Four Cents Worth Of Etiquette

My sleep ends with alarm clock intervention at 4:30 a.m. on work days. I shave, shower and am at my desk by 5:30. By 6:30, I’ve been briefed by the person I relieve,  met with the people I supervise, made assignments, sent them into the field and handled paper work.

At that point, I’m ready for a quick breakfast. I’ve made a habit of getting that breakfast at the same bagel shop. That bagel shop visit is the source of the problem I’m bringing to you today.

My Morning Routine, Gone Awry…

Cheers Bar

…sometimes you want to go…(Photo credit: Caitlinator)

The bagel shop has been like a wholesome version of the bar in the television show, Cheers. I walk in, the people who work there know my name and what I want. The regulars greet me. There isn’t any beer, but I’ve never held that against them

Getting a bagel was a happy ritual of my mornings. It still is, but a few things have changed.

There’s been some turnover at the shop. New people preparing the food, new managers. They’re nice. They still know what I want, and a lot of them know my name. But the new manager is causing me a lot of concern.

…Over Four Cents…

My order is always the same. Every morning, the manager rings it up and says “$5.04, Oma”.

He’s been managing for a month. He asks me for a little over five bucks, and I give him six. He gives me the extra dollar back, keeps the five and says, “I’ve got the four cents”. I thought it was a nice gesture. He keeps repeating the gesture. Days have given way to weeks that have become a month. Four cents turned to twenty over the first week, and multiplied to eighty over the month.

The ritual hasn’t changed over this month. He keeps ringing up $5.04, I give him $6, he says “I’ve got it” and hands me back a dollar. His kindness is becoming a problem

…But The Problem Ends, With Your Help.

Not a lot of money, but I’m not putting up with this anymore. (image via

He intends to continue returning my dollar and covering my four cents. He’s a good guy, but something has to give.

You see, I do not think that it would be right for me to take it as a given that he will continue this practice. I’d be a jerk to just start handing him $5. He doesn’t owe me a thing. He could start charging me the four cents any time.

On the other hand, I feel kind of dumb going through the ritual of handing him a dollar that he immediately returns to me. I think it looks like I can’t figure out that he does that every day. Perhaps there is a post on a bagel guy blog out there that says “when is this guy going to learn?” I can’t have that.

This problem has to end.  I don’t think there is established etiquette for this situation. There are so many options, with no way to know which is right.

  • Should I scream at him?
  • Should I just give him $5?
  • Should I talk to him about it?
  • Should I refuse to take the dollar back?
  • Should I keep giving him $6, knowing he isn’t going to make change?
  • Should I solicit advice from the sharpest readers in the blogosphere? Yes, I think so.

I need your suggestions. Please let me know if one of my ideas is the best solution to my dilemma. Better still, do you have suggestions of your own?

Help me, this is far too much pressure for me to bear.

Welcome visitors from Freshly Pressed! Thanks for stopping in. I hope you’ll look around and subscribe if you like what you find here. The readers are what make Blurt a fun place. I’ll jump on your comments as quickly as I can. Thank you for the visit!


130 Comments on “Four Cents Worth Of Etiquette”

  1. Linda Sand says:

    Give him two fives? A bill and a nickel? Watch him looked confused. Let him offer you the penny back then refuse it so he can see how it feels to be on the other side day after day?

    Do they have mints for sale at checkout? Buy one of those the first day, then two the second day to see how long it takes him to decide to actually make change for the dollar?

    Bring him a roll of pennies and tell him to let you know when you need to bring another roll?

    C’mon, Oma, you can figure out something.

  2. It’s time for the “relationship talk.” Remember tone is everything., Try to stay unemotional. Pick a quiet time in the bagel shop and gentle ask him if you can have a few minutes of his time. Look deeply into his eyes and explain that while you are grateful for the four cents he comps you each day you want him to know it really is not necessary and in fact you worry that over time he could feel resentful and angry which could potential hurt your relationship. Suggest that you give him 20 cents at the end of the week to cover your debt or perhaps split the difference and offer him 10 cents.
    Or you could just let the man run his own business, pay him the $6, use humor to tell him your more than happy to pay the 4 cents, and believe him when he waves you on. Your a regular he is taking care of you…and soon you will retire and the problem will solve itself.

  3. Laura says:

    I assume there’s no tip jar. That would be too easy.

    If this were the second or third day, I’d suggest giving exact change, or handing him a $5 bill and a nickel. But it’s too late for that. I think you have to continue the same routine forever. No, wait — didn’t you once say that people don’t recognize you with/without your glasses? You can just walk in with your glasses on/off and start fresh.

    • omawarisan says:

      They took the tip jar away!

      Speaking of tip jar, there are now two frozen yogurt places where I fill the bowl myself, put the toppings on and walk to the register where I have my only contact with an employee. There is a tip jar. Nah.

      • I was wondering about the tip jar, too.

        I’m happy to read you visit frozen yogurt places in addition to bagel shops. =)

      • I say bring your own little jar in with the word “TIPS” written across the front, and already have a couple bucks in there. Then, when you hand him the $6 and he gives the $1 back and says he’s got it… you say, “I’ve got it too”, whip out the tip jar, put your additional dollar in there, and put it on the counter. Thank him for his great service, smile, and walk away.

        A risky move, but one he’ll remember!

  4. Give him six bucks and tell him to keep the change for the times he’s covered the 4 cents. If I’m doing the math correctly, every five weeks you owe him a buck. If he won’t take it, then you’re good.

  5. Todd Pack says:

    Well, you could give him exact change, or, if there’s a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny cup, you could load it up one morning. That might help things balance.

  6. We Found Him Captain! says:

    Bring a paper cup marked”TIPS” with you tomorrow. When he gives you the dollar back, put it in the cup, smile at him and say “thanks” and leave the cup on the counter.

  7. Blogdramedy says:

    One day buy two bagels and see if he still gives you a dollar back. If he does maybe he thinks he’s buying “insurance.” If you know what I mean. 😉

    • omawarisan says:

      HA HA HA…I’ve had people try to do that way back when (and get an even quicker trip to the gray bar hotel) but never four cents at a time. “Here is four cents. There’s more where that came from.”

  8. All of my ideas have been covered. I assumed there was no tip jar so you should make your own. Apparently, not as original a thought as I’d thought! Also, hand him a twenty.

    In yet another installment of I Swear I Am Not Making This Up: I was working on an update on my Chinese restaurant owners to publish this morning (but got caught up having too much fun this weekend to finish it) and in it I compared the restaurant to Cheers. I swear I am not making that up.

    Sorry for swearing.

  9. Debbie says:

    You’ve got a true dilemma — on the one hand, you don’t want to presume on this guy’s kindness or tell him how to run his business; on the other, you don’t want to feel guilty or beholden for such generosity. I think Katybeth has a good idea — sit him down, explain your predicament, and offer to even things up, either on Monday or on Friday every week. That way, he knows you’re as honest as he is, and you plan on being a regular customer. If he refuses, look around for that take-a-penny, leave-a-penny cup and feed that thing!

  10. Keep giving him six.It’s his way of thanking you for what you do.

  11. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Give him 4 cents worth of your wisdom and call it even!

  12. Pie says:

    You could get a nice gift for him and present it as a thank you when your retirement day comes. Four cents in a velvet gift box.

  13. sarahnsh says:

    Don’t feel too bad, like a fellow commenter said you are a regular and lots of times shop owners will do nice things for their regulars. I went to this restaurant that was kind of like Cheers, everyone knew my name and I’d get free cokes sometimes, chicken fingers, etc. We came in every week multiple times so they were pretty happy about that, so I say don’t worry too much. No one likes carrying change around, it makes you jingle and you can’t do anything stealthy with change in your pocket.

    • omawarisan says:

      Sorry for a slow answer, you ended up in spam, but I found you.

      The not carrying change thing is exactly why I give him a dollar and not exact change. I always take change out of my pocket and then at the end of the day, I take all of it and drop it in a bank. I remain stealthy and get some play money later in the year.

      • disslocated says:

        Then change your behaviour.

        Keep a little bowl of pennies (or nickels) at your office. You go there first before getting breakfast, right? You know you’re going to get a bagel. Go it armed with the exact change. Or $5.05. Mix it up a little. The reason you’re in this jam in the first place is because you are a victim of habit. Maybe every once in awhile, don’t bring the change and give him the bills. Maybe ‘he’s got it’ on that day. Keep him on his toes.

        You may have to preface this new system with a reset: give him a fiver or something and thank him for the great service (as someone already suggested).

  14. firemoonrage says:

    Tip jar. Enough said.

  15. finnegan2749 says:

    This 4 cent thing isn’t that big. The guy could be doing much worse. He could really drive you crazy and start talking your ear off about some trivial matter effecting Inner Mongolia and camel herding. Visit sometime to my blog or website leave a comment.

  16. It’s funny I came across your blog today because I was just thinking about how I had received a free 32 oz. fountain pop a few weeks ago at the Superamerica (gas station). The guy just said, “is that all you want,” I said, “yes,” he looked and me and said, “okay, we will take care of it for you.” I was so ecstatic! I am not a regular at that gas station because their ice isn’t the small little pieces like the old “Pizza Hut” ice, but I am a regular at the one closer to me (because of the small ice). He had no idea I was a regular at all and I was so taken a-back by his generosity. It got me thinking about how funny it was for me to get so excited about a free 59 cent soda. It’s just because you don’t get that very often anymore. So, to make a long story short, I would just say “thank you for your generosity,” and be on your merry way. 🙂

    • omawarisan says:

      You’ve got a lot that I could comment on, but I’m just going to say if you like the little ice we’re going to get along just fine. Welcome to Blurt!

  17. Mudge says:

    If this is really EVERY morning, or almost, and the bill is always $5.04, you should have a pocket in your purse, or a small pouch of some kind, dedicated to nothing but $5 bills and pennies.

  18. F(r)iction says:

    Oma, this is such a treat… you are in debt. It is so much more difficult to receive than to give. Just a word before I venture out and add my two pennies worth of non-sense: your little baggle shop story is delightfully written. So NYC. (I’m in Paris; man, that kind of counter (ex)change just doesn’t nickle ‘n dime here. We’re so tight.)
    Ok. So you’re feeling the pinch. The debtor. Your old school etiquette and sense of values is the solution and the problem… You’ve got to square up to the “manager”. It is time for the “relationship talk” – mano à mano (as mentioned above). You’re a man of salt. No doubt. Or you wouldn’t be troubled. He’ll probably make you pay for it by feeding you more free debt. All the same, you’ll have squared the problem. Made it verbal. Symbolique. Written in words. Heard. Crystal. Subtle but forthright. Eyeball to eyeball. Bull’s eye. Sharp.
    Any man who awakes at 4h30, and moreover has done the admin. by 6h00 is a urban legend. You guys are of the same metal. Cobalt. Blue thunder. His four cents is merely an underhanded way of saying, I respect you. But not free. At cost – to whom? You land up carrying the debt. It’s heavy.
    Square it, Oma. Pay him back in the eye. Then leave it there. Done and dusted. Paid in full.
    Let us know how it goes.
    Great post.
    Take care.

  19. Yvonne Michlele @Photecstasy says:

    Or just start handing him $5.05 and tell him to keep the change…

    • Yvonne Michlele @Photecstasy says:

      p.s. Just get a roll of nickels & keep them in your desk. Take the extra $.05 with you every day. Problem solved. If anyone steals them out of your drawer, you’ve lost what, a maximum of $2.00? If you’re paying $5.00 for breakfast every day, that wouldn’t be a loss. Just start separating out some nickels from your change bucket, take a handful to the office if you don’t want to get any nickel rolls at the bank… and pull that extra $.05 out before you go. Not that big of a dilemma.

  20. I know you find your predicament frustrating, but I think there’s part of it that is just a little fun too. We all have these things from time to time and none of us knows what to do with them. (You would’ve thought we had come up with a solution by now!) I like your third option: talking to him. I think it would be appropriate to express appreciation for his simple favor and express that you realize this $0.04 gift is going up over time. You don’t want to take advantage of him, so maybe you could suggest paying the full six dollars ever 20 visits or so. But then again, maybe he just wants to share some grace with you and by talking with him, you could finally get to the place of accepting it with gratitude and joy!

  21. 5 bucks and probably not even a good New York bagel . . .

    Ok, so, you are kidding, right? The dollar s/b the tip. If yer really that torn up about it, hand him a ten spot.

    The reason he’s charging 5.04 is the pricks that want a receipt. . . its the sales tax thing.

    Tell him you’re only going to give him 4.50 from now on.

  22. Cafe says:

    Keep giving him six and sporadically bring by a little treat for him from time to time. Doesn’t have to add up to however many dollars/cents he spared you. I bet he’ll be pleasantly surprised and you can let go of the turmoil in your head.

  23. karilee says:

    Hi….I think, if it bothers you that much….I think I would keep a few pennies handy and hand them over in the morning when you hand over the $5. Then you don’t have to worry about it.

  24. Bring lots of pennies to work and bring 4 when you get breakfast. Or pay with credit card. Or buy him a bagel once a month?

  25. fireandair says:

    Just keep a damn coinpurse of pennies in your car.

  26. HoaiPhai says:

    Have you considered paying in foreign currencies that though the denomination on the bills are round numbers, the value equals exactly $5.04? You could make checking part of your morning routine!

  27. I would remind him that his kindness is costing him over $14 a year. -just for you, if you really do go there everyday. That’s three bagels. How many other customers are robbing the guy blind one penny at a time? He may be wondering why his profit margin isn’t what it should be. I agree with your previous readers to walk in every day with 5 and 5.

    • omawarisan says:

      It really does add up over time.

      The 5 and 5 solution is clear, but not so fun. In truth, I am curious how it ends if I continue. Besides, that’s my first purchase of the day and my pockets are empty of change.

      • Maybe you could walk in one day, buying nothing, and ask for change for a dollar. In pennies. Keep that jar on the counter for your 4 cents. Speaking of pennies, my dear old dad actually claimed to have bought a car with pennies once, before I was born. A ’58 buick. When my mom died, we found a candy tin with the owner’s manual and the handwritten receipt for the sale of the car, but there was no mention that it was paid for with pennies. I’m enjoying reading you by the way, keep it up!

  28. jmd5717 says:

    I read through most of the comments, and I did not see this idea, hope I am not reposting. But what if you were to strategically hide a dollar some where in the store, where you knew that it had good odds of being found by the cashier that works there. Periodically, every two weeks or whatever the math works out to on the 4 cents, you secretly stash the dollar. And even if another customer finds the dollar, maybe they will spend it at the bagel shop, so it seems like a win win situation to me.

    I enjoyed your post, I am going to definetely follow you, I look foward to reading more.

  29. Honie Briggs says:

    I didn’t have time to read through the comments, so, someone may have already suggested giving the guy a bag of pennies one morning and saying, “let me know when these run out.”
    it is a joke of sorts – but an unspoken code between you, you don’t have to wake up in a cold sweat wondering if tomorrow’s gonna be the day of reckoning – plus you’ll have the option of asking from time to time, “how’s that penny stash holding up?” just in case he appears to hesitate as he takes the fiver. 🙂 funny post!

  30. Knock knock- whos there? It’s Mr. States the Obvious, here to tell you that nickles are a thing that exist.
    Haha not actually trying to be mean. But seriously. Just start bringing a nickle?! I mean since you Know This Will Happen, every day?!!!

  31. I like the idea of buying a roll of nickels and insisting he take one nickel each time. Then you can refuse the penny. Or perhaps purposely withold five or more cents from the “jolly jar” each day for the next day’s bagel. That would be my preferred solution. Come visit US at!

  32. I didn’t read every reply, so apologies if I’m repeating a suggestion here. I would do it like this: Tell him that every time he waives the 4 cents, that that 4 cents will go to a collection which can go to a charity you both support. Easy.

  33. greeedie says:

    I think your solution is simple – give him a 5 and a quarter. Or a 5 and a nicked, it doesn’t really matter. When you give it to him he’ll be forced to either give you the change or continue his kindess streak. A couple days of this should let you know if he continues the practice of covering your change
    or if you should start saving your coins for your morning coffee and bagel

  34. Anita Neuman says:

    I think you should change up your order. Get a muffin and a coffee instead. Or a cheese croissant. Or you could really shake things up with a maple pecan turnover.

    Funny post, regardless. Congrats on the FP!

  35. Bee - says:

    My guess would be the 0.04 in the price is just there so he can do this gesture for everyone. I don’t want you to feel like you’re not special, but I’m guessing it’s his way of making everyone feel like they’re getting value for money. Maybe once a month give him $6 and just refuse to take the change 🙂
    Also, it could be the highlight of his day covering the 0.04 on people’s orders. You wouldn’t want to take that away from him , would you!

  36. cathynd95 says:

    How about getting some pennies andl paying him the exact amount due?

    • omawarisan says:

      But if he is committed to the game, he may have countermeasures in mind too.

      • cathynd95 says:

        I find that if I have the exact amount, they accept payment in full. When I give them whole dollars and there is just a few pennies due (i.e $6 for a bill totalling 5.04) they will cover the pennies and give me back the whole dollar.

        Did you ever think that he was just being too lazy to count out 96 cents of change for you? Just a thought.

  37. peterjory says:

    Once a month or so, just slide the dollar back at him and tell him it’s his.

  38. marymtf says:

    I had a similar experience myself a while ago. New owner of food shop trying to keep old clients sweet. Place was clean, owner was friendly. Overfriendly. He just didn’t have the knack of the previous owner. The standard of food was just as good, no new unsettling innovations. Everything was good except for the owner. But he meant well and I understood it.
    Can I suggest as some others have that you just bring your extra four cents with you and say something about not wanting to deprive him of his profit margin,then quickly change the subject. Maybe talk about how great it is that your favourite eating place has stayed the same. That might calm things down.
    PS. In Australia we have banished the one cent piece. You might want to begin to lobby for it.

    • omawarisan says:

      Good point on him being jittery with the change at the place. The previous manager was loved by a lot of us who go there. She was the reason a lot of us, ok I, started going.

  39. Kaberi Chand says:

    Carry some change and give him the exact 5.4?

  40. Scott says:

    This is one of those rare two-valued (all-or-nothing) situations. I would either start giving him $5, or continue giving him $6. To borrow a quote from “The Terminator”: “Look at it this way–in a hundred years, who’s gonna care?”

  41. dreamz infra says:

    superb written like it very much…

  42. I’m Australian and think perhaps I’m missing something. Is it not appropriate to start paying him the four cents (in pennies from a roll you could get) each time?

  43. Rodney says:

    Easy. Continue the way things are and suck it up OR bring a nickel (or, better yet, 4 cents) with you every morning from the change you’ve amassed on your night table from the day before.

  44. Yay! Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  45. Maybe he could set a jar aside for you and fill it with your change.

  46. I would just accept it as a kind gesture. It is probably his way of appreciating a loyal customer 🙂

  47. f schumann says:

    You are the one that is wrong here……how long do you think he should be covering your 4 cents? How long has this been going on? I think you feel guilty because you know you are the one that owes him money. If he did this for everyone how long do you think he could stay in busines?
    Be a man and start carrying some pennies in your pocket. I find it hard to believe that you have never had some coins in your pocket…..I always do.
    Get a life….there are sooooo many things going on that is more important then this made up story.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this as I haven’t checked out the other comments. But, don’t most shops have a tip jar? Maybe once every couple of weeks drop a buck in. Either that or occasionally just say “keep the change this time”.

  49. Hand a piece of paper with the math to show that he is essentially losing the company money. [.04x(number of days in a year you visit the bagel shop)=lost profits]/(take my four cents, please)

    Maybe he is just appreciating a good customer, but essentially, he could lose his job over something like this if he does it for others too.

  50. i think perhaps you should relocate. Get another job and move your family out of the area. This is too much stress and can’t be good for you — or me. (Congrats on FP, enjoyed the post.)

  51. I agree with those who say, just bring an extra nickel with you.

  52. shovonc says:

    Once enough cents have added up, buy two and offer him one.

  53. Roshni says:

    The previous suggestion by shovonc sounds awesome. I’d say it’s always best to have a proper talk and sort things out. 🙂 Great post, enjoyed reading it. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

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