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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 fairly good mental arithmetic skills but I think if I was handling cashier level money I would find it confusing if someone mixed the values so would do 0.74 + 12 + 20, or 20, 12, 74.

My older sister isn't bad at mental arithmetic, or at least wasn't before she got really ill. She worked in a local goth shop and got conned by someone messing with change. It wasn't just the arithmetic that confused her, but the chatter-patter the con guy was giving her. She was only 16 and had intercommed upstairs for a manager to help because she was overwhelmed but the manager refused to come down. The guy was giving her notes, then taking them back and giving her notes (different lower notes) and swapping around while talking very loudly and breaking personal space and being quite intimidating and impatient seeming. My sister was glad to get rid of him, until she found that at the end of the day the till was £10 short which was taken out of my sister's £20 for a day's work.

There are strategies for dealing with con-changers but that's usually only learned by experience or after being penalised by your employer. Checkout workers are not often treated well even in small shops like the one my sister worked at. She was cheap labour, didn't know her rights. The manager didn't care, cos they just withheld salary.

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