It was a long time ago, but I was always brought up with that age old expression ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.
Which is why I was delighted to see Gulf News this week kicking off a campaign for retailers to hand back to customers the change that is due to them. Gulf News is not my favourite English language broadsheet in the UAE, but for once the paper struck a chord with me. In a country where cheating or exploiting others has become a national pastime, it was refreshing to see someone standing up for the rights of ordinary people.
I can only think of one shop – the CooP – which always hands back denominations of 1, 5 and 10 fils coins as change. But I am all too aware of the large supermarkets who always round prices up to the next 25 fils level, even if the price is a mere 5 fils over that break point. So, you buy something for 9.80 dirhams and you are charged 10.
After three days of this campaign, the Ministry of Economy has warned that tough action will be taken against businesses that deny customers their rightful change. The banks claim there are plenty of smaller denomination coins in circulation and that it is only the shops who don’t prepare themselves with the correct amount of cash.
What amazes me is that according to Gulf News, so many residents of the UAE are totally unaware that these smaller coins even exist. Mind you, I have to say that I had been visiting the UAE for three years before I ever saw my first 5 fils coin. Others also are quoted as saying they are too embarrassed to ask for change when being ‘served’ at a supermarket.
The Ministry has set up a toll free number – 6005225 – to register complaints against retailers who refuse to hand back small change.
So now I am going to start asking – nay, demanding – my rightful change when I go shopping and see what happens. I suspect there may well be a follow up blog in the very near future.