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The little things. They really bug me sometimes. It’s an attribute I am well aware of in myself and I don’t really have an explanation except to say that, to me, they seem often to be the cause of the greatest injustices. Not because they have dire consequences as such, but because they’re so easily avoidable. There’s usually no reason for them to happen. No excuse. This is why they grieve me so much.

For example: I recently purchased a carton of milk. A simple task if ever there was one. The price of this milk was £1.03 and it being the only item I was purchasing, I expected the transaction to go off without a hitch. I was foolish to do so. Paying with a £10 note but preferring to avoid a large amount of small change, I attempted to make the transaction of this single item easier for both myself and the cashier. Sorry not cashier, they’re probably called ‘Transaction Managers’ now… Anyway, I decided to take advantage of the 5 pence piece in my pocket and pay £10.05 so as to receive £9.02 change. I believed this to me simpler than receiving £8.97 change, though you may or may not agree. True, it would be a machine calculating the difference between the two numbers and telling Thomas, my transaction manager how much change to give me, but I then had to trust that Thomas could count my change and come up with the same amount the til was telling him he should give me.

037 Thrupence Gate

Image by steeljam via Flickr

In actual fact it all went wrong before change even came into the equation.

As I put my milk into my bag I saw the til. It read: Change: £9.00

Thomas had somehow confused my small, shiny, silver five pence piece with a thrupenny bit. A remarkable feat for one so young as to no doubt have no knowledge of the existence of such a coin.

He smiled at me and said “… and there’s nine pounds change.” proud as he was to complete yet another sale, then he closed the til and handed me just that amount.

It was at this moment I was given a choice: I could smile back and thank him as if nothing were wrong, and leave no doubt grumbling under my breath, or I could tell him of his mistake and get the two pence which were rightfully mine.

I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t the loss of 2p that truly annoyed me, it was the mistake itself. A simple act of stupidity that should not have happened had he taken a single extra nanosecond to do his job. A simple act of stupidity that took money from my pocket and put it into that of a huge multi-million pound company. No matter how much money it actually amounted to I know damn well I need it more than they do.

And so after a short pause I said: “Actually it should be nine pounds and two pence. I gave you ten pounds five.”

It was like catching a simple-minded deer in the headlights of a freight train. I could see his brain desperately trying to work out what had happened. He’d done something wrong, he could tell, but the numbers… it must have been something to do with the numbers…


I waited a moment to see what he would do. He glanced at the til…

“Sorry about that.”

I could tell it was one of those ‘the til is closed now and no force on this earth can re-open it without someone else buying something otherwise it will unleash the forces of hell upon us all’ situations. Annoyed though I was at his stupidity and the fact that he was clearly going to make no effort to actually rectify his mistake I let him off the hook and told him to put it in a charity tin. He said he would and apologised again. I am sure he did not and now the company he works for are 2 pence richer because they made the mistake of hiring a transaction manager who can’t count.

Now, you may think that this is an awfully long post just to tell you that I was shortchanged by 2 pence, but you have to think of the bigger picture. This particular company has over 700 stores in the UK and if each store only has one Thomas, and each Thomas only makes one such mistake a day, that earns the company more money than Thomas would get from jobseekers allowance if he hadn’t managed to get the job in the first place.

And that, is why these things annoy me so much. They are the ones who made the mistake, and yet they are the ones who have profited from it. Where is the justice in that?