Only In America . . . TM

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


"Charlie Change," the infamous change-calculating customer who has been frustrating cashiers all over the city for the past six weeks, was apprehended by local officials yesterday afternoon after a group of irate cashiers cornered him in a downtown department store and beat him senseless. He was taken to County General Hospital, where he is in "stable" condition after being treated for multiple cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Nine cashiers were taken into custody, but all were released without charge pending a police investigation into the incident.

"That poor guy was really a mess," police spokesman Reuben Whalen told reporters. "He was kicked, bitten, stomped with high heels, and beaten severely about the head and shoulders with fists, umbrellas and handbags. If we hadn't arrived when we did, those women would have beaten him to death; they were really mad."

"You're darn right we were mad," Linda Clinknickle, one of the cashiers involved in the melee said. "This guy has been getting his kicks at our expense for the last six weeks, and there isn't a cashier in this city that wouldn't give a week's pay just for a chance to punch him out. I know I certainly feel a lot better after getting in a few licks of my own."

What Linda and the rest of the cashiers are so mad about is Charlie's two-pronged attack on their senses. He starts out by going into a small business like a convenience market and selecting a dozen or so small items. When he brings the items up to be checked out, he puts a little pile of money next to his purchases and then just stands there smirking while the cashier totals up his bill. If the amount on the register doesn't match the amount he has put on the counter to the penny, he just smiles at the cashier and tells her that she made a mistake. Then he makes her check the register tape item by item until she finds her error.

What infuriates the cashiers so much is that he is never wrong! The amount of money he puts out on the counter ahead of time is always correct to the penny, including tax and the adjustment for any coupons he might have brought in--and he always has several.

"I don't know how he does it," one cashier told us, "but he never makes a mistake. And once he has you hooked he starts coming in two or three times a day. Pretty soon you get so paranoid that you spend twice as long checking him out as you do any other customer. Which usually means that you make MORE mistakes than normal, and you have to go back and correct yourself. It's humiliating."

But then he changes his tactics. He will come in as usual and lay an odd amount like $5.07 on the counter. When everything is rung up and the total is only $4.82, the cashier will invariable go back and recheck her work. After coming up with the same total several times, she really starts to get rattled. Then Charlie tells her that her total is correct--he just put out the odd amount so that he would get exactly a quarter in change! "Charlie Change," whose real name we now know is Peter Coindork, has been repeating this scenario all over the city and driving cashiers crazy.

The City Council, at the urging of the Mayor, is considering a resolution which would make it a misdemeanor to taunt cashiers by figuring out how much your purchase will be before they have added up the sale on their register. The resolution is expected to pass by a unanimous vote.

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.