advice/perspective on jobs, work and management

My employer requires us to make exact change

I’m a server at an upscale restaurant chain. Our policy for making change on cash payments has always been to round to the nearest dollar. Recently, I was told we would now be expected to give customers exact change—down to the penny. I find this to be unnecessary and annoying. To my knowledge no one ever complained about the old policy. – Name withheld          

I know a few people who work in the restaurant business, so I decided to outsource my reply to your question. Here’s some of the feedback I got:

“Here’s what happened: Out of the many thousands of people your restaurant chain serves every day, one cheapskate complained once about not getting exact change. And so management, instead of ignoring it like they should, came up with this stupid policy.”

“Some corporate lawyer—who’s never worked in a restaurant—is convinced the practice of rounding is illegal.”

“I know. Some corporate management consultant—who’s never worked in a restaurant—mistook your establishment for a diner, where losing a nickel or two here and there actually amounts to a hill of beans.”

“Your company just hired a new executive director—who’s never worked in a restaurant—and he thinks this bold, forward-thinking policy will impress his boss. I say ‘he’ because a woman would never be this stupid.”

“I bet some corporate accountant—who’s never worked in a restaurant—figured out rounding to the nearest dollar is costing the company precisely 63 cents per year. That’s two quarters, a dime, and three pennies.”

“Wait. Don’t they know about Venmo..?”

I have nothing to add.


  1. Scarface

    Though clearly whoever came up with that policy is a jack***, does the subordinate have any suggestions on what an employee might do in that situation? Like, let’s suppose they really like the place and most of their co-workers are very cool and the money’s better than average. And it’s right down the street from their house.

    Is this a hopeless situation or are there options to at least try (like talking to management, and if so, how? or unionizing? or getting customers to complain to the manager that an employee INSISTED on returning correct change even when they didn’t want it?)…

    • the subordinate

      Yes – NW could certainly say something to management, or do any one of the things you suggest. (I definitely wouldn’t involve customers though. That’s almost sure to end badly.)

      My own impression, however, is that NW really isn’t interested in making a big deal out of this. I hear frustration—with which I genuinely empathize—but not to the point of unionizing, much less resigning over. As they say, they merely find the policy “unnecessary and annoying”. (And for me too, it would seem an odd line in the sand to draw with one’s employer.)

      However, if you really were dead set against making exact change for customers—and willing to risk reprimand—my advice would be to simply ignore the policy. I doubt you’d be fired over a few pennies – especially if you’re an otherwise capable employee…


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