Posted in Citizenry

Small Change Scam

Today marks a year since Governor Jokowi and his Deputy Ahok took office. City conditions haven’t dramatically improved but people can see it ever so slowly move towards the better. They are really taking it one step at a time and it’s nothing worth complaining — you can’t expect your rusty steel to turn into shining brand-new metal with just a few scrubs, can you?

Reorganizing the disarrayed city takes more than several months or a year; it ain’t magic. People are impatient to see results soonest, i am too, but at least for the past year i find myself tuning in whenever either figure headlines the news, agog as to what they’re up then or next. I don’t agree with all of their programs, policies, or approaches, obviously; nor did i think they’ve made a progress in untangling the city’s most grating problem, gridlock, but already there is improvement. Better than nothing at all, and it is only a year.

No matter how capable, charismatic, stern, trustworthy, visionary, or most importantly clean and honest (which is so hard to find these days) a leader is, change won’t happen unless the people s/he governs is supportive, cooperative, and actively participating. What works is not either bottom-up or top-down, it’s both ways. Those on top lead by example, walk the talk; towners from the smallest family unit work towards building a better society. Jakarta has a loooong way to go but i for once want to believe that it is possible, since we’re in good hands atm.

But i digress.

Didn’t initially wanted to discuss the above topic, but anyway… we can’t expect to have clean and honest leaders if we aren’t one ourselves. It just doesn’t work that way. Ideally. Of course we’re in the know of how more and more government officials fall into the money trap and are investigated/arrested for corruption, and we happily tsk tsk and condemn their mercenary greediness. What we may forget is, like the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, an embezzlement of millions~billions of dollars starts with a cent or two. Case in point: short-changing customers.

You must have been in a situation wherein you’re denied small change of several hundred rupiah. Some couldn’t be bothered, some are deeply bothered by it. And there’s a huge difference between us refusing to collect small monies and short-changing customers assuming we don’t mind. Call me cheapo or whatever, money is money, even if it’s only several hundred rupiah. Or, quoting “Small Change, Big Scam” article in JakartaExpat #103, “It’s not the amount involved, it’s the principle.”

The author, Kenneth Yeung, broached this subject in relation to him being repeatedly short-changed at minimarts in recent months, zeroing in on one name. Since i’m referring to his article, i should’ve kept the discussion around that one minimart franchise he mentioned, but! I can’t! Because. Such practice also happens elsewhere, from shops to restaurants. I feel cheated whenever that happens to me, and it’s a bottomless argument i won’t win. Either i provide them extra monies to round the total up to the nearest thousand or i have to be content with what they returned me. Keeping those cheap-looking coins is a hassle but i know they will come in handy at times when you pay for something in cash and would love to maintain a good mood afterwards. To each his own.

Before cashiers unabashedly and unrepentantly short-changing customers, they used to hand a piece of candy in lieu of 100 rupiah. Idk which is worse. I mean, if it’s hard to keep enough coins on hand, why insist on tagging the items at ‘odd’ numbers, whose last three digits aren’t 000, or at an amount which would result in such numbers after all tax and other additional charges added to it? Furthermore, if they can get away with short-changing, the monies of which could wisely be used to let some other people get away with short-paying as well. Ideally speaking.

Why care so much about few hundred rupiah, anyway? Because this measly amount becomes humongous when added/multiplied/totaled up. The article offers rough calculation/estimation of how much money is embezzled. If math fails you, picture this: that’s few hundred rupiah per customer, times how many customers in a day, times how many outlets/businesses in Indonesia practicing this. Wondering where all that money goes? To respective sketchy person manning the cash register, allegedly. (Still in awe of beggars or ‘park attendants’ who end up making tens of millions a month?) Kenneth names it pilfering, for me it’s downright corruption, regardless how petty and small-scale it may seem.

It’s customer’s obligation to pay for goods and services purchased/enjoyed, and it’s customer’s rights to receive the correct amount of change when paying in cash. They say cash is king, but in society where such dishonest practice prevails and is never confronted, i opt to settle my transaction in cash-less way any day.

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