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One for the Money…

September 23, 2017

Ok, a bit of a moral dilemma for you all today. What would you do if a cashier in a Bureau de Change in a big department store made a massive mistake with some currency and handed you £270-odd more than he should have done?

This is exactly what happened to Child 1 and Child 2 this afternoon. They were changing back some Vietnamese currency, after a 12-day adventure in the country, at the same Bureau de Change where they’d picked up the currency in the first place. Bear in mind that the Vietnamese Dong (yes, really) has huge numbers of noughts billowing across each bank note. There are 30,000 Dong to the pound. It’s a bit of a nightmare exchange-rate wise. But surely people working in Bureaux de Change should be fine with all that?

It hadn’t proved at all easy to get the Dong in the first place. Child 1, who is super-organised and uber-efficient (where on earth does she get it from? It’s baffling but wonderful) had phoned ahead, ordered the right amount of currency, and in theory we were there just to pick up the money and run. I went downstairs to do the shopping, which I did at my leisure, then put everything into the boot of the car, then sauntered up to meet the girls, wondering what on earth was taking them so long. It turned out that the cashier couldn’t get his head around the fact that the girls had ordered slightly less than a round number of Dong. He simply couldn’t work out the change, despite having a computer, a calculator, a colleague, the two girls and eventually me to help him. It took about an hour to extract the Dong, which was not amusing, and was only achieved when we insisted on upping our amount to a flat figure that couldn’t possibly be miscounted.

Fast forward to today. The girls sensibly wanted to change their excess currency back. This time it was all a little faster, and I met them on the escalator. They were both doing rapid sums. They told me that they thought the cashier had made a mistake. A large one. A £270 mistake, in fact. He’d added one too many noughts to the Dong and had inflated the amount the girls were taking back ten-fold.

We went straight back and said there’d been a miscalculation. From the downcast look on his face, I could tell that our honesty was more of a disaster, in his eyes, than his having messed up. He would now have to try to work out how on earth to get the extra money back into the system. I decided this time that returning £270 meant we didn’t have to watch the inevitably slow process unfurling. I extracted the £30-odd pounds the girls were owed, ending up a penny short as the poor chap was unable to change a UK 5p piece by this stage, and we left him struggling with his computer and calculators.

The girls, penniless students, could certainly have done with all that extra dosh for the new term ahead. I told them that the man would probably be sacked for such a colossal mistake, and the universe was bound to reward us for being good people. If I hadn’t been showing a good example as a parent, though, how tempted would I have been?

What would you have done? Would you have returned the money? Or turned a blind eye to the mistake?

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  • Miriam Drori September 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Well done for being honest! I’d have returned the money. But if I’d been a penniless student…

    And why can’t they employ cashiers who understand simple arithmetic?

    • Dulwich Divorcee October 4, 2017 at 10:29 am

      It’s a bit mysterious, isn’t it? And it’s not as if I’m a maths whizz myself… but I’m glad we did the right thing 🙂