During my visits to the local vegetable market it’s interesting to observe the customer behaviour as well as that of the seller. A lady generally buys the required vegetables and asks for the total purchase amount. If the total amount of the purchases is a round figure (multiple of tens or hundreds) she pays the amount and the transaction is complete. If it is not a round figure then the vendor requests the customer to buy green chillies or ginger or curry leaves or coriander leaves or a combination to make it around figure. The mentioned items are never bought on its own by a customer as they always make their way into the shopping basket instead of the change due to the customer.

Shortage of change is a perennial problem in retail. Each of the stake holders have identified their own solution to this problem of change.

While the vegetable vendor gives related products, remember a hotel cashier giving away chikkis (a sweet item made of peanuts and jaggery) to every customer whose bill was not a round figure . I am sure he must be selling hundreds of chikkis in a day and the business of chikkis must be a entire business on its own. The sales executive of the brand who cracked this deal with the hotel owner must be applauded.

Recently read an article where an entire neighbourhood identified an indigenous way to solve this problem of scarcity of change. They introduced their own coupons in multiple denominations and gave it to the customers instead of the change due. The customers could redeem the coupon during their next visit to the same outlet. In order to prevent misuse and fraud the retailers had their seal and signature on the coupons. While this is not a fool proof solution regular customers would definitely accept this as a solution to the scarcity of change

Remember yet another instance where for a small bill amount (less than Rs 100) which could be easily paid in cash the retailer insisted that the customer swipe the credit card as he did not have the exact change to return to the customer. With the debit or credit cards there is no issue of the change factor as the exact amount can be collected, hence usage of credit or debit card could be one of the solutions to the problem of change. Even this is limited by the amount of purchases, its reachability in terms of customer base having debit or credit card and the acceptability in terms of retail outlets.

While these are few practical solutions identified there are few extreme solutions noted. Firstly most of the kirana stores do not give change thereby it’s a loss to the customer. Yet another solution was witnessed some time ago at a pharmacist. A customer bought OTC (Over The Counter) tablet worth Rs 2 and gave a Rs 10 note to the pharmacist .The pharmacist did not have change of Rs 8 and hence asked the customer to buy something additional worth Rs 8. Now that’s a googly! A customer needs to buy something which he does not require which is four times the value of the actual products he wants. While I did not wait for the final outcome as to whether the customer bought something else for Rs 8 or bought 4 more of the products he originally bought or did not buy anything from the pharmacist or a third party helped them to solve this problem. The solution could be anything for the problem of change.

Any interesting observations on how the issue of change is tackled? Any other solution for this problem?

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