Making change

My wife went out for pizza last week and came back with an incredible story. She ordered two pizzas on-line and went to the store to pick them up. When she arrived at the pizza store their computer was down. When she paid with cash, she was surprised to see the cashier pull out a calculator that she used to calculate the change due from my wife's purchase. The cashier explained that they had to use a calculator to figure out how much change to give a customer and that they would get fired if they were caught making change without the use of the calculator.

I'd guess that the pizza store didn't just make the use of calculators mandatory for no reason. They almost certainly did this because their employees couldn't do it accurately without a calculator.

It's somewhat popular these days to criticize the exit exam that California high school students have to pass to graduate. Opponents like to say that it forces teachers to teach just the material that's covered on the test, and that this reduces the overall quality of education. Supporters of the exam maintain that it's just testing basic skills and that its requirements are quite reasonable. If pizza stores have to require their employees to use calculators to make change accurately, I'd guess that the exit exam isn't testing enough.

The fact that people can pass the exit exam and still can't make change accurately may account for the following joke:

Question: What is 2+2?

Answer: A question on the California high-school exit exam

  • Rob Adams

    The exit exam lets you use calculators


  • Harry

    Typo in last sentence of first para – should be “they would get fired if they were caught making change without the use of a calculator.”


  • Luther Martin

    D’oh! Another one of those Type-O’s…


  • Phil Smith III

    Could be worse — I was in a Taco Bell once, and when the power went out, they were *unable* to make change, since they had no calculators and certainly couldn’t do the math. It happened that shortly thereafter, I was in a McDonald’s when the power went off; without missing a beat, the cashiers all reached under the counter and pulled out pads and calculators.
    Given the thin margins of a lot of restaurants, I’m not surprised that calculator use is mandatory. While the employee can of course still make a mistake, it’s less likely for someone at that pay grade to do so with the mechanical assistance. It also offers some (silly) deniability if they do make a mistake in the store’s favor: the customer who would accuse the employee of trying to rip them off may well accept “Oops, I must have punched it in wrong” more readily than “Gee, I was doing it in my head”. Not rational, but…


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