“The following practices of business establishments shall be prohibited: Shortchanging a consumer, even if such change is only of a small amount.” –Republic Act 10909
It’s been said before, always count your change. Despite the passage of RA 10909, or the No Shortchanging Act of 2016, many (if not most) businesses continue to ignore the basic rule of providing exact change to their customers; something that appears to be tolerated, however, it should not be. Not quite sure why many locals overlook the matter, are people afraid to look “cheap” because they demand those few extra cents? Is the façade of frivolity with money that important? In the end, what matters is those extra cents belong to the customer, not the business.
Just this past weekend, experienced a situation that took the act of robbing customers of their change to new lengths. Enjoyed a hearty lunch at a local all-you-can-eat establishment; even lingered until “last call.” Received the bill, which read P955.11, and paid P1,000.10; offered the 10¢ in order to avoid being shortchanged, as many places will claim they do not have the coinage to provide exact change. Received the change and it added up to P44. Where was the 99¢? Many placed will have an errant 30¢ or 40¢ that they disregard, but a whole 99¢? That’s as close to P1 as one can get without having the actual amount. Is rounding numbers no longer taught in school?
Approached the cashier and confronted her regarding the matter and she seemed completely clueless, offering nothing but blank stares when asked about why she would stiff a customer of, what should be, P1. Considering the restaurant tacks on a mandatory service charge (for a place where there are no actual servers since customers retrieve the food themselves), they also take the change that rightfully belongs to their customers?
Asked if it is restaurant policy to take the change, even 99¢, from customers? First, received one of those blank stares, accompanied by a gaping mouth. Asked again if the restaurant is in the practice of rounding down all customer bills, emphasizing again 99¢. She seemed to comprehend the question this time and insisted it was not. Asked if they leave it to the customer to demand their change, this time, she said “Yes.”
According to Lynna Joy Cardinalm a development specialist for the Antique Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the law indicates establishments must provide exact change without requiring the customer to ask.
Back in January, when her province began their crackdown on businesses that do not provide exact change to their customers, she said, “We do not allow sales personnel, and even managers, to tell their customers that they do not have the exact change” – a pretty familiar line from many local business establishments.
Another egregious act happened at one of the big supermarkets in town. The total came to an odd amount with change that would be just about impossible to provide given the lack of pennies in circulation. The cashier asked for five cents to cover the extra one or two cents on the bill. Given the request, had now paid an extra few cents for bill. Since the cashier demanded the extra few cents to cover the bill, rightfully asked for the extra cents in change back, which she said she could not do. Asked why would she ask the customer for extra but not provide the resulting change for the customer. Is it store policy? Perhaps it’s the secret as to how CEOs have accumulated such wealth, given how many customers patronize such establishments, with every cashier taking a few cents from every transaction, by the end of the day, that’s a healthy profit (garnered from stealing). She eventually gave the 5¢ back.
RA 10909 lays out the law plainly: “It shall be the duty of the business establishments to give exact amount of change to the consumer without waiting for the consumer to ask for the same.”
It does paint a pretty sad and desperate state of the country that a law needs to be written out detailing the rules of providing change. It bring to light a culture that tolerates thievery, that something as basic as giving customers what they are rightfully entitled to needs to be spelled out in a law and not just common understanding based on simple arithmetic. The fact that providing exact change is not the norm shows a lack of integrity when it comes to how local business establishments operate, both big and small.
After witnessing it happen numerous times, even filing complaints with nearly every supermarket in town, it always seemed like a foreign concept to others that somebody would demand their change. Taking in the local culture, there is an overwhelming superiority complex that appears to be a common trait among locals, where the idea of picking up coins or demanding those few extra cents in change is beneath them – wouldn’t want other people to think they were so hard up they are in “need” or five or ten cents. Given most people can’t even bear walking from the parking lot to the mall and demand being dropped off at the door, this attitude of a feigned supremacy is pretty widespread.
It’s perhaps, because this attitude, local businesses have taken advantage of the situation; if most people are too “proud” to ask for their change, they are able to keep it for themselves and pad their own wallets – leaving the customer on the losing end.
Maybe some people are averse to coinage.
If that’s the case, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is always able to exchange coins for paper bills; it’s something they encourage as part of their coin recirculation campaign. According to Economic and Financial Learning Center manager, Dr. Greg Baccay, since coins are more expensive to produce that paper bills, the BSP needs the public to keep coins in circulation.
Last December, BSP Senior Research Specialist Randy Bolves, while speaking in Bacolod City, called on the public to trade in loose coins for paper bills, which, he noted, could be done through the local BSP Economics and Financial Learning Center Division.
The law notes the public can bring their case to DTI, wherein they can conduct an investigation into the matter. A DTI adjudication officer will handle the case and a formal hearing is held. If an establishment is found guilty, they face either a P500 fee or are changed three percent of the total gross sales from the day of the violation, whichever is higher, on their first offense. If found to be a habitual offender, businesses can face up to a P25,000 fee or 10 percent of gross sales from the day of the violation, along with their business license possibly revoked. If enough people take action, consumers can ultimately end the practice of businesses openly stealing from their customers./WDJ