Recently I bought a few cigarettes from a local store. I gave the shopkeeper a 100 note and he returned me 90, when he was supposed to give me 10 less. I felt no compulsion to point out his mistake and left the shop 10 bucks richer. If he had called me back, I would’ve happily returned him his change, but he didn’t and I didn’t really mind. It was then I realised that wrong change does not bother me as much as it did a few years ago.
Even for a single rupee, or sometimes more, I usually return wrong change given to me. Well, back home, I wouldn’t want to be labelled a dishonest customer, and the shopkeeper would always tell you if you’ve paid him more, or given you less. And its HOME afterall, nobody is trying to cheat you, at least not always, trying to squeeze every penny you have left. Everyone’s trying to make a living and at the end of the day, somebody has to pay the rent.
Further from home, in a place which is a Second home, the scene is different, and I think I’ve grown accustomed to it. Earlier, I would return the extra change to the shopkeeper, who would take it without any sense of gladness or relief, taking for granted that you WERE supposed to return it anyway. Sometimes, they may even eye you with suspicion as if you were the culprit here, and quickly grabbing the returned cash, afraid you might have second thoughts. But I never seemed to mind it, cos’ it always gave me the inner satisfaction and peace that I did a good deed, doesn’t matter if the person on the receiving end didn’t really seem to appreciate your act. It felt good inside.
But now, I don’t get that satisfaction anymore, knowing that the shopkeeper is not going to do the same for you. There’s a certain rule here that goes something like this:
1. If you make a mistake in calculation, its your fault and you have to pay for it. The shopkeeper is not obligated to return you your money unless you realise your mistake before leaving the shop. Period.
2. If the shopkeeper makes a mistake and gives you wrong change, you are expected to retun it back, but doing so will not make matters any better, if not worse. Also, you may not expect any favors/discount from him just because you gave him his money back.
3. If you fail to return the wrong change and the shopkeeper realises it before you leave his shop, then you are in for a few moments of humiliation, the length of which will be determined by the amount miscalculated. But if the error is not realised, then you are free to keep the money at your own moral risk.
I’m not necessarily a person who remembers to count his change each time, but now with having a job and earning a living, I guess things have changed. My mum would always give me long lecture about the practice of counting what you receive back, which I seldom paid heed to while in college and before. I guess it wasn’t really a priority for me at the time. But lately I always remind myself to calculate the change I am about to receive back and check the bill when swiping a card, cos’ as the rule goes, there is a limited timeframe when you can refute the charge and actually expect to get your money back without spending much time, energy and with the mininum body temperature. I guess, at least, this is a change for the better, the right change, if you will.