August 11, 2002
Another Story

Another forgotten story from long ago:

Dan of HappyFunPundit tells the sad tale of a fast food clerk and her manager who couldn't subtract $14.72 from $20.00 without a cash register or calculator. The problem is not new.

In 1976 or so, when I was at the University of Chicago, I went to the college bookstore to buy some manila envelopes. The clerk (not a student, I hope) was unable to figure out the total cost of 12 envelopes priced at 5 cents each. She tried the cash register, but didn't have the patience to do it right, ringing up 5, 5, 5, 5, and 5, then 25, and only then realizing that she didn't know what to do next. She tried a calculator. She tried pencil and paper. The whole process must have taken at least ten minutes, though it seemed more like twenty. Like the several customers behind me in line, I was frozen in stunned vicarious embarrassment throughout. Eventually, she came up with a price of 80 cents, I agreed without hesitation, she rang it up, and the cash register added the appropriate tax automatically. Fortunately I had the exact change, so I paid and got the Hell out of there, wondering how she had ever graduated from high school. Of course, I soon realized that she would probably have been very grateful if I had told her the correct amount. Then again, perhaps she wouldn't have believed me.

I wonder whether she ever learned basic arithmetic, and whether she is currently employed. I don't imagine there are a lot of fields in which such gross arithmetical ineptitude would not be a handicap.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 11, 2002 12:00 AM

Congress comes to mind.

Posted by: susanna on August 11, 2002 08:12 PM

(I've hurt myself again...laughing...oh that's funny!)

Posted by: Quana on August 11, 2002 10:05 PM

There are an awful lot of jobs where you rarely have to add or subtract.

On the other hand, the inability to handle even exact change...

Well. Let's say this. The girl may have been having a particularly bad day. You never know.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on August 12, 2002 03:31 AM

In highs chool I spent one summer working in a Bruger King. One day, after I had worked my up from "fry guy" to taking orders (unlike the girls, the guys started in back and had to work their way up), I was doing my own thing when I heard the girl next to say "Oh no," in a tone of dismay.

"What's the matter?"

It turns out she had hit the 'OK' button on the register without punching in the amount tendered, so the drawer had simply opened without telling her how much change to return.

Since, unlike her, I was able to handle this situation, I decided to help. (She was also cute, which didn't discourage my chivalry.)

"Well, how much was the order?"

After a pause to check, "$7.36."

And how much did they give you?"

Counts the change in her hand. "$10.36."

I hid my amazement. "Then they need $3 back."

She turned to finish the sale, then stopped. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

And it was even more fun the day the registers went down, so we had to total up everything by hand...

Posted by: Doug Turnbull on August 12, 2002 12:46 PM