Magazine article American Banker

Business Lesson, Cream, No Sugar

Magazine article American Banker

Business Lesson, Cream, No Sugar

Article excerpt

"Next!" said the coffee-and-donut man (whom I'll refer to as Ralph) from his tiny silver shop-on-wheels, one of many that dot Manhattan on weekday mornings.

I stepped up to the window, ordered a glazed donut (75 cents), and when he handed it to me, handed a dollar bill back through the window. Ralph motioned to the pile of change scattered on the counter and hurried on to the next customer, yelling "Next!" over my shoulder. I put the bill down and grabbed a quarter from the pile.

Maybe this situation is typical of Manhattan coffee-and-donut carts, but this was the first business establishment I've ever been to that lets its customers make their own change.

Intrigued, I walked a few steps away and turned around to watch the interaction between this business and its customers. For five minutes all his customers either threw down exact change or made their own change, without any notice from Ralph; he was just too busy pouring coffee or retrieving crullers to pay any attention to the money situation.

If you were the CEO of a big business - say, multinational bank - you'd have been tearing your hair out at this scene. He lets his customers make their own change?!?!! How does he know they're making the correct change? Or putting down any change at all? Or even stealing the change? Where's the technology that prevents the change from being stolen while he's not looking?

Ralph probably does lose a little bit of change each day to theft and bad math but more than makes up for it in other ways. …

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