19 Mar2005

Has candy really been declared legal tender in the Philippines? cowHas our money lost so much value that we can’t afford the aluminum to fabricate more coins? Have you ever noticed that many local stores simply never have any change (bills and coins) on hand? This is one of my pet peeves… local groceries several years ago started giving out hard candy instead of 25 or 50 centavos in change that they owed you. Supposedly they were having a hard time getting enough coins so they gave candy instead. And most people took it willingly instead of insisting on getting real money. I mean, have you ever tried to buy a coke at a vending machine with 52 hard candies? Or go back to the same grocery with 112 candies and try to pay for a loaf of bread? The cashiers would just look at you like you had lost your marbles! Even though they gave you the candy as change in the first place!

No, candy is not legal tender. We have evolved since seashells were traded for wild boar. Groceries and any other store should and must have change or they shouldn’t be in business at all. When it really hits their bottom line, businesses do bother to obtain change. You don’t see toll booth cashiers handing out candy or asking you to dig up four coins from your wallet, do you? (or at least it is a rare occurrence). Anyone who thinks I am over reacting doesn’t get it, so there. It is the obligation of the vendor to have the change ready. In many cases, the party to blame is the business owner, and not the hapless salesperson that must deal with the wrath of Marketman… the salesperson doesn’t have the resources to bring several thousand pesos worth of change to her place of business… it is the owner’s job to ensure that the store is stocked with what is needed!

What really gets me is that this lack of change is so institutionalized locally that cashiers sometimes actually give you dirty looks when you refuse to give them exact change. It’s as though my role is not only to buy from them (and therefore give them employment opportunities) but I must also make the transaction completely effortless on their part by having exact change! How obnoxious is that? I also do not allow them to get away with giving me less than what’s due… they should round up in my favor. As a matter of obstinate policy, I always pay with a whole bill and rarely, if ever pay with exact change. I stock thousands of coins at home until, once a year or so, I get to use them in bulk. Like the time an express delivery service botched up my graduate school applications by inexplicably delivering them to my choice schools several days beyond a strict deadline. Not only did I give them a piece of my mind, I then sent the payment for the P1,500 bill in roughly 150,000 one centavo coins (I worked for a bank at the time and sourced my coins from there too) with a few five and ten centavo coins thrown in just so they would have to really count the stuff. They issued an official receipt.

And just when business owners know change is hard to come by, they insist on pricing in such odd numbers such as PHP6.95 when a 5 centavo coin is nearly impossible to locate these days. Or a hotdog for P68 instead of a nice round P70. As the salespeople scramble desperately to find change from neighboring stores or stalls, their store stands to lose sales, potential pilferage, etc. I have often dreamt of turning the tables and showing up at a ritzy supermarket with a bag full of 5, 10 and 25 centavo coins – then when they ring up my P1,765.35 bill, I patiently pull coin after coin after coin out of my bag until 79 minutes later, I have exact change. If I didn’t fear some irate customer further down my line would pull out an automatic weapon to finish me off I would actually try this some day – then perhaps business owners would figure out that they really should have change.



  1. Maning Garchitorena says:

    I know exactly what you mean about going back to the same grocery that gave you change in hard candy and trying to pay for something else with their version of “sweet” currency. Rustan’s Makati’s been at it for ages and when an auntie of mine cam back one day with a bagful of candy intending to use this as legal tender, they REFUSED! You should have seen (rather heard) her go at them. “Ang kakapal niyo @#^%!!!” And the murmurs of assent that swept through the ranks of supermarket clients who’d experienced the same treatment all these years. Buti na lang they relented and took in her/their candy. Don’t let them get away with it.

    Apr 19, 2005 | 10:22 am


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  3. Lou says:

    Dear Marketman,

    I also hate it when stores (i) expect you to have exact change, (ii) refuse to give you exact change or give you less than your change, and (iii) give you a hard time for objecting to the foregoing.

    I have exasperated a few cashiers by whipping out a bagload of coins to pay for a small purchase. Thankfully, most of them gracefully accepted my coins and didn’t give me a hard time about it.

    I’m glad to hear the service provider you paid P1,500 in one centavo coins accepted your payment. Coins are legal tender in the Philippines up to P25 for denominations of P0.25 and above, and up to P20 for denominations of P0.10 or less.

    May 22, 2006 | 11:17 am

  4. Marketman says:

    Lou, omigosh, I didn’t know there was limit to the amount of coins you could use… they were probably so flustered by having an irate customer they just let it be…however, I was also working for a bank and they were ultimately a customer, so I had warned the counters to accept their deposit if they came in with all of the coins…they never did…I think the manager kept it in the office as a reminder for the staff not to screw up again…

    May 22, 2006 | 7:54 pm


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