Life in Poland

That’s So Polish: Exact Change and Nie Wydam

I am not the first foreign person to notice this or even the first to write about it on their blog, but I will add my 2 cents anyhow 😉

Exact Changecoin

Polish shop assistants have, in my opinion, an abnormal fixation on receiving the exact change meaning that you give them the exact amount of your total complete with all the coins and everything. The next best thing for the shop assistant is to receive an amount of change which allows them to give you back better change, meaning they can give you back, for example, a 20 instead of a 10 and some coins. What’s the reasoning behind this? I suppose, it is to hedge against all the yuppies who clean out the cash register with their fresh bank-o-mat hundreds, but I have often been shaken clean of all my change from a cashier whose cash register was overflowing with coins.

What can ya do?

This habit used to really bug me because even after all these years, I still have to look at the face of the smaller coins to recognize the amount. I usually do the dump-out-all-my-change-in-my-hand thing, turn all the coins over so the numbers are up, and then figure out what combination of these coins will please the shop assistant most. Now, I am much more easy-going and if I have the coins, I hand them over (of course, leaving my precious reserve for parking) sometimes without being asked.

Nie Wydam!zloty

Ok, so the exact change thing I can deal with, but what gets my goat is “nie wydam” (I cannot make change). First of all, let me state that I worked in a clothing store at the mall while at uni, so I know what it means when your first customer of the day cleans out your register. Our store was new so after it happened a couple of times, we decided to increase the starting amount in each register from 200 to 300 dollars. In addition, we had another 300 in the safe in the back consisting of 1’s, 5’s, 10’s and coins. If for some reason that wasn’t enough, we made a trip to the neighboring shops and even to the bank if necessary. It never happened, but we had such a procedure just in case.

So, after the third time the lady at Reserved Kids (something like Gap Kids) told me that she couldn’t make change (a 50 zloty banknote on a 40 zloty purchase) and asked if I could pay by card, I decided that I had had enough of Reserved and Reserved Kids. I left my purchases at the register and walked out of the store. It was a painful decision but I decided to boycott Reserved Kids….for 3 whole months. That’s as long as I made it ‘cause I really love that store. When I returned from my boycott (which I am sure hit them hard), I waited for what the sales assistant would say as I handed over my cash. Unsurprisingly, she couldn’t make change. I asked why in Reserved Kids they never have change and in (regular) Reserved they more often than not have the same problem. She replied, “Store policy.” Hmm, interesting store policy, to never have change for your customers and piss them off at every visit. Excellent store policy.

This week, however, I met my match.

The lady from RUCH.

The Polish readers probably already know why.

If you are not in the know, RUCH is a newsagent which operated during communist times and continues to do business today. What you may not know is that you cannot win with the lady from RUCH. She is always right and you can go f@*# yourself.

I often go to the RUCH in question and my complaint is exclusive to this particular location. It is conveniently located for me near one of my clients. This particular RUCH is not a little kiosk, but more like a shop. It is always clean and well-organized and the shop lady is always nicely dressed and groomed. That being said, if there was a dirty, ugly place next door with a smelly but pleasant salesperson working, I would probably choose the smelly guy over this lady.

So a few days ago, I parked in front of RUCH, got out of my car and headed to the door…where I met my favorite lady backing her way out of the door with keys in hand.

Zamknięte. –she said. [We’re closed]

A Pani wróci ? – I asked. [You’re coming back?]

Tak. – she answered. [Yes]

No to czekam. – I said. [I’m waiting.]

She was surprised that I wanted to wait, but I was early for my lesson so I thought –what the hey- I will wait. I don’t know where the lady, went but she missed out on 2 customers during her absence. She didn’t even hang the “zaraz wracam” sign. [Be right back]

Finally, she was back so I went in after her along with another guy. I know what I wanted, I had had time to figure it out while I waited and I plunked down my meager purchases on the counter while the other customer perused the press. I handed over a 50 to which I heard a mumbled response.

Proszę. Nie słyszałam. – I said [Pardon. I didn’t hear.]

Proszę Pani. Ja nie wydam! – The RUCH lady shouted peering at me from over the top of her glasses which rested at the end of her nose. [Ma’am, I will not make change.]

Hmm. Za ile musze kupić żeby Pani mogła mi wydać? – I asked. [Hmm. How much do I have to spend in order for you to be able to make change?]

No, no, no, proszę Pani, ja nie wiem za ile Pani musi kupić żeby wydać – she answered throwing her hands up in exasperation. [Well, well, well, Ma’am, I don’t know how much you have to spend for me to make change.]

My reply – A kto wie jeżeli Pani nie wie? [Who knows if you don’t know?]

She wasn’t happy with that comment.

Wszyscy ludzie tutaj przychodzą prosto z bankomatu i mam same pięćdziesiątki i stówki i nie wydam Pani. [Everybody comes in here straight from the ATM with 50’s and 100’s and I won’t make you change.]

Chyba Pani musi. – I answered, meaning that she has to make change in order to serve her clients…she understood it a little differently. [I think you have to.]

Ja jako sprzedawca nie mam obowiązku wydać resztę tylko klient ma obowiązek zapłacić daną kwotę. – she explained. [As a merchant, I am not required to make change. It is the customers’ responsibility to pay the right amount.]

Ale w taki sposób Pani nic nie sprzeda. – I countered. [But that way, you won’t sell anything.]

At that moment, the guy behind shouted – Pani nie wyda z 50tki? [You can’t change a 50?]

Nie. [No.]

As if I had planted this customer to prove my point, he put his purchases back on the shelf and left. I took back my 50 and did the same.

Do widzenia – I said. [Good bye]

Do widzenia, Pani. [Good bye, Ma’am]

And 30 minutes of work for this lady, from locking the door in front of me to my leaving the shop, resulted in 4 potential customers who spent 0 zloty. Excellent policy, excellent.

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  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I'm so used to this \”Exact Change\” thing, that here in France I often try and find the exact change, and then… nobody wants it. for the last five years I was asked for \”drobne\” maybe twice. maybe there's simply more coins in euro than in zloty? ;)Oh and once I tried to pay somewhere with coins < 0,10 and I heard rather scornful: – please keep THESE for your boulanger 😉

  • Reply
    Marek Cyzio
    July 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Coins? Banknotes? Hmm, have not seen these for quite some time. Even coke machines take credit cards now.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    From what my sister (a gas station clerk) told me, the clerk is responsible for keeping enough change in the register throughout the day, and she claims it actually costs the business money to go to the bank and get more change. And it is her duty to avoid incurring additional costs to her employer, obviously. This explains at least part of the problem… The neat thing is that the Polish coin system is much easier when it comes to making change then American (more coins with more convenient values, mathematically). And the values are actually written on the coin! In the US you need to learn them by heart, as I found out.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    This note alone will keep me away from Poland:))) For 27 years that I live in States I have never been ask for exact change, and for the last 10 years the smallest bill I have on me is $20 because I empty my purse and packets from any change, that I get to my register at work. I can't afford not to have a change for my customers. Is beyond my understanding and tolerance capability how you live there:)))

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Do dawania w sklepie \”końcówek\” sum jestem przyzwyczajona. Grzecznie je daję jeśli mam, bo czasami dobrze się pozbyć ciężkich monet. Jeśli nie mam to sprzedawca nie ma wyboru – musi sobie pobiegać po innych sklepach.A taką panią z RUCH-u, też znam. Oczywiście nie kupię tam nawet najtańszej gazety. Nie wspieram reliktów starego systemu politycznego 🙂

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Kat, I think in every country in world you have to learn coins and bills by heart. Maybe one day the whole world will have the same currency then there won't be a problem. Otherwise as long as each country has their own currency it takes little time to learn. I personally think polish coins are confusing because some of them look almost the same. I have been in Poland 3 years ago and for 3 weeks couldn't make a exact change without putting on my eyeglasses which is annoying. Maybe that's MY personal problem, maybe people in Poland don't get old. I don't know, I hope that's the case.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I almost forgot how rude they can be. Good, old Ruch!When I am at a store in Poland, I try to hand the money to the clerks and they look at me funny. In Poland, you put it on the counter, in the States, you hand it to the clerk.Coins are difficult – I was just on vacation in Canada and could not figure out the coins.Geez – I posted this comment under the wrong post initially(: Thank God it is Friday and a long weekend upon us:)

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Stop threatening me, please – I'm coming to Poland soon. Already forgot about all this…In the UK there are not many places nowadays where you'd need cash.In our little village the only shops without card terminals are small newsagents and a green grocery, everywhere else has you can pay by a card even the smallest amount.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    That's one of the things which annoys me in Poland. It's a store manager responsbility to ensure that they have enough change in the tills. Is it a big problem to organise change delivery once a week ?

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    taaa… bywając w Polsce pamiętam, żeby mieć przy sobie dużo drobnych, ale zapominam, żeby nie wyciągać ręki po resztę…ale chyba sprzedawcy też się czegoś uczą, bo coraz mniej dziwnych spojrzeń z tej okazji:)przepraszam, że nie po angielsku, alem zmęczona:)

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Ha – I know now! Even after 22 years in US I still pay with this ending. Coffee – $4.32 – and I hand over$10.32. Puzzled look ( and American smile) in return.And yes, I still like to get some money from the bank and skip these credit cards payments. It seems these Starbucks Coffees ( which I really should be buying) are more expensive paid by cash and I tend to more careful with spending my hard – currency allowances ( yes, these are my earned allowance which I spend on ME). Not exactly on topic, but close enough 🙂

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 7:32 am

    I don't go to the small shops at all. I hate it since I prefer using cards; I even don't have a purse ( what a freak I am!). Actually, I prefer online shopping:) Yeah yeah, I have to buy everyday staff as well and … I send my husband to all these terrifying places . He's THE wallet full of \”exact change\”.

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 9:32 am

    When I first moved to the UK I've tried giving people the ending and they wouldn't usually know what to do with it 🙂 After 6 years here I can get really annoyed in Poland and because I'm such a malicious being I keep my change in a separete purse and always give them a note and then show them my empty wallet. They sigh and I think – screw you. And (same as miss) I never remember to put my money on the little bowl they have and I stand there with my hand out waiting for the change 🙂

  • Reply
    Lois B
    July 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

    This \”exact change\” thing drives me crazy. How am I supposed to have change when no cashier is willing to make change?

  • Reply
    July 3, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Ha ha ha ! I know your pain Chris. And what surprises me every time I go home to Poland is that the whole \”change\” thing never changes. I to ended up walking out without making a purchase. But one time actually I needed a pack of kleenex from \”Ruch\” (back when most of them didn't accept credit/ debit cards) and I had no cash on me… except from loose change in my backpack. I ended up collecting the exact amount – a handful of coins and I got yield at for making fun of a guy!!! He refused to sell me the kleenex. I ended up writing about it in a local newspaper! And of course never shopped in that kiosk again

  • Reply
    July 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    It is true that the American cashiers often don't \”get it\” when you give them an amount which is much more than the total but which will yield \”better\” change. Basic math is too much trouble for 5 bucks an hour and no health insurance.I was always amazed at the ladies at the small shop here who added up the purchases on a tablet of paper faster than I could have done on a calculator. And the change was always right. Now the shops have to have a register and give receipts 🙂

  • Reply
    July 4, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I am a little afraid of the cashiers here. Once I attempted to pay with a ripped 10 bill at the Chata near my house and they were outraged! I didn't even notice that there was a small tear in the corner (no part of the money was missing), but the cashier sure did and started pointing at it and screaming at me. After consulting with the other two cashiers (which stopped all the lines) they decided to accept it. : )

  • Reply
    July 5, 2011 at 8:47 am

    aj- You rebel!Is it perhaps ajp??? Don't want to blow your cover…or mine 😉

  • Reply
    July 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    the thing is coins are in short supply in Poland Chris – they cost more to produce then their nominal values and most probably the smaller coins (1,2 groszy) will be dropped alltogether in near future (that was the case with Dutch guilders – they didn't have 1 and 2 cent coins in circulation in the middle 90's when I was there)

  • Reply
    May 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I did not know my pretense for exact change and \”better\”change was genetic- lol. I am 100% Polish , US born and I have always done this. Was reading this to my spouse and he was in total agreement. ThankS for the insight!! I will fit right in when we make it to Poland.

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