If a cashier handed you too much change, would you keep it? Does the amount of the mistake matter? For instance, would you keep an extra $5 but return an additional $100?
The Cashier Gave Me an Extra Ten Dollars with My Change
ABC News Primetime ran an experiment to determine what people would do when faced with this ethical dilemma. For two days, they watched as a cashier handed out $10 to $20 in extra change to 46 different people.
In Primetime’s study, 18 subjects immediately returned the money, while 26 put the money in their wallets and walked away.
After the initial experiment, Primetime ran a second study. This time the cashier handed out an extra $100, and 16 of the 25 people returned the money.
Karma was the main reason people returned the money, believing that stealing was a sin. Most importantly, restaurant-goers didn’t want the cashier to be financially responsible for this mistake.
But what about those who walked away with the money? Why didn’t they feel guilty for taking money that didn’t belong to them?
Most customers said they didn’t realize the cashier had made a mistake. Others said they didn’t take the money on purpose. It’s not like they stole it, they reasoned. The cashier accidentally handed it to them.
Is it Illegal to Keep Too Much Change?
Accepting too much change is not a crime if you don’t realize the cashier’s error. If you recognize the mistake, it might be unlawful, but I can’t imagine being charged for a crime of this nature. How would the courts prove that you knew about the mistake and intentionally kept the money anyway?
Can you get in trouble if the cashier gives you too much money? Unless it was a significant amount of money, I can’t imagine a scenario where a customer would be held liable.
The question is not one of legality but rather one of morality. If you know a cashier gave you too much change, do you alert them? Some stores will dock a cashier’s pay for these errors. If you don’t warn them of the error, they may lose wages to pay for their mistake.
Does knowing that change your decision? Would you give the money back if you knew the cashier was responsible for paying back the money, rather than thinking the company would take the loss?
The Cashier Gave Me Too Much Change
A few months ago, I faced a similar ethical and financial dilemma. I bought a bike from a local bicycle shop for over $400. I ordered a black bike, but when I arrived at the store, one of the employees brought out the identical bike in every way except color.
The bikes were the same price, and I decided I liked the blue one better, so we paid for some additional accessories like bike helmets and water bottles and went on our way.
The business changed hands shortly after this transaction, and I received a phone call from the bike shop a few months later. The shop owner said my new bike was ready, and I needed to come to the store to pick it up.
Had I been dishonest, I could have taken the bike and walked away with an additional $400 bike for free. Instead, I let the shop owner know that my husband and I had picked up a blue bike instead of the black one.
When my husband mentioned this story to a coworker, he said he wouldn’t have thought twice about taking the black bike home. “It’s not my fault they got things mixed up at the store,” he said.
If a Cashier Gives You Too Much Change, What Do You Do?
So what do you think? If a cashier gives you too much change, what do you do? It’s not unusual to receive extra change after buying something. Would you return the excess or keep it?