Monday, 4 May 2009


I was in a sports shop being served by a 'Saturday girl'. Just in case my international readers need a translation (get me!) this means a school-aged teenager who is doing a weekend job to pump up their spending money.

I handed over the item, which was priced at £5.99, together with my payment of £6 in the form of a £5 note plus a £1 coin. The shop was a bit down-market (obviously, since I was a customer) so the till wasn't the complex electronic type which tells the staff how much change is due.

I watched the cogs turning in the girl's head as she first inspected the note and the coin as if I had handed her a boa constrictor then triumphantly managed to mentally add them together to a total of £6. Growing in confidence, she rang up the £5.99 and then hit her next obstacle.

Her eyes played tennis between the money and the price as she struggled to calculate how much change she should be handing over to the expectant old git waiting on the other side of the counter. After what seemed like an ice age she tentatively dropped a 2p coin in my hand.

I'm not sure which was most shameful. Was it the dire state of the level of numeracy which our schools are attaining in their students? Or was it the fact that I pocketed the extra 1p and hurriedly left the shop?


  1. I really like the term " Saturday Girl"

  2. Oh dear. I have to admit that without thinking, I multiplied 3 x 5 on the calculator the other day at the office. When I looked at what I had done, I was mortified. And glad no one else knew. OOps. They do now.

  3. Trust me, we have the same problem state-side. I have totally flummoxed some of our younger folk when the bill is say, $5.26, and I hand them $20.01 so that I can get $14.75 (3 quarters) back in change instead of $14.74 (if I only gave them a $20 spot) which would give me 4 pennies. Because they were so confused, I have had to give them the $20 bill and let them give me change the only way they know how -- what the cash register tells them.

    Rather pathetically sad.