The Brazilian Central Bank acknowledged recently what anybody who’s been to Brazil for longer than two months knows perfectly well: there is a serious shortage of small change in the country. The reasons are diverse. The bank blames piggy banks, poor things.
Whether the pigs are guilty or not, the truth is that a by-product of the lack of small change is the irritating practice of always rounding up the change – in favour of the seller, not the buyer. This is a constant practice in all commercial transactions, and 9 out of 10 times the balance is tipped against you. If you pay with a R$5 note for something worth R$4,97, you can be sure you will not get any change in return.
While one tends to accept this practice in the case of small shops or people selling stuff on the streets, one wonders what the impact of this practice is on the cash-flow of large supermarket networks.
Even more annoying is the practice of trading money for sweets or chewing gum. Your meal costs R$9,80 and you pay with a R10,00 note? You might be offered two pieces of chewing gum instead of the R$0,20 you are owed. Please note that this is a one-way practice. You will never be allowed to pay for your meal with chewing gum.
P.S.: of course this is a common practice in many other countries around the world. But in my personal experience, this practice happens in Brazil with an alarming frequency.