Why is change (as in money) so scarce in Mexico?
Replies: 61 - Last Post: Jun 8, 2013 3:35 PM Last Post By: michoacan
May 22, 2013 4:30 PM
Why is change (as in money) so scarce in Mexico?I've wondered this ever since my first visit to Mexico, almost 30 years ago. I mean, it's logical that street vendors or very small shops wouldn't have change for large bills. But a few days ago I bought a bottle of Coke for 20 pesos at Oxxo and paid for it with a 200-peso bill. It was a major problem. I felt bad. But it seems weird. Oxxos do a lot of business. Seems to me they should have enough cash coming in and going out to keep change on hand.
Is there some economic, cultural, or other explanation for this?
May 22, 2013 7:34 PM
1OXXO is one of the few places I have never had a problem. When I need change, I often buy something there. What does surprise me is that sometimes the cashiers at major supermarkets have little change.One Mexican friend tells me it is because the stores don´t trust the employees and give them little cash to work with. I often think Mexico´s slogan should be, ¨Mexico--a Country with No Change¨.
May 22, 2013 7:44 PM
2I think there may be a few reasons, not exclusive to Mexico but other developing countries as well:
- suspicion that someone with large bills is trying to pass off counterfeits
- fear that large bills are more attractive to thieves
- since everybody else also wants small change, everyone tries to hang on to whatever they get.
In some cases, eg, taxi drivers, I wonder if they're hoping you'll just hand over the larger bill.
May 22, 2013 10:38 PM
May 23, 2013 4:11 AM
4"since everybody else also wants small change, everyone tries to hang on to whatever they get."
That is exactly what I do. I hang on to the change for small places who really don't have change. Even large places like Walmart and Mega will ask if I have change--I often do, but they will not get it. No employee there has to stand in a long line for change---it is delivered to them.
May 23, 2013 6:05 AM
5Number of factors.
-that cashier that is serving you is probably only getting paid between 20 and 40 pesos an hour. Most businesses/supervisors place little faith in the majority of their employees when handling cash, and want to avoid temptation,
-robberies are common, so stores don't want a lot of cash in the drawer. My supermarket has been hit a few times with customers in line. The thieves just come in, make a threat and settle for whatever was in the drawer of the cashiers, and ran out. Probable take - less than 500 pesos. Security did nothing more than trying to get a license plate number on the getaway cars. They don't get paid much either.
-taxi drivers usually have very little change at the beginning of their shifts, but get more as the shift goes on. The taxi drivers are afraid of getting robbed too, and most live hand to mouth. Their worry is to have enough earned to pay the rent and gas for the taxi the next day so they can work.
May 23, 2013 6:59 AM
May 23, 2013 7:11 AM
May 23, 2013 7:14 AM
May 23, 2013 7:51 AM
9I regularly visit banks and get them to change the 500-MXN notes that the ATM usually provide for 100 and even 50-MXN notes.
I like OXXO stores too because besides usually providing change for large denomination notes, they give you a receipt so you can check the prices; 20 MXN for a bottle of coke sounds expensive!
May 23, 2013 7:55 AM
10¨Lack of understanding of what constitutes customer service.¨
I somewhat agree. Few employees in Mexico know, or care, about customer service. And for the most part, my Mexican friends don´t expect it. They often wonder why I get so excited about bad customer service--or just the lack of customer service. I did once have a Mexican friend say to a Walmart employee, ¨if you don´t like your job, why don´t you quit?¨
May 23, 2013 8:47 AM
11Put together the factors listed in #2 and #4, and it becomes clear that to maintain enough float to give change to several customers in a row, small income earners would have to keep several times their day’s income on hand. It’s not my experience that it’s ignorance or not caring about customer service, rather the economic inability and/or the safety concern in holding that much money at one time.
Yesterday I bought my vegetables at the weekly village market. One fruit seller didn’t have pesos for change, and neither did I, to complete our transaction. He said I could owe him 3 pesos and pay it back after I’d made some other purchases and gotten smaller coins. To me, that kind of trust is good customer service. And, yes, I did pay my debt.
May 23, 2013 9:57 AM
May 23, 2013 10:11 AM
13Tax evasion is also one reason many Mexicans operating businesses don't have a bank account ... they don't want the government having a record of what they earn and they don't pay taxes as they should ... and without a bank account it's difficult for the vendors/small operators to obtain change they should have on-hand for customer purchases. A huge percentage of business done in Mexico is off the books, under the table ... call it what you want. None of this is reason enough or an excuse for delivering the poor service. Expats aren't the persons who principally complain about insufficient change ... it's the local residents, Mexicans, who are the unhappiest.
May 23, 2013 11:02 AM
14A few likely places that will break larger bills ($500 MXP or so) with purchase:
Intercity bus stations (untested by us, as we almost always use a debit card)
Our carnicería. ;-)
At the Pátzcuaro Mercado, I try to pay with less than $200 MXP bills, usually much less. But later in the day, it's easier to get change.
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