Short Changing Their Tune

, , , , , | Right | June 13, 2017

(I’m about 17 at the time and cashiering on a particularly busy Saturday morning. A customer walks up to my register and tosses a pack of gum on the belt.)

Customer: “Just this, please.”

Me: “Sure! Your total will be $1.”

(He hands me a $5, I hand him his change and gum. He just stands there, staring at me…)

Me: “Is there something else I can help you with today?”

Customer: “I gave you a $50.”

Me: “Actually, you gave me a $5. Minus the $1 for gum, your change is $4.”

Customer: “No, I gave you a $50! You short-changed me! Open up your register right now and give me the rest of my change!”

Me: “Let me grab a manager. They’re the only ones who can open my register in between transactions.”

(This is not exactly true, but I suspect something fishy and I want a manager to take a look. I flag down my direct supervisor, who does not like me all that much.)

Manager: “What seems to be the problem?”

Customer: “I gave her a $50 for this gum and she only gave me $4 in change! I demand you open the register and give me the rest of my money!”

Me: *quietly, to the manager* “He gave me a five.”

Manager: *nods* “I’m really sorry about this, sir. What I’m going to do is take her drawer to the back and count it. That way, we can give you the right amount of change back. It should just be a few minutes while we take care of this.”

Customer: *nervously* “WHAT?! No, no. You really don’t have to do that. I’m fine without my change, honest. I don’t need it that badly.”

Manager: “Sir, I heard you shouting from across the store. Obviously this is important to you and we want to make sure our customers get the correct amount of money back. Right, [My Name]?”

Me: *not entirely sure what she is getting at* “Of course…?”

(The manager pops my drawer out of the register and carries it to the back. The customer starts pacing back and forth, muttering under his breath about how unnecessary it all is, etc. while fumbling through his wallet. Ten minutes later, my supervisor walks back out and puts my drawer in the register.)

Manager: “I had two people count her drawer and it balanced both times. As a result—”

Customer: “No, it’s ok. I actually found the $50 in my wallet. I did give you a $5. Isn’t that funny?” *laughs nervously and runs out of the store*

Manager: “Well, that was obviously a short change artist. Good job, [My Name].” *walks away*

(I was stunned, not by the customer, but by the fact that this particular manager acknowledged that I’d done a good job!)

1 Thumbs
  • Kitty

    As soon as he dropped “I’m fine without my change”, it was obvious he was a scammer. No sane person walks away from 44$ worth of change.

    • EJ Nauls-Poland


      • Ty Vulpine

        No, $44. The correct change is $4, but if he had given OP a $50, the change would have been $44 instead. $50-$6 (price of the gum)=$44.

        • mashava

          You’re all wrong. The gum was $1 . So it’s $49

          • Benny

            mashava – yeah, but they were already given $4.

          • Harold Wagner

            Yeah…so if they succeeded in the scam they would have gotten $45 more in change. There’s no way you can get 44 or 46 unless they bought the gum twice.

          • Benny

            That’s what I was pointing out to mashava.

          • Pogla

            Less the $4 that the scammer had already received.

        • Benny

          Why did the gum go from being $1 to $6?

          • Ty Vulpine

            Because I have a problem reading >.<

          • Kylie

            This thread is all kinds of wild.

          • Cathrope

            The price of the gum changes in each comment.

          • NessaTameamea

            Maybe there’s an auction going on here

          • Cathrope

            Better be 7up gum or I don’t want it.

          • NessaTameamea

            On second thought, it may just be a “who can come up with the weirdest math” contest…

          • Cathrope

            That explains it better.

        • EJ Nauls-Poland

          The gum was $1. Had the customer actually given OP a $50, he would’ve gotten $49 back. He gave a $5 instead, thus only getting $4 back. $49-$4=$45.

        • Jennifer Johnson

          Not to be ‘that person’, but the gum was $1. Change would have been $46.

          • Kevin Longino

            Jennifer – what US state issues $47 notes?

          • Souless night

            He was already given 4 dollars…

          • NessaTameamea

            And 46$+4$=50$ so by that logic he would have gotten his gum for free.

          • Souless night

            Gives 5 dollars gets 4 back that means 45+5 genius.

          • Jennifer Johnson

            Oh, Lord. You’re right! XD That’s what I get for correcting people without double-checking my own math!

        • WildCard65

          Ok… I want to correct this thread of comments.
          The gum was said to be $1.
          The customer claimed to of given $50.
          The change would’ve been $49 if claim was true.
          With the $4 already given back, the remaining change is $45.

          WHERE IS $46 AND $44 COMING FROM!?!?!?!?

    • Deadpool

      It should have been obvious as soon as he said, “I gave you a $50.” But I love this thread even more than the original story for the shear number of ways people miscalculated what his change should have been.

      For the record, his change should have been two 115 grain 9mm jacketed hollow point bullets. “Deadpool Justice – Tough but Fair.”

      • Mistakes happen, so “I gave you a $50” could be plausible… But then he goes and literally put his foot in his mouth.

        • Deadpool

          It’s NAR and listed under Liars/Scammers.

          • Yes…? Not sure what you’re telling me…

          • Scott Phillips

            Ummm…”literally” means ummm LITERALLY. As in, it actually happened. To say he “literally put his foot in his mouth” means he actually put his foot physically into his mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that “to put ones foot in ones mouth” is a common saying. But I think Dsru Bin’s point here is that he didn’t “literally” put his foot in his mouth….he “figuratively” put his foot in his mouth.

          • Cody Ranney

            I hate how “literally” has become a glorified way to add figurative emphasis

        • Dsru Bin


          • Literally and figuratively are interchangable as far as I’m concerned. What’s important is that you understood what I meant.

          • Trihan

            Figurative means “departing from a literal use of words; metaphorical.” while literal is defined as “taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or exaggeration.”; it makes literally no sense to have literally mean the same thing as figuratively as it becomes a circular definition.

          • I think you missed what I was trying to say… I was essentially saying “Don’t be the grammar police”.

          • Trihan

            The problem with treating literally and figuratively as interchangeable is that it’s not always certain from context which meaning is meant (I’ll concede that more often than not you can tell, but why confuse the issue when the words serve their purposes already?)

          • Perhaps, but I think “Stuck his foot in his mouth literally” is quite clear…

            I mean.. I know there are some people that ARE able to stick their feet in their mouths, but why the heck would they in public? 😛

          • Trihan

            Hey, what people choose to do in the privacy of their own public is none of my concern.

      • Kitty

        Yeah… I totally showed my butt there. I’m not THAT bad at math, usually, I swear! I guess the whole 4$ change stuck in my head.

      • cypher20

        I dunno about that. 9MM hollow points are anywhere from $0.65 to $1.25 per round so two of them would definitely add up to more than the $1 in change he was due.

    • 😸Moon😸


  • Kirishima Touka

    Why did the scammer hang out while the drawer was being counted? Surely he would have bolted as soon as it was clear he wouldn’t get what he wanted.

    • Phil Peligroso

      I thought the same thing. He probably figured he would save face by staying there and pretending he found his $50 in his wallet.

      On a related note, America really needs bills that look different from one another.

      • NoobLord

        Definitely, the more it looks like colourful monopoly money the better, I mean, I can tell my euro bills apart from miles away, it’s great.

      • Charles Ulric Phillips

        I just assumed it was the USA because there’s no way you can mistake a blue bill for a bright pink one.

  • Jenni Sowvlen

    I hate to say it OP, but my guess is your manager was more concerned with making sure the store didn’t lose $45, rather than having anything to do with how they felt about you.

    • Ty

      If Manager hated OP as much as OP thought, Manager might have sided with Scammer. The short drawer would have come out of the OPs pay or been cause for termination. Manager managed to actually be sensible, but after NAW, I’d believe anything awful a manager tried to pull and scapegoat someone else.

      • Dsru Bin

        I seem to recall a story on NAW that had the manager doing exactly that – immediately siding with the customer against the OP, forcing OP to provide the “correct” amount of change, then firing her at the end of the day when her till was short.

  • Raven Odette

    Short change artists usually do a 10 for a 20 because its more believable

    But a 5 for a 50? You just got greedy

    • Brian Katcher

      That’s what I thought. Almost no one uses $50s, so when one didn’t show up in the drawer…

      • Dawn

        We used to get 50s a lot when I was a cashier, actually. Specifically on holidays or Thursdays (payday for local businesses). They trained us specifically against this scam, and our store handled it the same way this manager did, because if you’d been on register for even an hour, you likely had at least one fifty in the drawer.

        They took the customer to the customer service counter, and the till to count it in bookkeeping.

        To prevent it getting that far, we were taught to put large notes under the cheques, and cheques face down, so someone glancing into the till couldn’t see what cash was in there easily.

      • Dawn

        We used to get 50s a lot when I was a cashier, actually. Specifically on holidays or Thursdays (payday for local businesses). They trained us specifically against this scam, and our store handled it the same way this manager did, because if you’d been on register for even an hour, you likely had at least one fifty in the drawer.

        They took the customer to the customer service counter, and the till to count it in bookkeeping.

        To prevent it getting that far, we were taught to put large notes under the cheques, and cheques face down, so someone glancing into the till couldn’t see what cash was in there easily.

    • Nightshade1972

      I had a lady once who claimed she’d asked for $40 in change. She acted very smug, superior, and self-righteous when I only gave her $20 (which is the amount, according to my register display, she’d actually asked for). I called a manager over, and he pulled my tray and counted it right there in front of both of us. When he told her, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but her tray balances to the penny (if the customer had been right, I’d have been $20 over),” at least the customer had the grace to look contrite and apologize.

  • JDP

    Caught one of these guys in my cafe the other day. It’s honestly pretty demeaning and embarrassing when it happens to you and they pull it off. It happened to me when I was 16 during my first job as a grocery store cashier; I hadn’t felt quite as humiliated. But, it was a biiig lesson learned…

  • “I gave you a $50”

    Me: *Turns around and slowly but deliberately looks at the closest security camera then turns back towards the customer* “How much did you give me, again?”

    • 😸Moon😸

      “Not 50$”

  • BamaDan

    Cashiers can make mistakes. Not in this case, but it can happen. If I’m going through a drive thru and I’m paying with a $20 bill I always ask “Can you break a twenty?” I get a lot of funny looks doing that but by doing that we both see it’s a twenty and there’s no mistake made. Same if I pay with a hundred or a fifty. I get different looks from paying with those and they usually have to get a manager to make change and wait for proof the bill isn’t counterfeit and maybe an act of Congress but they always take it.

    • Jelaza

      Along the same lines, that is why, when I was in retail, they taught us to say “(total) out of $50” (or $20, or $10), and lay the bill across the drawer, then count out the change to the customer. Then put the bill into the appropriate spot and close the drawer after the customer had accepted the change as correct.

      • Alicia

        That’s exactly what I do, I’d rather leave it out so there’s no question of what they gave me.

      • Ronald M Bisnett

        While you probably couldn’t do it most times, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if my bartender’s been scammed. Every now and then – especially when it becomes a rush – she’ll bring back your change and then ask, “Wait, did you give me a 10 or a 20?” She did once accidentally give me change for a 10 when I’d paid with a 20 and she corrected it without question. I’ve seen her do that with other customers, too. Sweet woman, too, I hope no one’s ever done that, but it probably has happened.

    • Ronald M Bisnett

      Confusing/long backstory involving tracking what I was buying that weekend, but: I once MEANT to pay with a 20, but ACTUALLY, a 10 was the first bill I saw and used that. I realized my mistake seconds after I questioned the cashier and I was so embarrassed I can’t really recall if I apologized to the cashier. I hope I did.

      The big cashier mistake (hopefully?) I had was when my purchases had just been rung up and I handed the cashier a 20. The guy who had been ahead of me had been lingering near the register, looking at his receipt or something. Once the cashier put my 20 in the till, but before taking out my change, the other guy came barging back up and insisting his receipt was wrong. She slammed the till shut and helped him. Then she gave me a look, wanting to know why I was still standing there. I did get my change, but she was giving me a nasty look the whole time.

  • TSBJ

    He needs to up his game, accuse the cashier of pocketing the $50 and demand the manager perform a strip search.

  • Pogla

    1) Scammer is trying a short change con with a large denomination note.
    2) Scammer hangs around whilst the manger is counting and re-counting the drawer.
    3) Scammer starts shouting, drawing attention to himself.
    My bullshit radar is going ballistic.

    • Dawn

      Nah. We had a couple of scams like that. The shouting makes a younger cashier nervous and more likely to make a mistake, or just give up.

      The lingering after means it was probably the first time he failed, or even the first time he tried it. We had a cheque fraud attempt once who belligerently stayed to argue with me, while the police were called by a manager listening in. Despite the transaction being cancelled, and her fake ID being taken by the manager, she stayed, arguing at me while i served the next customer.

      She left just in the nick of time, and it turned out she had a warrant or for her arrest.

      Most scammers don’t think too far ahead of that moment.

    • Novelista

      Counting the drawer is standard procedure–not OP’s fault if the scammer is too bleeping stupid to run.

    • Kelly Luper

      I once had someone try to cash a forged check drawn on my bank through the drive through (before the lobby was open). I was new to that bank, so I wasn’t sure how to handle it – some banks will just hold the check, some weep give it back. I called the security department, and they told me to call the cops. I called them, they took about five minutes to show up.

      Fifteen minutes after the guy sends in the check to be cashed, the cops show up and arrest him. He waited that long, at 730 am, to cash a bad check (with a fake ID, even.) People are stupid.

      • Pogla

        You’d think after all these years I’d stop being surprised by people’s stupidity… you’d think

    • Charles Ulric Phillips

      It’s possible he wanted to shop there again. So sticking around allows him to pass it off as a mistake, rather than just being banned next time he shows up.

  • Shuu Tsukiyama

    I’m so glad the manager immediately knew what was happening, when you said they didn’t like you much I was worried they were going to let their dislike for you blind them into blaming you.

  • Denton Young

    Surprised he didn’t take off running once the manager took the drawer to be counted.

    • Dsru Bin

      Exactly. What did he THINK was going to happen?

      • Charles Ulric Phillips

        It’s easier to play it off as a mistake if he doesn’t run. Maybe he wanted to shop there again.

  • TheMjohann

    Simple way to avoid this is to hold the money recived in one hand and count out the change with the other. If they try to pull anything you can just tell them “I have the money you gave me right here.” It will not work on the stupidest ones but might ward off most of them.

  • Nevyn

    I wouldn’t go and call that guy an artist of any kind.
    An artist would confuse the cashier with alot of changes.
    That was more like trying to brute-force it.

  • Mushroom

    My usual defense is to open the drawer and show that there are NO bills that large in the register, and that a $50 would be on top of the $5 stack if I’d made that mistake, therefore what the customer claimed was demonstrably untrue.

    And point to the three security cameras overhead with a smile.

    • Tim Van Acolyen

      Honest question, can you actually tell what bill you were given on the security footage? I can’t imagine every store having ultra HD security cameras. Especially if the bills look alike.

      • Dsru Bin

        The cameras placed above the registers are generally of a very good quality, because those are the primary source of information for details (robberies, scams, etc), so yes, they should be able to see the numbers on the bills. Also, the cashiers are trained to hold the bills in such a way that they are visible to the cameras.

  • cypher20

    Does this kind of scam actually work? It’s not exactly subtle . . .

    • Kelly Luper

      It does. Though not usually with a fifty for a five.

  • Samuel

    Why didn’t they call the police after they vanished in the back with the drawer?

    • Charles Ulric Phillips

      No evidence of a crime. The dude was able to say, “sorry I was mistaken” He would have said exactly that to the cops.

  • zizania

    One thing I’ve learned while running a business: always keep the bill(s) they gave you in plain sight until they’ve accepted their change. Even then, I’ve had people come back and try it on. I had one guy try to tell me I had shorted him $20.00. Which would have meant he had given me $40.00 instead of $20.00 for a less than $20.00 purchase. Yeesh.

  • This is one of the reasons why, when I was a cashier, I would always repeat the payment amount back to the customer before actually entering the payment into the till and making change. So if he handed me $5, I would ask, “Out of $5?” to confirm verbally that’s what they intended. It’s actually helped alert a few customers to the fact that they gave me a different amount than they intended, actually, so there’s a benefit to non-scamming customers, too.

  • Caerus

    I certainly wouldn’t use the word artist about that individual.

  • Martha McFarland

    I believed this story until the part about the manager taking the cash drawer and the 10 minutes it took for him to return. What kind of scammer idiot would stay there pacing back and forth muttering to himself and fiddling with his wallet when it’s obvious to him that his scam is up?? Scam up = GTFO
    And yes, I know scammer = idiot to begin with but come on!!