All you need to know about Iberian America

Change in Latin America: Coins Replaced with Gum

Not too long ago, I went into a 7-11 to buy my last bottle of vodka for a few weeks.

Going to give up drinking for a few weeks or a month to help cut down on 10 to 15 minutes that I'd like to cut.

When I walked inside, I went for a bottle of vodka named Zaverich.

After getting to the counter, I hand the lady behind the counter 200 pesos in money to buy it.

And she gave me back most of the change.

But not all of it!

I counted the cash in front of me in a quick second and realized I was short by a few pesos.

Honestly, not much of a big deal is it?

We're only talking like 10 or 15 cents (whatever it was, some very small amount).

And, as I look up at her, she clarifies the discrepancy before I could say anything.

Where she tells me that "she doesn't have the remaining change."

And I respond lightly in Spanish "7-11 doesn't have change?"

The other girl behind the counter standing next to her laughed at that and the first one shrugs her shoulders and tells me that "I can take some gum if I want."

Which, on the counter, there was some cheap 1 or 2 peso piece of gum.

Being honest, I didn't really care about the gum nor the change.

I don't usually chew gum anyhow and it's only 10 or 15 cents worth of change lost.

Regardless, I was curious how they could not have the extra 2 pesos or so worth of change.

While it sounds like a joke, it is a genuine question: How does a large company like 7-11 (worth millions) not have 2 pesos or 10 cents worth of change?

And I get it's not their fault either.

They don't run the store.

I could see across the counter that they clearly don't have any coins inside.

Granted, maybe they have coins elsewhere in the store and are too lazy to go get it?

Who knows.

But I knew it probably wasn't their fault.

Though I was just curious -- how could a store like 7-11 not have change?

This might be something you'd expect out of a small street vendor selling chocolates or something.

Maybe even a mom and pop store would happen to not have change once a year (though they always do).

But a big chain place worth millions like 7-11 doesn't have 10 cents worth of change?

Well, while I appreciate the offer of gum, I think there are some last minute things to say on this minor topic to life in Latin America.

Change for Gum

There's a few theories of mine that could be going on here.

First, it's not uncommon for people in Latin America to not be as organized or efficient in how they run things down here.

That is generally true but not always (folks who have spent a lot of time in the US usually are likely to be as efficient as you'd hope).

And while you'd expect a store like 7-11 to be run normally, these stores are not always down here.

The whole "the customer is always right" and trying to please the customer isn't as strong down here.

And so less fucks are given to make sure small and big inconveniences don't happen.

In the end, it could just be poor planning by the local running the store in making sure there is always change.

"Sorry, don't got change. Go kick rocks. Oh, here's some gum."

Second, you have the possibility that they did have change somewhere but they were too lazy to go get it.

The cash register didn't have change from what I saw.

But surely they have change somewhere else in the store?

Being down here, I've seen way too many cases of employees just being too lazy to do their job and take the 30 seconds to do something for you.

Just how it is.

Third, was she somehow trying to scam me and steal those extra 2 pesos for herself?

It sounds comical to think about but there are some Latin Americans who will try to fuck you over on every single peso they can get from you.

Even if it's small amounts.

Be it those like I wrote here who tried to rip me off by 10 to 15 pesos or this dude I wrote about here who seemingly tried to rip me off by 4 pesos more or less.

Still, it's always hard to believe that someone would try to rip  you off for a simple 2 pesos.


Regardless, there is a scam done by taxi drivers to say that they don't have change to keep the rest.

But "the rest" in that circumstance is usually 50 pesos or 100 or whatever.

A higher amount.

But, even in those amounts, it's still fairly small in dollars in the eyes of a gringo. Those 50 pesos that even the taxi driver steals is only 2.5 bucks.

Regardless, I doubt this was a circumstance of them trying to steal the extra 2 pesos but, like I said, I have seen some Latin Americans hustling for that extra 4 or 10 pesos or whatever very small amount.

It's so pathetic that you almost think "fuck it bro, if you're that broke as fuck, have it. Your wife (read: cousin) will appreciate how hard you hustle."

But, in this specific circumstance, I'm doubtful that this was happening because when a Latin American is trying to rip you off, it's usually for double the price of the product or more.

So let's move on.

Finally, above whatever is going on here, it's not something to overthink about (coming from a dude who just wrote an article on this).

At the end of the day, it's a simple difference to my experience living in the US.

I never had anyone -- especially a big company like 7-11 -- not have 10 cents in change and offer my gum instead.

Not saying nobody back home runs out of change.

Some dude hustling offering to cut your lawn for some cash not having change?

Some small mom and pop store one time running around?

Could see it.

But, be it small stores or big companies, I've never had this happen to me back home where some store ran out of such a small amount of change and offer me gum like I said.

It is what it is.

Not an overly important topic but something you might notice down here once in a blue moon.

But let's end it at that.

If you want to read more about the issues of getting change in Latin America, check out my other articles on the subject here, here and here.

Got anything to add?

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Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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