UAE | General

Special Report: Don't leave without your 10 fils

At least Dh50-Dh100 million is lost in transactions annually because most consumers leave without their fils after making purchases in supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations, a Gulf News investigation has revealed.

  • By Bassma Al Jandaly, Senior Reporter, Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 April 10, 2011
  • Gulf News

A shopper checks out the prices of goods at Lulu Hypermarket
  • Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News
  • A shopper checks out the prices of goods at the Lulu hypermarket in Abu Dhabi.
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Dubai: A bottle of milk for Dh4.85, cashewnuts for Dh19.60 and carrot cake for Dh7.95. These were some of the everyday items I shopped for last week, at various supermarkets and hypermarkets in Dubai and Sharjah.

When my turn came for billing, I politely asked for the exact change back at each of them.

At the first hypermarket, where my bill came to Dh11.85, I tendered a Dh100 note but the cashier said the bill was being rounded off to Dh12. When I demanded that she also account for the 15 fils, she handed me back 25 fils and a rather disdainful look.

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At a chic fashion store in one of Dubai’s leading malls, the two female cashiers at the till burst out laughing when I tepidly asked for my 15 fils back. 

At another supermarket – where I bought the cake – my bill was Dh15.90, and when I paid Dh16, something stunning happened: I was handed back the exact change of 10 fils.   

It’s one of the rarest moments for consumers across the UAE when they see the shining face of a 5 fils or a 10 fils coin.

Most supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and other retailers often don’t bother to tender them to customers even if change is due, and many don’t even keep them as they find the small-sized coins too cumbersome to handle. But this widespread malpractice is leaving residents shortchanged by a massive margin.

Video: Where's my change?

 An approximation based on reader feedback puts the average money lost in transactions due to shortage of 1, 5 and 10 fils at Dh10 per month per household.

With an estimated total of between 500,000 to 800,000 households in the UAE, the gross money lost by customers in the process is between Dh5 and 8 million, which works out between Dh50-Dh100 million per year.

Residents say that since almost every business in the country charges customers to the actual fils despite the fact 5 fils and 10 fils are not in wide circulation, it amounts to hidden money shoppers are forced to pay.

Feyaza Khan from Radio 2 went in search of those elusive coins and got more than she asked for...

Listen!

- Audio supplied by Radio 2.

Most hypermarkets, supermarkets, shops and other outlets said the standard practice is to round off to the last 25 fils or the next 25 fils of the bill amount.

For example, if a customer runs up a bill of Dh175.85 or Dh175.90 at a retail outlet, his total chargeable bill amount would be either Dh175.75 or rounded off to Dh176, varying from one shop to another.

Retailers say the rounding off practice is a good one for accounting purposes and they are certainly not profiteering from this because if the customer’s total bill amount were say, Dh176.15 or Dh176.10, they will be asked to pay only Dh176. However, consumers strongly disagree. 

Ali Khan from Pakistan said he bought items worth Dh25.15 and the cashier charged him 10 fils extra. “I said to her where is my 10 fils? She said 10 fils are not available,” Khan said.

“The supervisor at the hypermarket came to solve the problem and offered me 25 fils instead,” he said. Ali Khan said he took the 25 fils and left. “I know they are making a lot of money out of the extra fils they take from customers,” he said. 

Another customer at a hypermarket chain in Dubai said he bought one item for Dh12.35. “I gave the cashier Dh15, and the balance due was Dh2.65. I received back Dh2.50 instead,” he said. “We are forced to pay extra money. I have no clue what they do with this money,” he said.

“I think there should be clear cut policy regarding small change, the shopper should not be denied his/her rightful money. I wonder how much these supermarkets make from not giving back the change,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a shopper at a leading supermarket in Abu Dhabi. 

Most supermarkets, hypermarkets and major retail outlets interviewed by Gulf News admitted the price of many items end in the odd fils. A sales superviser at Carrefour said 10 and 5 fils were not available and “most customers usually ask us why we charge them extra fils”.

A woman cashier at a Union Cooperative in Dubai said: “Customers ask us why we add 20, 40, 95, 80 and other fils… I have no clue why it is like that.”

Amal, an Emirati government employee, said when she goes for shopping she only uses her debit card. “I use only my debit card because in this way I do not pay such extra money,” he said. “For debit/credit cards they deduct the specific amount we purchase, no less no more,” she said.

V. Nandakumar, manager of corporate communications at EMKE Group, which runs the Lulu chain of hypermarkets in the UAE, said they round off the bills to the nearest amount of the bill value.

“This works both ways and the law of averages makes sure that nobody loses or gains from this. We can’t streamline the pricing to avoid the small change, mainly because of the fresh and perishable commodities, as these are priced as per the weight and are not pre-packed with fixed prices.”

Not every retailer or supermarket, however, follows the practice of not accepting or returning 5 fils and 10 fils: there are exceptions too.

Kamal Vachani, Group Director at Al Maya, which operates 30 supermarkets in the UAE, said their customers are billed the exact purchase amount.

“We give the change back to the customers. There is no difficulty in sourcing 5 fils or 10 fils coins, they are not in short-supply,” he added. The Abu Dhabi Cooperative also said they accept and return 5 fils and 10 fils coins to customers.

However, as matters stand, because of the dearth of awareness and small change as well retailers not tendering exact change, most shoppers in the UAE are still more likely to say at cash counters - “keep the change”, rather than making every fils count.

So the next time you are out shopping, don’t leave without your 10 fils.

With inputs from Himendra Mohan Kumar/Staff Reporter

Comments (174)

  1. Added 17:38 April 10, 2011

    I have experienced this issue many times. Then I have decided to use only debit or credit cards for purchases. Sometimes for small purchases I pay cash and loose 5 to 20 fils. I disagree with Mr. Kamal Vachani, Group Director at Al Maya's statement. On many occasions they haev charged me more than the bill amount due to non availability of 5 or 10 fils. On one occasion I have asked the cashier at a store in Reef mall, Deira to return my 15 fils. She said sorry sir, we do not have 5 and 10 fils and she offered me 25 fils. It is a good idea, having 5 and 10 fils coins at every outlet so the customer will get back his exact balance.

    Sreejesh, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 17:34 April 10, 2011

    In my opinion, there are lots of other serious issues to be addressed. If the person is really intrested in getting the exact change back, better keep some 5, 10, 25 and 50 fills in their pocket so they can offer round off their transactions. This issue simply seems to be media hype.

    Huzaifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 17:14 April 10, 2011

    I didn't even know until now that 10 fils prevail in market. I was of the belief that the smallest coin was 25 fils. OMG, how much hard earned money I have lost?

    Ajay P A, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 17:00 April 10, 2011

    I think supermarkets or any other stores should provide and give back the exact change to the consumer so the consumer can use those fils for the item they will purchase in other store. That will probably help both consumers and retailers.

    jena, dubai, Philippines

  5. Added 16:53 April 10, 2011

    Yes, the authorities can't stop this matter? 10.95, 7.85, 6.15

    abdul jaleel, sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 16:52 April 10, 2011

    Till now we (buyers) were unaware that this meager amount (which is our right to claim back) runs into millions. Even if we are aware, we don't mind claiming it back as we are so much engrossed in our daily routine, chores and personal commitments. These intermediates indeed cash in huge sums of money, which is going unnoticed. It seems that the pricing system of items is done deliberately in such a way that retailers can always give an excuse to consumers on unavailability of exact change and consumers end up with an option to forgo, treating it as a mere amount. Authorities should look into this and set proper pricing systems based on the denomination of currency existing in the economy. Based on consumers interest, a regulatory system needs to be formed to monitor this misappropriation consistently. Consumers please beware.

    Chander Bangera, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 16:52 April 10, 2011

    The strategy of pricing goods just short of a rounded off figure started due to a coin shortage years ago (in the west) and has just caught on as a habit even now. However, the practise of not returning change to the last fil is something businesses need to correct. The customer is on the losing end. As always! In the Subcontinent this is made good by offering a toffee in place of the smaller currency coin (the toffee no doubt being of far lower value than what is due back). Ss rightly put, most businesses must be making quite a packet with this concept of rounding off to the last 25 fils, with the customer always getting less than his or her due.

    Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 16:42 April 10, 2011

    Retailers are pocketing this money for nothing. If we calculate the net value based on the volume of retail operations in the UAE, it would be hundreds of thousands of dirhams per week. Some regulatory authority intervention is desired.

    Mughis Ahmed, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 16:39 April 10, 2011

    I am here for the past 10 years and I have never seen 5 or 10 fils denominations. All supermarkets cheat the customers by rounding off the small balance and they keep it in their till. Who gave them this authority? Will they accept it if I pay the same 15 fils or 30 fils less for the bill? I used to fight at every store almost weekly for this issue. My wife said that I am the only person in this country who fights everytime I go shopping. Now I realise that there are more people like me. My money is always for me. This is a kind of daylight robbery and you come ourtsheepishly and ignore it. Let us raise this issue through facebook and Twitter and make supermarkets and hypermarkets do their service properly.

    Om, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 16:37 April 10, 2011

    I guess in most of the supermarkets and hypermarkets people don't count the fils. All those fils even the cashier is not allowed to take and moreover if one item cost you Dh10 and 10 fils, I don't see a single cashier deducting Dh10 and 25 fils. The cashier collects only Dh10, but I see a wrong notion to the customer who count in fils. Shame on you.

    keza, Abu Dhabi , Bhutan

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