f you’ve been in a store or pulled through a drive-thru lately, you’ve seen the signs asking for exact change or debit or credit cards only because of a nationwide coin shortage, but what happens if you don’t have any of those things?
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One 13WMAZ viewer wants to know are businesses allowed to keep your change if you don’t have the exact amount?
According to Kelvin Collins, CEO of the Better Business Bureau, they can.
“Businesses are allowed to have an exact change policy. It’s just like any other policy that they want to set up,” says Collins.
Shawn Conroy with the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division says if they decide to do that, customers must be alerted before they check out.
“The key here is that consumers should have the ability to make an informed decision. It’s in the best interest of a business to provide adequate notice to their customers before they make a purchase,” says Conroy.
He says if they don’t, they could potentially be in violation of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.
Collins says the best thing to do is to make your policy very obvious.
“That way the consumer can make an informed decision on whether or not they want to proceed.”
According to Collins, ethics also comes into play.
“If you really look at the ethical side of it and the consumer came up and they were 62 cents short on buying that product, the store is not gonna say, ‘Well, that’s OK, just go ahead, take it.’ So, you shouldn’t really expect the consumer to provide 62 cents above what their product cost.”
He says there are ways to make both the customer and the business happy while making sure no one is being ripped off.
“You could have a charity that you provide any excess change to or you could provide some type of gift card or store credit.”
Kroger is one major chain doing just that.
A sign in the check out line allows the customer to decide if they want to round up and donate any extra change to ‘Zero Hunger Zero Waste’ or have the change put on a Shopper’s Card.
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Collins says some places have adjusted their prices to hit an even dollar amount.
He adds that if businesses are not giving change, it could cause problems down the road.
“Not giving change back, if you give too much money and not getting change back, it does seem like it would be problematic for the business when it comes to sales taxes.”
He says sales tax is based on the sale of the product, so if you are selling that product and not giving back change, in essence, that product is more expensive, so it will mess up the ratio of the sales tax.
He says if the discrepancy is large enough, the Department of Revenue and the IRS could come looking for that money down the road.
We can verify that, yes, businesses can keep your change based on their individual policies, but only if there are alerts posted around the store letting customers know before they check out.
If you are out shopping and you find a store that is intentionally misleading customers about their change policy, you can report it to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.