I used to work in a grocery store at weekends and holidays until I went to university.
It was a smaller store, nowhere near the size of the Tesco Extra down the hill, but we
still had a lot of customers since we were 'the family store' of the town.
Anyway; we always set up our registers at the beginning of the day so that we had
exactly £50 in cash change; £20 in fivers, the rest in coins. This always suited
everyone fine, as the average customer bought £20ish in groceries, and paid with a
couple of tenners.
Then one week, it started. It was Saturday morning, five past nine. We had been open
literally five minutes. I was sat in my alcove, and my first customer arrived with a 59p
milk carton. I scanned it, and told him the price.
Silently, he hands me a £50 note. I stare at it. I'd never seen one before (they're not
in common circulation, though still legal tender) and I wasn't entirely sure what to
do. I pressed the buzzer, and my supervisor appeared.
Supervisor: What's the problem?
Me: This customer wishes to pay with a £50 note.
Supervisor: (to customer) I'm sorry, but we don't have enough to change that, would
you mind waiting and I'll get you change from the office.
Customer: Yes, thanks.
She does so, and brings the right change, and I complete the transaction. All is well.
The next week the same thing happens, dead on five past nine. Same old man, same
carton of milk. Same fifty note. I blink at it, push the buzzer, and the supervisor
Supervisor: Sorry sir, you've come so early again we can't change that note yet. I'll get
your change from the office, but in future could you try paying with smaller notes?
Customer: Okay, I'm sorry. I didn't know you couldn't change a fifty this early.
Nice and simple then. The customer now knows we cant change £50 that early
without emptying the register. It's not going to happen again, right?
Next saturday. Same time. Same man. Same milk. Same note. I actually face-palmed.
The supervisor was none too pleased. She reminded him that she had asked he not
try to pay with a fifty again so early. I started wondering where he was getting the
fifties from, since you only really get them if you ask specifically at the bank. The
supervisor got him change from the office, and he left grumbling.
Next saturday. I buzzed even before he got to my register. Oh, I forgot to mention,
until 10am I'm the only cashier on duty. So it was obvious he'd come to me. Again
with the milk.
The supervisor looked at me, at him, and went tight-lipped. She was a three-strikes-
and-out kind of woman. This was too far.
Supervisor: Sir, can you remember what I said last week?
Customer: Er, no, not really.
Supervisor: I told you that when you shop this early for so few items and pay with
such large a note, that we do not have the cash in the till to change you.
Customer: Oh yes. I remember you saying that.
Supervisor: Then why are you still trying to pay with that £50 note?
Customer: I only have fifties.
Supervisor: But surely even if you bought nothing else in the week, you'd still have
that £49.41 in change from last week? I believe I gave you four £10 notes?
Customer: Oh no, I put that in my savings box.
Supervisor: Your savings box?
Customer: Yes. I don't like having change in my pocket so I put it all in my savings
box. I get my pension on Fridays so I take out a fifty, so I can buy milk in the
morning for coffee, and then go to the pub for dinner.
Supervisor: (rather confused) so how do you buy the rest of your shopping?
Customer: Oh, I pay by card and get Tesco to deliver.
Supervisor: (flummoxed) Then why not get your milk at the same time?
Customer: I like the walk in the mornings.
I was astounded, as was my supervisor. I'd taken the liberty of cancelling the milk so
I could serve two other customers in the queue whilst the above was happening. I
never bothered scanning the milk again, I think my supervisor would have exploded
if she'd had to count out the change. She walked off, and the customer left still
gripping the note.
Next week I opened my register with £80 rather than £50. Guess what? He didn't turn