My daughter and I stopped by 7-11 on our way home from OMSI today. I got a double gulp (don’t judge me), and she got a rainbow popsicle (you can judge her).

The total should have been $1.89 + $1.19 for $3.08. I gave him a ten dollar bill.

The cashier rang up the popsicle but forgot the double gulp. This confused him, and he wound up handing me back $6.02 in change. I literally had to type the numbers into Calcbot and show him the math to convince him that he still owed me 90¢.

I’m not trying to pick on the kid, he seemed nice enough and there are seemingly no cashiers anymore who understand the math. They only know what the register says, and if the input is wrong, the output will be wrong, and they have no way of realizing it or knowing how to correct the error.

Years ago, I worked in a video rental store1 where two movies were $3.00 for one and $3.95 for two. It started over again for additional movies; the third was an additional $3.00, and the fourth was another $.95 on top of that.

One of the clerks could not figure out what $3.95 + $3.95 was. I asked her, “what’s 4+4?” “8,” she answered. I told her to take $8 and subtract ten cents and that was her total. Her reply: “Why would I subtract ten cents?” “You wouldn’t,” I replied at that point. “You’d just use the calculator and forget about it.”

There is no moral to the story other than if you’re paying for something and the clerk rings you up wrong, you’d better have a screen handy to show them how basic arithmetic works, or they’re never going to have a clue what you’re talking about.

  1. Ask your parents.