Social Question

Kayak8's avatar

Is it reasonable to put money on the counter for a purchase (for which you know the correct amount) and just walk away or should you wait in a line?

Asked by Kayak8 (16445points) April 8th, 2010

This morning I stopped at UDF for coffee (as I do every single morning). It costs $1.39. There was a huge line (understaffed) and I walked up and put my buck-thirty-nine on the counter, raised my coffee to show my intent and started to walk out. The manager had a near ballistic response and indicated that I should wait in the long line. I was sorely tempted to take my money and leave the coffee on the counter, but decided he was being a jerk and I would be late for a meeting if I stopped to engage him.

At restaurants it is OK to leave the correct amount on your table (with appropriate tip) and leave the premises. I have often done this at this same UDF. Have I missed something here?

When I worked a cash register (in a variety of establishments), the behavior I demonstrated this morning was viewed as appropriate, what has changed?

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28 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

If you are a regular I think it would be acceptable as long as it was only an occasional thing.

Sounds like the manager was having a bad day.

hug_of_war's avatar

I’ve never heard of someone doing this

MarcoNJ's avatar

I do that often, though mostly at the liquor store – they know me quite well.
But like @WestRiverrat said, the manager was just probably having a bad day. It’s a friggin coffee…geez.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I’ve done that for years as a regular in several very similar situations and never once had anyone say a word. My coffee house will even keep a tab for me if I’m in a hurry and don’t have cash… I’d have to go along with the “bad day” or perhaps he was being reviewed or had just been reprimanded for some related situation?

Shuttle128's avatar

Imagine if everyone in that line did the same thing. How would the cashier remember everyone’s orders by sight and make sure the correct amount of money for each product changed hands?

I know that if I was the cashier (I was a cashier for 4 years serving lines 20–30 people long in some cases) I would not like that. It adds to the stress of an already stressful situation.

To single yourself out as being allowed to do this above everyone else seems rather egotistical to me.

Kayak8's avatar

@Shuttle128 How hard is it to remember 28 little piles of $1.39 for a single item for heaven’s sake? I never had any challenges with this when I was a cashier in a variety of environments. However, I do forget that we now live in an age when the cashier has to look what the register tells them in order to make correct change as they are not able to calculate it on their own. Maybe that IS some of what has changed.

I really don’t think it has anything to do with being egotistical. If I were waiting in line to make a purchase (for which I don’t know the total with tax), I would not be bothered by someone putting exact change on the counter while I waited.

semblance's avatar

I am an attorney and I know a lot about the subject of shoplifting as well as the related subject of “dash and dine”.

I would put it this way. If you know this is an accepted practice at the establishment, then it is probably okay. In any other context I would not risk it. If this is not ordinary practice in the restaurant, store, or shop, the conduct may be viewed as suspicious. Although you are probably mostly risking an unpleasant and embarrassing confrontation such as you have described, if several things go the wrong way at the same time it could even result in a humiliating detention, a store ban, a civil demand from the store, a trip to the jail, and criminal prosecution. Even a small risk of that kind of trouble is not worth taking.

Kayak8's avatar

@semblance Thanks for that information, that adds a completely different perspective than what I have considered today!

rebbel's avatar

I think the difference between the restaurant- and the coffeeshop-situation is the line.
Like @Shuttle128 stated, it’s difficult for the cashier to see who took what and for what price and who left his 1 dollar something on which place on the desk.
In the restaurant however, there usually is not a line, but every now and then (people at) a table wants to pay, so the waiter has more time to check who had what to eat and take the money (left by the customer (with an apropriatte tip)) from the table.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

No. Wait in line like everyone else. It is one thing to leave a table at a restaurant with either the exact change or a little extra and then leave if the waitress is busy or not doing her job, but another entirely effectively skip in line, which is basically what you are doing.

MarcoNJ's avatar

@semblance Wow, I never knew there was a legal term for that. Thanks for the info.

laureth's avatar

Speaking as a long time cashier – suck it up and wait in line (as is the accepted procedure for purchasing an item) or deal without coffee that morning. Here’s why.

1. You may wave your coffee around in front of me and think that’s acceptable, but I may be dealing with a customer (who did bother to wait in line) and not see you waving your item, especially if it’s an especially brief wave. I’m being paid to wait on the person in front of me, not a line-cutter.

2. Even if I do see you wave a cup around on your sprint out the door, sometimes it’s hard to see what size it is – medium and large can look the same from a distance. If the store charges for your shot of flavor syrup or any other extras, I cannot see those in the cup, either.

3. In order to remember what you flashed at me, and so I don’t have random piles of change sitting on my register where they can be forgotten/knocked over/stolen by grabby hands, I pretty much have to ring your order up immediately. You don’t feel this because you’re already in your car, but the person waiting for me to ring up your order in absentia has already been waiting in line and has to wait some more so I can put your money in the register. That’s not at all fair for them or the next ten people.

4. In short, it’s an inconvenience to me (the cashier) and everyone you jumped in front of. In fact, the only one happy about this exchange is you, and trust me, you’re not that special. This is a something to do only if you want to look smug and build up ill-will at the place that serves you your coffee. It would not have been appropriate where I worked, and we would remember your face and hate you if you did it all the time.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We do that in the cafeteria at the office where it is perfectly acceptable.
Out in the real world I would not do it. It looks smug. If the place is so understaffed buy your coffee elsewhere. There’s another coffee shop 50 yards down the road.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@laureth, You’re my hero today! “In short, it’s an inconvenience to me (the cashier) and everyone you jumped in front of. In fact, the only one happy about this exchange is you, and trust me, you’re not that special. This is a something to do only if you want to look smug and build up ill-will at the place that serves you your coffee. It would not have been appropriate where I worked, and we would remember your face and hate you.”

I agree this behavior would just piss off other people in line which would make me super irritated at you for setting them off. If a bunch of people started doing what you’re doing then the counter would be a chaos. Who’s to say how many meds. were purchased versus larges or whatever, gah. A rubberband shot across the room at your temple.

casheroo's avatar

I find it incredibly rude when people leave money on a counter. I also think it’s even ruder to put it on the counter, with the cashier holding their hand out. When I was a cashier, people did this to me constantly..even with change. So when they held out their hand, I’d put it on the counter just as they did. Usually they were surprised, but why should they be if they just did it to me!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@casheroo
Customers are often really offensive. We get them tossing their credit cards across the counter, tossing pens back at us after signing charge slips, money & change. I tell are people to do as I do, back away from the counter and let the stuff fall where it may, slow everything down- your speech, your movements, make yourself fight any anger or offense, give them the eye contact that you don’t find that behavior acceptable but be polite and hope they check themselves later. I never read anywhere that feeling self important excuses butthead actions.

Kayak8's avatar

@laureth You have convinced me to take my business elsewhere! I will go to another shop closer to my house that is not chronically understaffed.

john65pennington's avatar

Suppose the correct money for your purchase was “shoplifted” by one of the other people waiting in line? then, when you come in the next day, he calls the police for your shoplifted coffee the day before? what you did is bad business and very risky on your part. i understand your daily routine, but maybe a new manager would not recognize you and your daily routine. then, the trouble begins. i have done this before myself. but, only in a coffee shop that knows me well and on a first name basis. bottomline, its his store and if he insists that you wait in line like everyone else, i would do so or find another location for your morning coffee. rules are rules and a business owner can refuse to render service to anyone for any reason.

Buttonstc's avatar

I haven’t done this in a coffeeshop but in a small cafe where I have breakfast from time to time.

The waitress usually leaves the bill before I’m finished eating since dessert or any additions are highly unlikely.

It’s usually pretty crowded and the waitstaff is usually quite busy. When I’m ready to leave, I usually round it up to include a generous tip and leave the money and bill together on the table and leave rather than waiting for her to have a free moment to take it and then come back with my change just so I can then leave a tip.

It just makes more sense to do it that way and results in a higher amount of tip than doing it the less efficient way with double trips back and forth. I’ve never gotten any flack about it so I just assume it works as well for them also.

I’m familiar enough to them from numerous visits so I’m pretty sure they would say something if they preferred me to do it the other way.

But, I don’t think I’d feel right about doing it someplace unfamiliar.

Shuttle128's avatar

@john65pennington “a business owner can refuse to render service to anyone for any reason.”

I’m pretty sure the establishment of Jim Crow laws were deemed unconstitutional.

Haleth's avatar

@Shuttle128 A business is private property, even though it feels like a public space because there are so many people coming and going. They really can refuse service. It is illegal for public places, as in government-run places, to do this.

As a manager, it’s kind of irritating when people buy something and leave their change on the counter. How do I know that the customer left the right amount of money? They could have forgotten the amount or purposely shortchanged us. The cashier might also miss the customer waving the cup and ring it up wrong, or just think it’s a tip and put it in the tip jar.

As a manager, I think the manager you ran into really did the wrong thing by getting angry with you. He’s kind of speaking for the company, and he made a very bad impression. I know exactly why doing this would upset him, though. There’s no way to know that the amount of cash was right and that the cashier rang it in right. If this happens a lot, it can lead to problems with inventory or cash being off, and it’s the manager’s responsibility to keep track of this stuff. If it’s a corporate type coffeehouse, the higher-ups can be real hardasses about stuff like that. And like @laureth said, it’s inconsiderate to everyone else there. On the other hand, if customers start leaving change and walking out a lot, that’s definitely a sign that they need to increase the staff levels.

If you have the time and energy, ask them for the district manager’s e-mail and explain what happened- the store was understaffed and the manager was rude. For every person that complains, there are many more people out there who are angry but will just change companies rather than saying anything. You’ll probably get some free stuff or a gift certificate out of it, and they might make actual changes.

Shuttle128's avatar

@Haleth Ah, I see. Though Shelley vs. Kraemer was not state sponsored. Learning that private discrimination is not illegal surprises me quite a bit. Strange that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can abolish discrimination in the workplace based on the same act that can’t abolish it from their services.

laureth's avatar

@Kayak8 – You are always welcome to take your business elsewhere if you’re rude. :) The “business” might not think so, but the staff sure does. Those that leave lighten our load, allow us to pay more attention to others that want coffee, and not go too crazy. In exchange, you’re getting service and coffee from the place that fewer people want to patronize, perhaps because of their inferior coffee. It’s win-win, I guess.

Just like many other things in life, it’s the 2% of customers that own 80% of the rudeness. When I cashiered, I wish I could have convinced my 2% to leave with one statement! ;)

Kayak8's avatar

@laureth LOL It’s never that easy most of the time. This is a situation where I go there every single day for over 5 years. The manager has seen me in there at least 200 times personally. I always get a large coffee (every single day—which could be at least part of my problem!)

The question I am really asking is “When did this change?” I am 50 and for as long as I can remember, putting exact change on the counter was pretty routine but this seems to be a recent development here in small town middle America. @semblance seems to have the most helpful answer and I get that acceptance of this practice may have fallen out of favor what with the increase of shoplifters and people trying to steal from establishments like UDF. I was just unaware that feelings about this practice had changed over time and was surprised by it.

There are still other (non-corporate) places in my town where I know this practice is common place, so I was legitimately startled by the manager’s behavior. Any one of these places would welcome my daily business in the current economic climate—and I would rather give my business to them. I know a lot of people my age and older for whom this new approach is going to be startling.

semblance's avatar

@Haleth @Buttonstc @Shuttle128 Some confusion has been introduced into this thread with the reference to whether a private establishment can refuse service to anyone for any reason and Shuttle128’s comment about Jim Crow laws. As an attorney I can tell you that any privately owned establishment in the United States which is generally open to the public and serves food or drink and which refuses service to anyone for reasons of race, religiion, sex, or national origin is in violation of federal law. This point is somewhat off topic, because the OP’s question was based simply on conduct which does not involve any of those classifications. On the facts stated by the OP, the manager certainly could ban the OP from visiting the place again and if the OP violated the ban, she or he could be arrested for criminal trespass. As noted in my post, many other adverse consequences could also result to the OP, depending on how things played out. Not saying that they would happen, but they could.

jbran's avatar

I personally would just wait in line, that way I am sure that the place got the money and that someone else did not swipe the money. I know it is only $1.39 but you never know in todays society. If the line was really long and it was going to make me late I would just forget about trying to get my coffee at that place at that time. I would just get it some where else or later if possible. I dont like to be late personally, and would make sure I am at that meeting on time or early especially if it is an important meeting.

Val123's avatar

I do it all the time. But…they know me.

Kayak8's avatar

@Val123 I haven’t been back there since. It was a much easier way to resolve the issue. So, that’s been about two months, give them another month and there will be a new manager (none of them seem to be able to hold onto that job . . . .)

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