10 money moans of modern life

ATMs that only dispense €50 notes, bars that don’t do cash-back and taxi drivers who don’t realise it’s their job to have change: how you make our blood boil

Illustration: Thinkstock/Irish Times Premedia

Illustration: Thinkstock/Irish Times Premedia


Money – or, more often, the lack of it – brings many problems. Some of those problems are life and death; others are not so serious – just annoying. Here are some of them.


Rage against the machine

You know the score: you put your card into an ATM and are dismayed to find that it will only dispense €50 notes. But you only have €48 left in your account because it’s the end of the month. So you’re snookered. Would it kill banks to put more lower denomination notes in their machines?

In 2013, the banks promised to start dispensing €10 notes alongside €20 notes and €50 notes in tacit recognition that not everyone is Donald Trump. But €10 notes are still rare, and heaven forbid they’d consider putting some €5 notes into the mix.


Bar fly into a fury

The pub is packed and the jostling for the attention of the barman is frantic. You’ve been standing in line for a lifetime, but now you’re just one person away from getting your pint. Then that one person asks if they can pay for their solitary drink with a debit card. The barman has to find the machine, key in the details, wait for it to connect, then hand it to the person, who has to remember the pin and then wait for a receipt before your shout-in.

And they don’t even get cash-back, so the palaver is likely to be repeated within the hour.


Cash back off 

Or maybe the bar doesn’t do cash-back. I mean, why would it bother? It is only handy for both consumers and bar owners. It allows us to avoid the stupid queues at the ATM while accessing the last €10 we have resting in our account, while also reducing the amounts of cash the bar has to transport to the bank once closing time comes.

Bars, shops, restaurants, taxi drivers: they should all be encouraged or incentivised by banks to offer cash-back as standard. Everyone’s a winner.


Ready or not

The person ahead of you in the supermarket stares keenly as their shopping makes its way up the conveyor belt and into the bagging area. They bag their goods promptly and all is well. Then they are asked for money and respond with such surprise that it’s as if the cashier has asked them to run away to a Kurdistan village for a shotgun wedding and a new life on a goat farm. Is it that hard to have your chosen method of payment ready when the big moment comes?

And while we’re at the cash register, could everyone please be more organised when it comes to tidying up their purchases and putting their cards back in their wallets? Or to put it another way: hurry up, we have places to go.


Copper on to yourself

Speaking of delays, how annoying is it to be standing behind someone who is paying for their lunch exclusively with coppers? The money gets counted out. “I think that’s right,” they will say, even though they are 100 per cent sure it is right. So is the cashier, but they still count it out, too. It is all so infuriating.

The only thing more infuriating than standing behind someone who is paying for lunch exclusively with coppers is being that person. Or being the cashier waiting for all the pennies to drop.


No more 99s

Most people believe that the reason things are priced in amounts ending in .99 is to fool us into thinking things are cheaper than they are. The real reason, according to Bill Bryson is that the mechanical registers of the 19th century could not issue receipts or do internal tallies, so the only way a manager could know a sale was taking place was through the sound of the cash register opening. If everything was priced at numbers ending in 9, then cashiers always had to open the tills to give a penny in change, so every sale was audible.

Registers are better now, so maybe we could dispense with the price anomaly?


That’s rich

It’s hard not to be annoyed by people who always insist on talking about how skint they are when you know damn well they have loads of money. Obviously bragging about how much money one has is a lot worse. Still, it is mildly infuriating to hear someone bang on about how tough life is as they spoon expensive deli soup into their gobs at lunchtime. They are probably the same ones who came out of exam halls claiming to have performed miserably, only to excel every single time. Grrrr.


It cost how much?

People endlessly bragging about their bargain-hunting skills and people endlessly boasting about their expensive stuff are cut from the same cloth. Bigging yourself up is always bad.


Earning power

Irish people tend to be very reticent when it comes to how much they earn, and this is a good thing. Every now and then, however, you will meet someone who loves to talk about the money they make. Typically they will use terms like “serious wedge” and “moolah”, and they may or may not have once worked at a senior level in one of the banks that cost us all so dearly. If they weren’t complete bankers, they were accountants or solicitors or estate agents who were profiting from the dodgy goings-on in our financial houses.


Changing times

Taxi drivers get a bad rap, but by and large they are fine. They are not so fine when they make a big song and dance about giving you change, however. There are some taxi drivers who forget that they work in a business that requires them to have a float, and they will think nothing of asking a passenger who hands them a €20 to cover a €10 fare if they don’t have “anything smaller”.

And speaking of taxi drivers and money, how annoying is it when they automatically tip themselves? You know the way it goes: the fare comes to €9.50 and you give them a tenner, after which an awkward stand-off ensues. Stand your ground. It’s your money and you don’t have to give it to away just because they think you should.

  • Have we left any out? Is there a penny peeve that really pees you off? Let us know at pricewatch@irishtimes.com
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