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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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Arithmetic
SHM
rho
I have a question for those of you who have worked retail and/or are no good at maths.

See, I'm good with numbers. Always have been. One of the consequences of this is that I'm really not sure what an average level of numeracy is.

When I went to the supermarket yesterday, after going through the checkout, I owed £32.74. Now, I had in my purse at this point some twenty pound notes and an absolute ass-load of coins. I could have just given the guy at the checkout two twenties, but I didn't want to do that because that would have meant getting even more change.


My first thought was just to hand over £43, and get given £10.26 in change. However, I know that this doesn't always go over too well. I've had cashiers act very, very confused when I've done that sort of thing, and I'm sure I've seen some of you people rant about having to make change for crazy mathmos.

Having contemplated various other possibilities (£42.74, £43.04, etc.) I figured that I had so much change on me, I may as well count it out and pay the exact amount. So I counted out twelve pound coins and handed them over "that's twelve pounds there", then counted out 74 pence, "and here's 74p" and finally handed over a twenty pound note.

To me, this is obvious. 12 + 0.74 + 20 = 32.74, but the guy I handed it too spent a good few seconds looking confused and totting it up in his head then apologised for having to do so. So I'm curious about two things:

1. How obvious is that sort of sum to people at large? Is it something that most people can tot up without thinking, or am I just unusually numerate?

2. Given that I didn't want to just give £40 and get a whole lot of extra change, is there any more cashier-friendly method I could have used?

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I have worked as a cashier at a local grocery store chain. The answer tends to be what time of day you went to the store. Usually at non-peak hours you end up with the cashiers who are incompetant and really have no buisness touching money. Those cashiers may get rediculously confused if you gave them money in any way that is not the bill for the larger amount and the coins only for the smaller portion.

When I handled the money, if someone threw 12 pounds (I don't know the ascii code for that) at me in change, I would have just entered that amount first and then handled each form of change differently since most cash register systems can handle that.

In reality, the way most cash registers are set up, a common knowledge of basic math is not really required. All you really need to do is know the value of the money (which is written right on it!) and how to type that into the register. If the cashier were rediculously anal, they could enter each individual coin being put in their till until the total was reached (I actually did that with some people who were paying their bills with unrolled coins before because they were a dick and just dumped them on the register).

A way to make it simpler would have been to present the larger denomination first, so the 20 pounds followed by the 12 pound and then followed by the 74 pence since that is usually the method in which it is read on paper, most likely it is easier to figure out since it would be (20+12)+0.74 rather than the grouping you presented (12+0.74)+20.

I guess I could simplify this as saying that the easier approach that requires less thinking is to provide the whole numbers before the fraction of the whole number.

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