Monday, October 17, 2011

Torturing Children

I am sure I have mentioned this before. If not here, I have voiced my opinion bluntly many times to the small fry who wander in and out of my bike shop on any given day.

It is the 10th visit to make sure the bike part they lust after is still in stock and they have finally scraped together enough money to purchase the part. If I am feeling evil that day, I play the "change game" with them.

Barely able to look over my counter, a grubby little tacker will place both hands on the counter, one hand clutching tightly the money he has been able to scrape together by hook or crook to walk out with those Odyssey pedals he has been lusting after the last month or so.

"How much are those pedals?" He knows full well how much, he has asked me the same question the last nine times he visited.

I refrain from being snarky and I evenly say, "$16.95 and a little for the governor for a grand total of $17.80."

When the kid places several crumbled bills on the counter and asks me, "Is this enough?" - My evil side takes over. The little punk should know whether he has enough to pay for it. Now it is time for me to pass on some education.

I gather up the balled up money and begin to separate it. A typical wad will have way more than the pedals cost. A ten, a five, and some ones would be the typical combination.

"Well young sir, it appears you have, uh, how much is here?"

The kid looks at me as if I had just asked him the capital of Mongolia.

"I don't know. Is it enough?"

"I don't know kid, you tell me. The pedals are gonna set you back $17.80. Is there enough here?"

Again a blank look. Then, "My mom gave me this money and said whatever it was I just had to have better not be over $20. I guess it is $20."

"Guess? How old are you kid?"

"Um, I'm 11. Why?"

"I don't know, but I was just thinking 11 is a tad too old to not be able to add a few bills together. How many ones are there?"

The kid moves them around and whispers, "Five."

"So far so good. Now add this to the five. How much is five and five?


I take the five and the ones and set them next to the ten.

"How much is ten plus ten?"

Immediately I get one of the classic eye rolls kids toss out when confronted by an adult intent on making their lives miserable. But he hesitates and looks up at the ceiling and maybe begins to twitch his fingers like he was counting. His eyes brighten and he looks at me. "Twenty, there's twenty dollars there.", he says triumphantly.

"Very good. Now the question to you is, is twenty dollars enough to cover the $17.80 you owe for the pedals?"

The eye roll is replaced by two small eyes glaring, wishing I was dead. But the lust for the pedals outweighs the frustration of dealing with a math quiz out in the real world, so he might say something like, "Yeah, it's enough."

If I am feeling particularly evil that day, I will collect up the five, the ones and the ten and put them in the cash drawer and hand him his pedals. I will offer him no change. I hope to shake loose some kind of defense response, some clue they have a clue that they deserve some change back.

To be fair most kids will tell me they deserve some change. For the ones who actually begin to leave, I stop them. I don't rip off kids. I prefer to torture them.

Now the real fun begins.

"Okay so I owe you change now. How much change do I owe you?"

Nine times out of ten, I get no answer, just dark sullen anger. So I continue the lesson with, "Come on kid, you should be able to count change if you are going to carry money. Trust me when I say there are adults out there who will take advantage of you. Think now, how much change should you be getting back?"

Some kids get angry and will tell me that this is not school and they don't have to do math problems. I agree wholeheartedly but finish by saying they are just asking to ripped off. I will try once more to engage them in the game. If they refuse, I hand them the change without comment.

Some kids rise to the occasion and will do their best to figure it out. I will work with them until I feel they have gotten it or they have at least given it their best shot. It will be these kids who will be running the world and bossing the kids who refuse to learn. There is nothing wrong with not knowing an answer, what's important is seeking the answer.

I used to be shocked by this inability of the local youth to count money. I would like to say counting change was taught to me just as I stepped out of the womb, but the reality is I just know my parents made sure I could count money long before I hit kindergarten. I grew up assuming everyone could count money. Apparently not.


1 comment:

Kulkuri said...

The sad thing is that most young cashiers can't give you back the correct change if the cash register doesn't tell them what the change would be. Especially if you give them an odd amount in order to get an even amount back, like no pennies. I wonder how many have a till that's short at the end of their shift??