Shortchanging at UAE stores: Customers react on not getting exact change

Estimated read time 5 min read

Picture for illustrative purposes only. EXPAT MEDIA

It has probably happened to you more than you have cared to count: You buy from the store and not get the exact change back.

“I know it’s only a few fils everytime but surely that few fils everytime is better in my son’s change bottle than some corporate company’s pockets! It just amazes me how they think it’s fine and okay for them to do,” Paul Philipps, a British resident in the UAE, wrote to Expat Media.

Philipps is not alone in his sentiments, with many agreeing that the practice of short changing is a disservice to customers and tantamount to theft.

Philipps says he usually buys food items from the store and rarely gets his exact change back, particularly when the change is less than 25 fils. “I have mentioned this to cashiers and apparently it’s protocol, but who agreed to that? For sure not us public, the customers! It’s peanuts, I know but it comes down to principle how they automatically think they have the right to shortchange customers,” he told Expat Media. The British businessman runs a jockey valet business in the UAE where he has lived with his family in the last 14 years.

Mike J (full name withheld) said businesses often claim they are not able to give exact change due to the unavailability of smaller denominations such as 5 fils and 10 fils. However, the UAE Central Bank has stressed that there is no shortage of coins as it mints 1 fil, 5 fils, 10 fils, 25 fils and 50 fils coins.

“If shops say they don’t have fils smaller than 25 to give, then why are they selling items with prices like Dh6.99 or Dh4.99 knowing they don’t have 1 fil in change? It’s dishonest and it’s cheating customers,” Maria Morada, a Dubai resident, told Expat Media.

Mike suggests: “If you think you were short changed, go back into the store and talk to the manager. Registers are counted down every shift and the overages and shortages are documented.”

Ethel Baya, an accountant who has lived in Dubai for 18 years, said being shortchanged is a loss to the customer, no matter how small the amount. “This is why I pay with my card so that the exact amount is deducted and I don’t have to be shortchanged,” she told Expat Media, adding that she doesn’t want change in “candies” either.

Others, however, said they don’t mind not getting exact change. “I often shop for groceries and I find that they don’t give you change that is less than 25 fils or if it’s more than 50 fils but less than 75 fils or Dh1, they’ll just give you 50 fils. Most of the time, I let it go as it’s going to be a bigger hassle waiting for exact change, but I can totally understand why this practice should not be encouraged. Imagine where all those extra fils go,” John D (full name withheld) told Expat Media.

A cashier, who spoke to Expat Media on condition of anonymity, explained that she sometimes can’t give exact change because the smallest coin denomination in her cash register is 25 fils, and she needs to make sure “the balance in the cash register matches the money in the system.”

“Sometimes, I do allow a customer to not pay the full amount if they’re just short of 5 fils or 10 fils. At other times, I may be the one to fall short of giving exact change. So, it’s really a give and take situation. But to be honest, I have to be very careful about my calculations because we have hundreds of customers per day, and those fils will add up. So if I fall short of money at the end of the shift, I will get a warning. If it happens often, I could lose my job,” she said.

What happens to the extra money collected from this practice? “It goes to the company. We don’t keep a single fil, but if we fall short, we have to pay it from our pockets,” she said.

What the UAE law says about exact change

The Consumer Protection Department at the UAE Ministry of Economy has repeatedly reminded consumers as well as establishments to play a proactive role in stopping the practice of ignoring coins of smaller denominations.

The ministry’s Dr. Hashim Al Nuaimi previously said shortchanging is “an illegal practice and the money that is collected every day out of these fractions, which is worth thousands, is also illicit.”

The ministry has warned that retailers and establishments that don’t tender exact change to their customers will face penalties under the Consumer Protection Law. Under the law, penalties range from a warning to suspension of the business licence and fines ranging from Dh500 to Dh20,000. In other cases, the business may also be shut down.

The ministry urged consumers to contact the ministry to register their complaints. ICA/Expat Media

ALSO READ: How to file consumer complaint in UAE

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