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The Right Change

Harmstein's Law states that a person will have the right change only one time in ten occasions. That's a whopping 90% of cash transactions which require more loose change to be given to the person who didn't have the right change.

An exception, of course, is when you get on a First bus. There, if the fare is, say, £1.80 and you do not have the right change, you may hand over two pound coins. But will receive no change back. Harmstein, of course, died before bus deregulation and did not foresee this anomoly in the world of change. Who among us did?

The weight and variety of all this loose change causes pockets to sag and purses to bulge and people to walk around jingling. Those anticipating the arrival of a First bus and who realise they need the right change, will often nip into a shop and buy a newspaper and a peppermint Aero to break a fiver and provide the correct coinage for the fare.

Often though, the changeless will get the arithmetic wrong and end up with a paper, a bar of chocolate and three pound coins in their hands, eliciting another visit to another shop to break two of the coins down to even smaller change.

Now laden with denominations of coin, fingers smeared with newsprint and with a chocolate bar melting in the pocket, the stupefied citizen may see a First bus on the horizon.

The fine anticipation of getting the bus, handing over the exact fare and sitting down to read the paper while eating a melted Aero is often crushed as the bus drives past the stop blithely displaying a sign which says "Sorry, I'm Not In Service."

Harmstein predicted this, his later work showing that 4 out of 10 local travel arrangements will be disturbed by what he described as secondary anomalies. That's a whopping 40% of occasions when a person will be carrying precisely the right change, but there will be no point in having it.



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