Friday, December 12, 2008

Do I look like a cash register to you?

Europe is filled with mom and pop stores. They don't take credit cards (and many times not debit cards either) and checks are apparently a remnant from the stone age. I get it. I make sure I go to the ATM before I go shopping, to the market, or out to eat. But here's the funny thing (read: annoying, makes me not want to participate in your economy thing):

The ATM dispenses €50 bills. I want €200 - I get four €50s; I want €50 - I get one €50. The only way I know how to trick the ATM machine into giving me €10s or €20s is to complete multiple, individual €20 transactions. And, honey, you know how SLOW (like slower than trying to get a real person on the phone when calling the bank) the ATMs are here.

Therefore, since the ATMs dispense €50 bills, this is the conversation I don't want to have when buying my groceries:

Clerk: "Your total is €36.20."

Me: Hands her a €50.

Clerk: "Do you have change? Maybe two €20s?"

Me: "No."

Clerk: Sighs, sighs again, and slowly counts out my change.

Although this transaction might just take the cake:

Clerk: "Your total for the tape is €3.90"

Me: Hands her a €5.

Clerk: "Do you have change?"

Me: "No."

Seriously people! You have a cash register in front of you designed for the exact purpose of taking someone's money and providing them with change. Do you expect me to walk around with the perfect combination of coins and bills for any transaction I might want to make?

And, if you are going to post a sign like this one (from the line outside the Notre Dame in Paris), put it at the start of the line - not near the end, where I can conveniently view it after I have stood in line for half an hour with €50s.

The anticipated scowl from the clerk literally acts as a shopping deterrent. I would rather go an extra day without shampoo and buy it with my weekly groceries than face the clerk without exact change. One of these days, the fury will be unleashed: "I'm sorry, I was under the mistaken impression that you actually wanted my money."


Book Lust said...

I had difficulties in England/Europe when it came to my very American assumptions about basic monetary transaction rules, too. It's really quite frustrating when you know how efficient it COULD be.

But, having the stories more than makes up for it in the end!


Laura Kay said...

Yes - assume nothing when it come to money and banking in Europe. When I cool off from the ATM eating my bank card and trying to get it replaced episode, I will share that too!