The Times They Are a-Changin'

For whatever reason, and despite having adopted electronic payment in many other transactions, Germans continue to favor cash over plastic in the grocery store. Not wanting to stand out and believing that cash is usually quicker anyway, I follow suit. What this has meant, however, is that I have assembled a formidable pile of change that until recently I have hardly been able to dent. The reason for this is that there's a strong cultural expectation not to dawdle at the register, so paying with exact change is usually only possible if one is willing to suffer the piercing glares of those waiting in the queue. As a result, I have copious amounts of coinage sitting on my desk in neat little piles.

I have tried a few different tactics in an attempt to be able to pay speedily with exact change, ranging from strategically sorting coins in different pockets for quicker access, to memorizing the prices of my groceries and mentally calculating the bill before even entering a queue. The coin sorting, however, didn't prove quick enough, and I rarely was able to   calculate correctly my bill mentally unless I was only purchasing two or three items.

As the piles on my desk grew higher so did my frustration, and I even began rounding up each of my purchases by a few cents in my budget to reflect the assumption that I would never be able to use many of the coins and would thus eventually have to realize them as a loss. Fortuitously enough, however, I discovered just the other day that my mobile phone has a built-in calculator, and I immediately put it to use on my next trip to the grocery store .

It worked like a charm--each time I picked up an item, I quickly typed the price in the calculator and moved on to the next item, allowing me to have exact change ready before reaching the register. The most cunningly delicious part is that to the casual observer it merely looked as if I were texting a favored acquaintance, which gave me the added bonus of appearing to be a social dynamo rather than a nerdy miser. I'm confident that soon my piles of coins will be utilized as mediums of exchange rather than the undesirable stores of value they have functioned as hitherto.

I'm also glad to actually be putting my mobile to some practical use--I've yet to deplete the 10 € of credit that came included with the phone when I bought it in August.