It’s Only Money
Day 014 – August 5, 2011
The setting is our local grocery store where I am on my daily outing to buy foodstuffs for our abode.
I am at the caja (cashier) having the items scanned and giving my standard answers to the two questions the seated woman is giving me.
The first is “No, no tengo tarjeta” (No, I don’t have a card). As in the United States, loyalty programs are big here in the large name grocery stores. However, I do not feel confident enough to fill out the application forms, so I haven’t even asked for one.
The second is “Boleta, por favor” (Boleta, please). There are two types of receipts given out by cajas. Boletas are given to private citizens and the other option, factura, is given out to people buying things for a business. Since I don’t own a business, buy for a business, or even know how to say “business” in Spanish, I always answer boleta.
Once the whole transaction is completed and I tell the cashier the latest phrase I have learned, “Que tenga buen dia” (Have a good day), I walk away and look at my receipt.
Dang it! I grouse to myself.
My total bill was for S/. 16.58. That total reads as 16 soles and 58 centimos. An interesting thing to note about Peruvian monetary transactions is they like to round up or down to the nearest 0.05. Yes, there is a 1 centimo coin, but it is rarely used. Therefore, sums are rounded are down or up. Sometimes you win and sometimes you pay. Overall, it has averaged out to a wash.
My total of S/. 16.58 was rounded up to S/. 16.55. Now, I know that my eighth grade math teacher would have a fit at this because, as he taught us, a ones digit of “8” should be rounded up. However, since Mr. Wilkinson was not here in this grocery store in Lima to complain, I dutifully made my payment. I handed over my 20 soles bill, but in an inspiration of uber-helpfullness, I also fish out 60 centimos. This completely flusters my cashier.
It is nice to know that some experiences transcend countries because I have been known to bring lines to a screeching halt with my tendency to pay the exact change. I’m not sure what it is that causes the cerebral functions of a person at an electronic cash register to freeze up when presenting with coins. I’ve caused this condition in the United States (most notably at fast food restaurants) and I’ve done the same now in the Southern Hemisphere.
I so unhinged her that she rang up the amount of money that I gave her as S/. 21.00.
Now we were in a bind because the amount of change her machine was telling her to provide to me was not the number I should receive. Breaking out the old-school method of pencil-and-paper, the cashier works out that I should receive S/. 3.05 in change. She hands me three nuevo soles coins and a five centimo coin and as I walk away to look at my receipt.
Dang it! I grouse to myself.
(Wow! Deja vu!)
I do my own mental math and realize that my change should have been S/. 4.05 (20.60 minus 16.55). I’m still only fifteen feet away from the cashier, but without a grasp of the language, I don’t feel comfortable explaining my arithmetic or complaining about one nuevo sole.
In the end, it’s only $0.36 that we’re talking about.
So I walk away.