'Respect the centavo'
The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
Years back, the government waged a campaign to respect the centavo. I recall there were posters with the Melchora Aquino coin in them pasted all over, encouraging people not to throw away the centavo, but to save it or put it in campaign cans for some worthy cause. It was a remarkable campaign, reminding everyone you cannot have a peso if you don't have a single centavo. I borrowed today's title from the headline of the print ads of that campaign.
On the side, the campaign was a subtle pitch for saving: things, no matter how small, can get big; big things come from small.
These days, who cares for the centavo?
Most of us seem to have forgotten its value, that it is 1/100th of a peso. I recall the centavo campaign because I've had the misfortune of getting into minor tiffs with supermarket cashiers over the centavo with alarming regularity these past weeks.
It seems to have become a practice, especially at SM Supermarket and Robinsons Supermarket in Shopping to not give you your complete change. Worse, they often do not even tell you they lack ten, at one time, even P0.70. They just plank your change with your receipt before you then proceed to the next customer.
It has become so prevalent -- I may be unlucky, because I always have the experience in these two supermarkets -- it seems to have become normal already, and I, who will not leave without the last of my centavo given to me, stands there like an unreasonable bitter bitch. At one time, the cashier at Rob Shopping gave me that unmistakable exasperated look, complete with eyeballs rolling, because she did not have the P0.50 to complete the change.
In another instance, at SM, the cashier actually had a pile of one centavo coins and she did not complete my change.
Oftentimes, when I complain, they'd give you more, like P0.25 when they lack P0.10, and give you that aggrieved look that could mean how mean you are, they are losing P0.15 because of you. When that happens, I give them my sweetest smile and say thank you. When you come down to it, it is not our problem they do not have the coins, and they shouldn't pass the burden to us.
But wait! They can further the play here. The other day, the cashier at SM gave me P0.40 more for my change because she did not have coins. I thought I finally got lucky, until I noticed that the friend following me in the line was taking long. I went back and found out the cashier did not give him his complete change, and told him to get it from me because she gave me more. Now, that's customer service in the place that got it all except small coins.
Okay, I know. Some of you find this trivial and nitpicking, and maybe a waste of time. I used to think the same way, too, and would rather give up even a peso or two just to get over the line. But I notice a discomforting regularity in this practice, especially in these two supermarkets that unless somebody complains, could just continue and become normal.
Too, I cannot accept the argument that there is a shortage of coins in the country. This is their business, and for mega stores like them, they ought to address this and not pass on to the consumers.
If Lopue's can have enough coins -- I haven't had any experience there all this time, and I go to San Seb regularly too -- I am sure SM and Rob can find ways too if they tried hard enough. Otherwise, why don't they round off all their prices so the need for small coins is minimized?
I don't even want to think how many P0.10, or even just P.05, that rightfully belong to buyers stay in the cashiers’ boxes because of this practice. This is not about how much, this is about giving us, consumers, our due.
This is also about respecting the centavo, legal tender of the Republic of the Philippines, the first drop that will make the peso that will make the hundred that will make the thousand that will make the million.*
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