Meet our guest blogger Abbey Smith. Abbey is studying Journalism and Professional writing at The University of South Australia and has worked in the hospitality industry for the past nine years and continues to do so as she finishes her degree and completes Australian Radio School.
I grew up working in my parent’s café and maybe I’m being picky, but one of the first things I was taught was how to count change back to a customer. I had an opportunity that most didn’t get, but my parents made sure I could count back change in a time when the register didn’t prompt you and do the hard work for you.
On occasions when newer staff have struggled, I always helped them out, trying to teach them and give them some leeway, as they were young and still learning. It got me thinking though, do business owners, parents, or teachers bother to teach these skill anymore, or do we now live in a world where we rely too heavily on iPhone calculators and point of sales machines to do it all for us?
One particular night, I had gotten home and decided I couldn’t be bothered cooking, so out to get dinner it was. I walked in to the shop, placed my order with the girl behind the counter, who was probably around 15 or 16. She told me it was $13.40, so I handed her a $20 note and the till opened.
There was 40 cents in my pocket and I held it out to her saying, ‘Oh here’s the 40cents.’ She stared blankly at me, shrugged her shoulders and replied ‘sorry I’ve already put it through.’
I shoved it back into my pocket and walked over to a seat to wait for my order. The entire time I waited, I thought about the transaction over and over again.
Did that really just happen? This young girl had no idea how to work out the change on her own. Who really uses cash much these days, people often use paywave for a $3 coffee so is it really a big deal?
Don’t get me wrong; technology is needed in our lives. We rely so heavily on it for services and to make bookings, or even to clock staff on or off. When those tills go down, usually during one of your busiest services, its back to basics which is almost laughable as you scramble to write neatly so your co workers can read the order.
But, this is the way the world is going? Children these days can’t do basic maths and aren't adequately equiped with basic counting skills to count change back to a customer. More often than not, staff can’t even work out the new change they need to give you.
It made me wonder if this is now the new normal. So, off I went, asking anyone I made contact with the next day if they had encountered the same type of situation. Well, wasn’t I surprised... Many people told me that some stores they visited now have a policy that once the money amount has been entered into the till, you can’t alter the change or change the note.
I understand it can be confusing and there are people out there who do try to confuse the staff and end up walking away with too much change, but surely society and business owners should want to take the time to train their staff on this?
It doesn’t take long when appointing a new hire to ask if the staff member can count back change, and how to work it out without waiting for the register and if they can't to take the time to teach them.
Could schools implement this into the maths curriculum so that we can send our young adults into the workforce one step ahead? I still have never used algebra, but I do remember a year ten teacher doing a whole class on money and counting change back. It was one of his pet hates, which now funnily enough has become mine.
I’m thankful to my Mum who spent the time teaching my sisters and I, but maybe this is an unfair advantage? Are we really a society now who can only rely on technology to do our thinking for us?
Is it time to go back to basics, and teach our staff how to add and subtract money?
Kate Bickford MD & Owner - BK AGENCY: