Kristin Emery

Column Kristin Emery

Kristin Emery is a meteorologist at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, an O-R columnist and writer for Total Health magazine and other publications. Kristin is a Washington native, graduate of Washington High School and West Virginia University and works to fund her hobbies of travel, skiing, diving and golf.

A change in making change

A change in making change

April 18, 2017

Do you still carry cash? I know that’s a funny question, but a lot of my friends don’t carry cash at all anymore. Instead, they use their debit and credit cards to pay for everything. I admit I am a practitioner of this plastic economy. I don’t feel comfortable carrying a lot of cash, and using my airline credit card to pay for everything under the sun usually earns me about two free airfares per year. Why carry cash when using plastic gets you a free flight to the beach?

On the rare occasion when I do pay in cash, I notice a change in the way cashiers and sales associates hand you change at the end of a transaction. When I worked as a sales associate (in the old days, we were called “clerks”) in high school and college, we used the old cash registers where you pressed the dollar amount key and then the cent key and the drawer popped open. Ca-ching! You were on your own in counting out the change due to your customer. If your math was wrong, the customer got upset and you got in big trouble at the end of the night when the cash registers receipts didn’t match the money in the drawer. If someone bought something for $12.49 and paid with a twenty, you handed them back a penny, two quarters, two ones and a five and carefully counted out, “$12.50, seventy-five, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and that makes twenty.” It was a lesson in math every time I worked at the department store.

Try paying with cash now. You’ll likely get handed change in the form of a lump of money in no particular order. Not only do you have no idea whether the amount of change is correct, but the cashier will also likely place the bills and receipt in your palm then lay the change on top. You’d better be ready for it because when those coins get dropped onto the paper bills, they bounce right off and onto the floor (or the pavement if you’re at a drive-through window).

The only explanation I can come up with for this change in making change is that electronic cash registers (now referred to as “terminals”) automatically display the amount of change to give the customer. Cashiers no longer have to do math except to grab the three bills, two quarters and one penny out of the drawer and plop them in your palm. Why the coins go on top is beyond me, but it’s led to me dropping change so often I now withhold my hand until I ask the cashier to please give me the coins first. The perplexed looks on their faces are enough to make you chuckle. I may start paying with cash more just to see if I can get cashiers to count out the change for sport.

Kristin Emery can be reached at



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