Cash on the Barrelhead? Maybe Not

A few months ago I posted on Facebook about a strange occurrence at the Peet’s Coffee closest to me. I buy coffee beans there. More than half the time – probably seventy-five percent of the time –I pay cash. Maybe it’s more like ninety percent of the time.

Here’s where I digress and say that I still pay cash for a lot of things. It makes me old-fashioned, and I don’t care. I like it.

A few months ago the young barista at Peet’s took my cash, gave me change, offered me a complimentary small coffee, and pushed a cash receipt across the counter, along with a pen. “Please sign,” he said.

“I paid cash,” I said. By the way, the cash receipt had no signature line, and there was only one copy. If it required a signature, there should have been two copies. I could go on with the logical arguments, but I don’t need to.

He nodded. “I know, but we require a signature on cash purchases over twenty-five dollars.”

There was a line behind me, and I was on my way to an appointment, so I signed it. When I got home that afternoon I emailed Peet’s customer service and asked why they required a signature for a cash transaction. They replied that they don’t. They asked for the date and location of the interaction and I gave it to them.

Flash forward to yesterday. I’m in Peet’s buying beans, paying with cash, and a different barista pushes the cash receipt and a pen across the counter. “Please sign,” she says. “You can sign anywhere.”

(“You can sign anywhere.” Obviously, someone besides me has pointed out that cash receipts don’t have a signature line, because they don’t need a signature line, because when you pay cash you don’t need to… oh, never mind.)

“But I paid cash,” I say, looking around to see if the walls are swirling and voices reverbing in a 1980s-bad-movie-kind-of-way, because déjà vu is rising around me like an incoming tide.

“I know, but we require a cash signature for any transaction over twenty-five dollars.”

There is no one behind me, and I don’t have a full calendar, so I stand my ground. “I don’t have to sign for a cash transaction,” I say. “Your own customer support people told me that when I called them once before about this.”

“Well, I can go ask my manager, but it’s how I was trained,” she says.

“Yes, go ask. Why don’t you go ask?” I say. I wait while she walks down to the end of the counter and says something to a woman who might be thirty. The thirtyish woman shakes her head and my barista comes back.

“You don’t have to pay,” she says. I raise my eyebrows and she laughs. “Sign, I mean! You don’t have to sign.”

I take my beans and go away, but I’m thinking. I’m thinking that her last slip of the tongue is a clue as to what has gone wrong with the training at this particular Peet’s. She seems to think if I haven’t swiped something, or signed something, I haven’t exactly paid. And she seems to have been trained that way.

I’m guessing she and the first guy got trained at the same time by the same person. Obviously, they have few enough cash transactions that this hasn’t been corrected yet.

Whoever trained her and the first guy is young enough that they aren’t that familiar with cash transactions. Does this make sense? Both of these sales reps were young. Is it possible that they just really aren’t that familiar with the concept of cash?

Sigh. I feel old. Thank God I have some coffee beans to get me through my doddering old-ageness. Maybe I can go out and yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

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