As controls on credit cards become more stringent, people are paying for their purchases in cash. Since most sales clerks in large department stores have no experience in handling money, they are now attending crash courses to learn how to deal with it.
One of the leading department stores in Washington permitted me to attend a class.
The instructor used slides to familiarize the clerks with the various denominations of money they would be handling.
"Before the credit card," he said, "Americans used paper money when buying goods. Then plastic was invented and cash was abolished as a way of paying for goods in stores. Now because of the credit restrictions placed on the customer, people are returning to the use of paper again, and you are permitted to accept it. Are there any questions?"
"How do we recognize the value of the currency?"
"That's a good question. Please watch the slides. First i will show you a one-dollar bill. Note that it has a picture of George Washington on it and in the corner a large figure one! This is the smallest denomination. It will not buy anything by itself but is used to supplement a purchase when the person uses the following bills: Here is a five-dollar bill with Abraham Lincoln's picture, and this is a 10-dollar bill with a likeness of Alexander Hamilton and a 20-dollar bill with Andrew Jackson on the face of it. We will deal with 50- and 100-dollar bills in the Advanced Cash Course!
"Now, let's simulate an actual purchase so we get used to dealing with money. Frankie Kelly, you will be the saleslady, and Lizzie Diamond, you will take the sale of the customer. Let us assume, Frankie, that Lizzie has just purchased a bathroom scale. Now go ahead."
Lizzie said, "I wish to buy this scale and I want to pay cash."
Frankie replied, "It is $25.60."
Lizzie handed over three 10-dollar bills.
Frankie inspected the money. "May I see your driver's license, please?"
"No, Frankie," the instructor yelled. "It is not necessary to ask to see a driver's license when someone pays cash."
"All right," Frankie said. Then she turned to Lizzie.
"Do you have any other identification?"
"Wait, hold it," the instructor said, jumping up. "When a customer pays cash, you do not have to ask for identification."
"How do you know the money is any good? Lizzie could be using someone else's cash." Frankie said.
"We have to assume the money is good and that it belongs to Lizzie."
I could tell Frankie was upset. She took a pen to write on the 10-dollar bill. "May I have your address and home telephone number?"
"Don't write on the money," the instructor shouted. "It will only confuse the next person who uses it. Just take the cash."
"Shouldn't I call the Treasury Department and read off the numbers of the bills to make sure Lizzie isn't a deadbeat?"
"It's not necessary," the instructor said. "You see on each bill it says, 'In God We Trust,' so when a customer pays with cash we have to trust her." '
"You mean I don't even have to call my supervisor to initial the bills."
"No, you don't. Just write out a sales slip and then deposit the bills in the register."
"I don't think I'll ever get the hang of it," Frankie said in tears.
"Of course you will. Now for the next two hours we will discuss the key to the cash system, which is called 'making change.' Has anyone in the room ever made change before?"
No one raised a hand.