How to Inadvertently Confuse a German Cashier | Expat-Mom

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How to Inadvertently Confuse a German Cashier

22 Aug Posted by in Shopping | 2 comments
How to Inadvertently Confuse a German Cashier
Over the summer, during the hot period (with no A/C), I loaded up the Kinderwagen (stroller) with the baby and all the various items needed to make a successful journey to the Tagesmutter (Day Mother/Daycare) to pickup Fynn.

It’s only a 13 minute walk at a fast pace, but you never know what you’re going to need to appease a screaming toddler if he decides to turn 13 minutes into 45 minutes on the way home; toddlers walk slow and are easily distracted.

When I arrived at the Tagesmutter’s, I saw her kiddie pool and remembered I had wanted to buy a kiddie pool from the store, which is immediately around the corner from her house, but had forgotten my wallet while loading all those various things into the stroller.

I started to absentmindedly mutter, “Darn, I forgot my wallet and wanted to buy a little pool…”

The Tagesmutter saw the look on my face and gladly took out her wallet asking if I would like to borrow some money.

I would normally say, “Nah, it’s ok. I can buy a pool another day,” not wanting to impose by borrowing money.

But today I was feeling a little bold… and it was too friggin’ hot to wait for a dunk in a kiddie pool.

I gladly accepted.

The Tagesmutter pulled out a 10 euro bill, then a five. She looked in her coin pouch and decided I should take a two euro coin also… just to be safe.

I remember thinking in my head, “17 euro… I need to make sure to give her back 17 euro.”

I thanked her then went on my way.

**I’ll put the parking lot incident on pause as it will be part two of this story.**

I made it through the store quickly having strapped both children in the double stroller. There were three different pools I could have bought in my 17 euro price range, but finally decided on one for 15,99.

I walked to the cashier section and questioned whether I should just go to self-checkout as we normally do, but again, I was feeling bold so I settled on going to a live person.

I swung the stroller into the aisle for checkout, deciding to take my chances on a young, dark-haired cashier with no one in line ahead of me.

After I had already committed to this cashier, I noticed an older lady standing directly behind the cashier.

“Ugh, a trainee,” I thought. “Whatever. She has a helper. Should be fine. Two Germans I can confuse with my shitty language skills. Awesome!”

The cashier rang up the pool and set it on the pickup belt as I was handing her my cash.

The trainee started to put the 10 euro bill into the register and the trainer started to correct the way in which the trainee was putting the bill into the slot; it needed to be a certain direction.

The trainee put the five euro bill in, tossed the two euro coin into the tray, then dug into another tray and handed me one cent back. I momentarily waited for her to dig out a one euro coin, but as I didn’t see her reaching to grab one, I was puzzled.

“Wait a second,” I thought. Because I remember standing in front of the pool and thinking, “I will get one euro and one cent back as change.”

I hesitantly held the one cent and the receipt in my hand and then reluctantly started to push the stroller forward. I didn’t like that my gut was telling me this wasn’t right. I frantically tried to do the math in my head and then translate the numbers into German.

I got a few yards away from the counter and turned to say something. Although I wasn’t sure what I could say, I was sure that I was right and she was wrong about the change.

And as I turned, the trainer asked in German, and with a slight chuckle, if I wanted to take the pool. In my dazed confusion I hadn’t even grabbed the 15,99 pool in which I had just paid 16,99! But a 16,99 pool is better than no pool, at least.

Maybe because I was feeling bold, or maybe I was just too pissed to care, but I started to question the one cent change and explain that I gave 17 euro.

“Ich habe siebzehn euro gegaben,” I distinctly pronounced and emphasized the seventeen while holding up the one cent.

The trainer asked to see my receipt and then said, “No, this is correct. You got one cent back.”

What the hell!? I was thinking in my head while also questioning my math skills, which get flustered when trying to translate numbers from English to German and vice versa. 17 minus 15,99 is 1,01.

I looked at the receipt to confirm the pool was rung up as 15,99 and not 16,99. Yep, it rang up as 15,99. Then I saw that the cashier input 16,00 as what I had paid.

“You rang it up wrong!” I desperately wanted to yell, “Gimme my ONE EURO!” but realized not only did I not know how to say that even politely in German, but nobody would get the Better Off Dead reference anyway.

And then I started to walk away feeling like I was in the Twilight Zone and questioning my own sanity.

Did I or didn’t I just give her a two euro coin? Maybe it was a one euro coin and not a two?

This incident left me pissed off, not just over one euro (which would totally make me German, by the way), but that I couldn’t articulately and correctly explain my situation in a foreign language.

I left annoyed that this had put a damper in what had previously been a confidence-filled day.

The next day, I confirmed with the Tagesmutter that she did in deed give me a two euro coin. She noted that the only thing I could have done differently was go to the customer service desk, give them the number of the cashier’s register, and if the cashier was one euro over when she counted her till, I could collect the money later.

It is only inevitable that there will be crappy moments in a foreign country, and as much as I try not to let those crappy moments overshadow the awesome moments, this one aggravated me.

At the end of the day, however, I knew I would be the one laughing… because that cashier would be one euro over in her till when she counted out.

And for a German to not be exact when it comes to numbers… Well, let’s just say, she probably lost sleep over it.

And this thought was enough for me to feel that yes… yes… I can still successfully confuse a German.

In the future though, I think I will just stick to the self-checkout; much more accurate than a live person when it comes to change. Plus, setting the talking register to English gets some wonderful looks from passersby.

***Luckily, my encounter in the parking lot beforehand would later triumph my incident in the store. Stay tuned for part 2***


  1. Keith09-01-13

    :( I’ve been there.

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