October 4, 2009

A petty issue

Have you noticed how you're getting short-changed at the shops nowadays?
Every time I go to a provision store or a supermarket, I'm handed a bill which totals up to an amount that has been rounded off... almost always to the next highest 50 paisa denomination.
I get bills for xy Rupees twenty-eight paise or sixty-nine paise. I mean , come on! Is a proper change for such amounts even existent in our currency? Have you even seen a 1 paise or 2 paise coin in use nowadays ?
Apparently the 5, 10 and 25-pase coins are still legal tender. Officially, at least, but I've yet to see anyone who carries those coins. Or even someone who'll accept them.
Incidentally, I've even had stores offering me toffees in lieu of small change! Hmmm ... I wonder whether they would accept them in lieu of payment?

One cashier was almost apologetic and vaguely embarassed about it. "It's all because of the VAT amounts," she said. "It usually adds up to odd figures and we don't have the small change for them. No one has! "
So the amounts are conveniently rolled over into the next biggest 50-paise denomination and no one's the wiser. Or bothers to speak up even if they notice it. It's such a measly little amount, after all. Hardly worth talking about.

Well, that may be petty change for one shopper, but hey, do the maths.... that's a nice bit of extra profit for a store which sees hundreds, if not thousands, of shoppers every day!
No, wait ... actually, it does add up to quite a significant amount even for the individual shopper who is spending more than necessary every single day, albeit at the rate of a few paise each time. It may not exactly pinch or throw the budget off-kilter, but what it does is make me feel slightly cheated and a little indignant about it.

Hmmm ... so who does get the balance, I wonder. If it's the store, that's money collected unfairly, isn't it? If it's the Revenue department, then they're collecting more tax than they're entitled to.
For my part, I'd say "you're welcome to it " if they could just prove they've put that money to some good use rather than to line their pockets.
Employment opportunities for the underprivileged, or maybe better education in the rural areas, and what about better medical facilities in tribal areas , and ... oh, the potential "good uses " are too many to count, aren't they?
Imagine! if our small change could create a big change...


  1. hi Sunita,
    that is a really relevant issue these days.. I have asked my daughter to read it as she has a lesson on consumer rights. She is in the 10th std and is probably in the last batch of cbse students to appear for the board exams....
    although she would have rejoiced if she didnt have to appear for the boards, I still feel it is better that unknown faces correct your exam papers rather than your own school teachers who might have it in for you!!!!!

  2. Hi Arundati! I'm glad you liked this post; have you been noticing this trend too? I was just wondering whether this is happening only in Mumbai.
    I bet your daughter is feeling cheated right now, isn't she? In a way, yes the lack of pressure of a Board exam can be really a huge relief. But then again, like you said, if your teacher has it in for you and he/she's going to mark your papers ...!
    I think it's fantastic that school children are getting to learn about consumer's rights and environmental education. Even if it is one extra thing to learn on top of everything else and most of them just mug it up the day before the exam, some of it has to stick somewhere in their memorey, right? Hopefully!

  3. Exactly !It leaves me fuming too, every time i check out of a store...... Another irritation is the widespread usage of "sweet change" here.If there's a balance of 50p.to Re.1 due to us,supermarkets blithely hand out a single hardboiled candy in lieu of the change - a variety no one is keen to munch these days. Will the store accept the same sweets instead of hard cash ? Customers are certainly not amused.

  4. Yosee, would you believe my brother actually did try it? He has to pass a toll junction often on his way to work and this handing out of sweets instead of change was a regular affair. One day he didn't have change with him but noticed the sweet he had been given that morning lying on the dashboard. He immediately handed that over to the young guy at the toll booth and he actually did take it with a laugh!
    But dont think of trying it in a store... those guys are more hard-boiled than the sweets they hand out!

  5. It would be interesting to say the least to actually do the math and find out how much they might be earning this way on an average day.

  6. Hi Anil! You bet! Who knows, maybe we're uncovering the Next Big Scam here. Can you imagine how much the big stores must be raking in on an average weekend?

  7. I agree with Anil P.

    Also Since I don't consume what they hand out anyway, I will keep and carry it in my bag and instead of change - and see if they accept it ;)

  8. Do you remember the lessons we used to have in History about primitive life and the barter system, IHM? It does look like they're trying to bring it back, doesn't it?
    Or maybe they're just trying to sweet-talk us out of making a complaint!

    I wish you would try out the sweets-for-goods exchange. I'd love to see you post about it :D

  9. Thought provoking. And leaves me fuming at our helplessness.

  10. Doesn't it make you wonder just how much we haven't noticed till now, Raji?
    Of course, all this seems even more petty when you consider the raging controversy of the day ... Koda and his Rs.4000 crores!
    Or maybe I'm just not doing my math right and this overtakes Koda's take.

  11. Hi Sunita,

    Found you via another garden blog. What good timing. I'm trying to get it together to write a posting about the fact that it is 20 years since I first visited India. That is to say December 1989 !
    Hoping to discuss how India has touched my life and in particular how it influenced my ideas about design, gardening, craft etc.

  12. That should make a really interesting post, Barry. I'm really curious about your experiences. Sometimes what we locals think are interesting to a tourist usually turns out to be just the opposite and instead they're more intrigued by what is to us common-place things which we dont even think about!
    Which part of India did you visit?

  13. Wow! what a great wall. So many talented people and all in one place. Thank you so much for sharing. I love it.

  14. Thanks, rosebud. I'm so glad you enjoyed the Wall post :)

  15. i think the practise of 'short changing" is only in India. i never paid much attention to it till a friend who regularly visits from the USA complained and then i realized this is pure and simple dishonesty. i once asked the shopkeeper if he would accept .50p or a rupee less in case i did not have enough to cover my bill and guess what his answer was! apparently what is sauce for the goose is not...
    its worse with autorickshaws in a city like chennai where they not only not use the meter, but charge you a lump sum - and when you produce a hundred bill, they promptly ensure that you get the minimum back on the pretext of no change.. i've managed to overcome this by announcing that i need change for a big bill so they need to stop at a gas station...
    as for being shortchanged at groceries, i would urge everyone to use their debit/credit cards just so we can stop this dishonesty...

    1. It most definitely is dishonest, Neetha! In fact some of the stores selling branded clothing ,etc., coolly avoid returning change if it's a 1-2 rupee amount. Most customers feel embarassed to ask for it when they've just paid thousands of rupees for 1 pair of jeans or dress or whatever.