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Robbins:Convenience store change tray etiquette

POSTED: January 6, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Two of my favorite things in this world are convenience stores and spare change.

I frequent a local convenience store at least five times a day. Whether it’s because I need to fill up my car with gasoline, get a light snack, pick up some needed items on the way home, hear the latest gossip, eat lunch or just shower, I find my local convenient store very convenient.

If my life were a sitcom, the local convenience store would be one of the sets, along with my kitchen, my office, my bathroom and my massage parlor – the places where I spend my most time.

By the way, the sitcom would be called “Everybody Is Indifferent About Len.”

Spare change is my favorite kind of money because it is often the only type of money I can find in my couch, or your couch or in the grocery store parking lot — which is where I derive most of my income.

Therefore, when you combine two things I adore — convenience stores and chump change — I am in nirvana, and an expert on the topic.

This leads us to the change tray that most convenience stores use. In my role as a convenience store denizen, I have found that amateur convenience store patrons don’t understand the proper etiquette involved in convenience store change tray usage.

As is my custom, I’m here to learn ya.

Below I have listed the protocol in how and when to use the change tray that often sits on the counter of accredited convenience stores.

When to give. You are not legally required to donate to the change tray. That’s a common misconception.

Here’s the deal: If the change from your purchase is less than 5 cents, dropping some coin in the change tray for the poor soul after you (whose items cost $4.04 and they only have $4) enables you to take from the tray when you are that poor soul. If you aren’t going to ever contribute to the tray, though, you aren’t supposed to take any change from the tray – ever. And none of this taking change from the tray before you ever give any either. God takes violation of this honor code very seriously – or so I’m told.

When to take. Decorum dictates that you can take from the change tray when you have already donated to a tray, agreed to the code, and:

1. You need between 1 and 4 cents to complete a purchase.

2. You need between 1 and 4 cents to make it even, so you don’t have to break a bill.

Additional canons of the code. There a number of scenarios that could fall under the auspices of “The Cashier’s Call.”

For instance, if you need more than 5 cents to complete a transaction or not break a bill, it is a “cashier call,” meaning you will need their permission to take more than 5 cents from the change tray. The proper etiquette under this predicament calls for the customer to state their conundrum aloud, as in: “Oh my, I am 8 cents short,” then look at the cashier pathetically.

If they give you permission (verbal or a disgusted nod) to take the required change from the tray, you may. If they are talking on the phone and ignore you, tough luck.

If you feel particularly generous and want to drop some silver in the change tray, feel free. Or you can just drop it in your couch for me to find later. But putting more than pennies in the tray does not entitle you to take more than 5 cents at any time (unless approved by the aforementioned “cashier call”).

Your donations/withdrawals don’t have to be from the same convenience store. You can donate at one store, then withdraw at another one, as long as you follow the tenets of the code.

That’s about it. You now know the basics of civility for usage of the convenience store change tray.

One last tip: It’s not a good idea to irk the cashier. You’ll never get a “cashier call” to go your way again.

Len Robbins is editor and publisher of the Clinch County News in Homerville. His column appears weekly.


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