Dubai: Call it common cents — tens of thousands of dirhams are lost from consumers each day as their pocket change comes up short. According to experts, more than Dh50 million is pocketed by businesses in the UAE over the course of a year. And consumers are the losers as 5 fils and 10 fils adds up every time they shop.
Gulf News conducted a random sample survey of shoppers at five major supermarkets in Dubai. And unless the consumers paid either by debit or credit card, they were out of pocket on most occasions.
"I always make a point of looking for my change," said Malcolm, a middle-aged shopper at the Spinneys plaza in Jumeirah 2. "Then again, I'm Scottish so it's in my nature to make sure I collect everything I'm owed."
Malcolm said that he always asks for the spare 5 fils or 10 fils, or insists on rounding down — not up — the bill to the nearest 25 fils so that, more often than not, he comes out a winner.
But few other shoppers follow his example.
German doctor Mikele Varnai has been living in the UAE for the past two years and Gulf News caught up with her as she and her husband were leaving the Choithram's store in Jumeirah 3.
"I always pay by credit card," she said. "I never have a problem with the little coins."
Varnai, however, isn't bothered by the fact that on some occasions when she pays cash, she is short-changed because shops don't have the right small coins.
"Customer service is so good here in the UAE and everyone is so friendly, I don't care if I lose a few coins here and there," Varnai said.
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- Related video: UAE is being shortchanged
- Special Report: Don't leave without your 10 fils
- UAE Central Bank continues to mint all six denominations
- Expert's view: Pricing strategy is all in the numbers
- Editorial: Consumers in UAE must ask for exact change
For the past eight years living in Dubai since moving from Sri Lanka, Siripala Nanayakkara has never seen a five-fils or 10-fils coin.
"Do they have them?" he said as he showed his receipt for Dh35.35. He bought some groceries and an etisalat credit token and handed in a Dh50 note at Carrefour Express in Mina Seyahi.
"I was given Dh14.50 change," Nanayakkara said.
But what about the other 15 fils?
"I didn't ask for it," he said. "It certainly begins to add up if you look at it like that," he said.
"I think that from now on I will ask for my correct change, but the shops never have the correct change."
Shopping at Lulu in Umm Suqeim, Anila Philip had just spent Dh509.52 and was loading her shopping — in Gulf News jute bags — into her SUV.
She is aware of the stories in Gulf News regarding spare change going uncollected.
"We all should ask for our proper change," Philip said. "I paid by credit card," she said.
"I nearly always pay by credit card or debit card, that way I never lose out on those small coins."
Having lived in the UAE for the past 12 years, Philip can't remember the last time she saw a five-fils or 10-fils coin.
Emirati Sultan Abdullah hasn't seen a five-fils or 10-fils coin in about 20 years.
"They used to be very common," Abdullah told Gulf News in the parking lot of Union Co-operative Society store on Dubai's Al Wasl Road.
"As a boy, I would collect all the small coins and look at the fish or boats on the coins," he recalled. "Now my children want notes, not coins."
Abdullah said that stores don't carry small coins any more because they are not used.
He showed a handful of vouchers which he suggested stores should issue instead of keeping small change.
"These vouchers will help Palestine or the Red Crescent," Abdullah said. "Maybe stores should issue those instead of small coins."
Video: Have you ever seen 5 fils?
In six years living in Dubai, Uzma Ahmad has never been given a five-fils or 10-fils coin in her change.
"They always round it up to the nearest 25 fils," she said as she left Choithram's store in Jumeirah 3.
She had just purchased some fruit which came to Dh25.70.
"This is my change," she said, opening her palm to show four Dh1 and one 25-fils coin.
"Dh4.25," she said, "They owe me five fils."
From now on, Ahmad says, she will ask for the correct coins in her change. "It begins to add up if you are short-changed five or 10 fils at a time."
His breakfast was still warm in the shopping bag when Soman Pavatta realised he had missed out on 5 fils at Lulu in Umm Suqeim.
"I just spent Dh9.45 on breakfast," Pavatta said, opening his bag. "I gave them Dh20 and I was give Dh10.50 change. I guess they owe me five fils."
He said that he has never seen a five-fils or 10-fils coin during the 10 years he has lived in Dubai. From now on, he'll be asking for his spare change.
Filipina Marianna Macaraeg can't ever remember seeing a five-fils or 10-fils coin during the past seven years living in Dubai.
"Do they have them?" she asked.
She had just spent Dh84.75 in Spinneys in Jumeirah 2 yesterday morning.
Because her bill was exactly a decimal unit of 25 fils, she received her exact change of 25 fils from the Dh85 in notes she tendered.
More often than not, she said, the shops don't have change and the prices are rounded out.
Shopping with her daughter at Spinneys in Jumeirah 2 yesterday morning, Vanisha Guria was aware that Gulf News had asked what's happening to our spare change.
"It was a very good story," she said. "It's made me think."
She paid for her shopping on Tuesday using a debit card, so paid the exact amount.
Neither she nor her daughter could remember ever seeing a five-fils or 10-fils coin. "We all need to ask for our correct change," she said.
German tourist Andreas Wimmer has only been in Dubai for a few days yet he remembered that yesterday was his mother's birthday. Gulf News caught up with him as he left Carrefour Express in Mina Seyahi with a bunch of flowers.
"The flowers were Dh19.95," Wimmer said. "I gave a Dh20 note and was sort of wondering why I didn't get any change."
Because he's a tourist, he didn't want to ask for his change.
Back home in Dusseldorf, if Wimmer spent €19.95 on flowers and handed in €20, he'd expect to get five cent change.
"Not in Dubai?" he mused. "Strange."