The $32,000,000 Travelers Check

This past weekend I went shopping for a bunch of things, one of which was a pair of shoes.  The sales person rang up my credit card but apparently hit the wrong button.  The register read my card number as the amount of a travelers check.  The register read that the store owed me change of $32,000,000 (rounded).  I took it in stride and patiently waited for them to load up a few suitcases of cash which would allow me to be on my merry way before they would notice their error.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and they made the correction.

That leads me to another personal finance question though.  What happens if you are at a register, give the guy a $5 bill and he thinks you gave him a $20.  You end up with change far exceeding the amount you gave to the guy (or girl).  What is the right thing to do?  Accept it as free money?  Give it back to the guy and let them know their mistake?  Does it matter if the error is a huge amount of money or if its just a tiny sum?

6 Responses to The $32,000,000 Travelers Check
  1. Daniel
    April 20, 2010 | 7:04 am

    At the dry cleaners last week, I gave the cashier a $5 bill and she gave me back 3.72 in change when she should have give back $2.72. I told her the truth and gave her the dollar back.

    On the other hand, my roommates and I recently bought a bunch of stuff online from Jos. A Bank and then returned the stuff we didn’t like. But the manager rang it up wrong and we ended up getting to keep a pair of pants we originally bought for $30. For some reason I didn’t feel bad about keeping that.

    What was the difference, that this was a company vs. a mom and pop shop?

  2. Jacob
    April 20, 2010 | 8:09 am

    I used to work as a cashier at a large sporting goods store. You shouldn’t expect to keep it as free money, because it isn’t. Mistakes happen, and cashiers are human. Just because the computer says 5.75 for change, and the cashier accidently slips gives you a 10 dolla bill, doesn’t make it right to keep the extra five bucks.

    I say this, because cashiers have a lot of pressure to keep their till correct. Several times, fellow cashiers were written up because their tills were off by 10-20 dollars when they counted their totals after a shift.

    So not only are you stealing from the store, but you may also be jeopardizing another person’s job. Multiple writeups can result in termination.

    I can only speak from the experiences I had working at this particular store. It was the only place that I was a cashier, but I would imagine a lot of other places have similar policies, especially since it comes down to money and profits.

  3. Abigail
    April 20, 2010 | 10:04 am

    When it’s a cash error, I point it out without thinking. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction.

    On the other hand, I wrote a piece a couple of months ago about getting far too big a refund when I returned part of an order. Why don’t I feel bad? Well, they refunded me the coupons — which is apparently normal because the store will get paid by the company issuing the coupon, so they’d be cheating to keep it — but also the manager didn’t listen to me.It was a complicated transaction, and while I was trying to explain it, he was staring at the receipt and saying “Uh-huh” a lot. Then starting to talk about something I had just explained. So when he gave me back something like $15 more than I was expecting (after 3 attempts to explain what refund SHOULD be) I just took the money and left.

  4. Financial Samurai
    April 26, 2010 | 8:02 pm

    Definitely give it back. Always do the right thing.

  5. mbhunter
    April 28, 2010 | 9:41 pm

    I do what I can to make good if I find the error.

    A guy at Lowe’s didn’t charge us for one of the items we bought, but we went back in to fix it.

    Sometimes they’ll let the error go, but it wouldn’t have been for not trying to make good.

  6. Suba
    May 3, 2010 | 11:05 pm

    Definitely give it back. That is the right thing to do. If the situation was reversed (I gave 20$ and the cashier thought I had given $10) I would want my money back! Same goes for this! But most of the time, if its a tiny amount I have seen they will let it go.

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