13 February 2013

The toffee economy - 1 rupee equals one toffee

At some point, Rupee 1 became equivalent to a toffee. I didn't get the memo from the RBI.

I don't know how common this is in other Indian cities, but in Bangalore when they don't have proper change (which by the frequency of occurrence of this phenomenon -  never), you will get a toffee for every Rupee owed. This is bizarre right? You pay the cashier legal tender, but get offered edible change

When a shopkeeper does this, I ask them in my sweetest voice, "Do you get paid in toffees? The next time I pay here, will it be acceptable if I offer you a toffee instead of a rupee?" Responses to this vary. My local grocery store worries about it's reputation - shrill ladies at the cash register are not good for business. For the first few times he tried to look sorry and mumbled excuses. When I insisted that I be allowed to use the toffee as payment next time, I was given change. Now he recognizes me and never offers me a toffee. (For the picture in this blog, I paid him a rupee for the toffee! It was fun to see his jaw drop to the floor.) At really busy lines, the impatient cashier has refused to oblige. I am given a wave of the hand and disgusted look that demands I be reasonable. I normally stick like glue to the counter at these situations. What is remarkable is that never, and I mean not even once thus far, has any other customer supported me on this. If at all some squeak of another customer has penetrated my battle with the cashier, it is to remind that the line is long and I shouldn't be holding things up. 

This is a good scam. The shop buys these toffees in bulk, at wholesale rates and then tenders them at the maximum retail price. So, when you indulge this, do you realize that you are being scammed by 10 paise? Of course, to each of us individually this doesn't matter, but think of shops with high customer volumes. It starts to add up. 

Why do we accept this? Are we so drunk on materialistic success that we can disregard a rupee today, and perhaps 5 rupees tomorrow? I have been informed. "Madam, it is only a rupee." But my point is I don't get paid in toffees, I don't pay my employees in toffee, heck, that cashier doesn't get paid in toffees, so why should I accept this? It's clear though, widespread public acceptance of this type of exchange and willingness to participate in it has created a situation where the practice has all the signs of continuing. We are cupable as a society and if we, the customer, don't protest, be ready to hoard toffees or to find them stuck in the roof of your kid's mouth. 

1 comment:

  1. You know, a few time in Bangalore, when expecting 1-2 rupees as change I think I just got a hand wave and what seemed to be an explanation that it "was just a rupee" so there was no change. At least they are offering you some candy!