill. I catch a lot of human error by counting the change back to myself.
Pet Peeves and other Skills
Today’s blog is part pet peeve resolution and part public service. Counting back change is a simple skill that everyone should know—regardless of the side of the cash register on which you’re standing.
Learn by Doing
The easiest way to explain how to count back change is by example:
- Let’s assume the purchase amount is $12.43.
- The customer pays with a $20 bill.
- To count back change, you start with the total amount due ($12.43), and count from the smallest coin to the largest bill. You should start by stating the total and the amount given, “Twelve dollars and forty three cents from $20.” Then count up to the total amount given, starting with the coins, “44, 45, 50, 75, thirteen” and then the bills, “fourteen, fifteen, and five makes twenty.” As you were counting, you would have given the customer 2 pennies (44, 45), 1 nickel (50), 2 quarters (75, thirteen), 2-$1 dollar bills (fourteen, fifteen), and 1-$5 dollar bill (and five makes twenty).
- It is smart to count the change twice: 1) Once when you take the money out of the register, and 2) the second time when you count it back to the customer. If you know how to count back change properly, it’s not necessary to look at the cash register to see what change is due back ($7.57), but you can do so if you wish.
Ok, so that’s simple. What if the customer gives you coins in addition to the $20 bill?
- Using the same purchase amount of $12.43…
- This time the customer gives you (the cashier) a $20 bill and 3 pennies.
- To count back the change due, you start by subtracting the coins received from the total. In this case, your new “total amount due” is $12.40, so that’s where you start when you count back the change. From there, you follow the same steps as before.
- Start with your revised total amount due ($12.40), and count from the smallest coin to the largest bill. Again, start by stating the total and the amount given, “Twelve dollars and forty cents from $20.” Then count up starting with the coins, “50, 75, thirteen” and continuing with the bills, “fourteen, fifteen, and five makes twenty.” As you were counting, you would have given the customer 1 dime (50), 2 quarters (75, thirteen), 2-$1 dollar bills (fourteen, fifteen), and 1-$5 dollar bill (and five makes twenty).
- Again, it is important to count the change twice, once when you take it out of the register, the second time when you count it back to the customer. I don’t usually consult the cash register, but if you desire to have a third validation, you can confirm that the cash register displayed $7.60 as the amount due back.
I hope implementing this simple skill is useful to you.