Young and Hungry

The Ethical Dilemma of Receiving Too Much Change

It just happened to me this afternoon: After punching in my order at Super Tacos & Bakery, the cashier took my ten spot and gave me back $3.65, which was exactly three dollars too much. I stood there with the singles in my hand and thought what I always do in these situations: Oh my God, free money! A cheap lunch! Extra cash in my pocket! Today's my lucky day!

Then after five seconds of these flash thoughts, the guilt and responsibility kicked in: It is wrong to keep this money! It's like stealing! The cashier will probably have to cover the shortage herself! Give it back, you meat head!

I gave it back.

The cashier was very grateful, even though it was only three dollars.

I go through this same emotional rollercoaster every time. What about you?

Photo by zzzack

  • KMango

    Nope, no coasting for the most part. Having worked retail during my teens, in stores where a two dollar shortage twice in a row would get you fired, I'm usually forthcoming when I receive such overages.

    Of course, exceptions emerge. Rude, dismissive, or obviously high-as-a-kite cashiers don't trigger my compassionate instincts.

  • deb

    there's no such thing as a free lunch, pay for what you got, don't steal from the owner for an employee's mistake, is $3 really worth stealing? no ethical dilemma here, do the right thing!!

  • Simon

    Put it in the tip jar 😉

  • Ramona

    I always point out an error if I catch it. To the extent, in fact, that a few months ago, I was buying wine in a Wine and Spirits store (in PA) and the cashier gave me back a $20 instead of a $10. I pointed the mistake out and then had to stand there for 20 minutes while she got the manager to count and reconcile the ENTIRE register-- cash, coin and receipts. Ugh. It was worth it morally, but yeah, I did wish I'd just pocketed it as I was standing there for what seemed an eternity.
    Anyway, good for you.