Getting Exact Change Takes Exacting Toll On Columnist

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By PETER ROSENTHAL, President
V.I.P. Trust Deed Company
February 1996

In the past, you have heard me mock the bureaucratic mindset; I promise that this time, however, I will be funny and to the point.
Recently, upon arriving at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration, I realized I had forgotten to bring copies of my comparable.  Fortunately, I was early (and not yet stressed out).  Discovering that I needed five copies of each comparable (15 copies in all), I was directed by the receptionist to a copy machine down the hallway.

Guess what? 25 cents per copy – rip-off city!

Next problem:  no change in sight (remember, I need 15 quarters).  The receptionist then directed me to a cafeteria further down the hall, where I was told in a very sullen manner, “We don’t give change”.   I explained my problem, and was then told to go upstairs to the main cashier (the same place you pay your tax bills), as that was the place where the cafeteria got its quarters.

I was now running late – and getting stressed.

But then, an idea struck, I asked the worker at the cafeteria if I could get change if I bought something. I was told, “Yes, but only four quarters.”  I said, “How about a purchase of four items? Would you give me 16 quarters?”  The response:  a sullen “No.”

I then raced back upstairs to the first floor to the cashier’s window, where I was immediately confronted with a large sign reminding taxpayers that the return check charge was more than $49 (and I thought 25 cents was a rip-off!).

My next unpleasant surprise was a “bureaucratic” stare from the cashier.   No “May I help you?” or “Good morning!” – just a “What do you want?” stare.

I made the mistake of pleasantly asking for five dollars’ worth of quarters and was gleefully told that she could only give me a dollars worth.
Knowing the County mentality, I was tempted to offer five dollars for four dollars’ worth of quarters.  Instead, I explained my dilemma with the copy machine and the referral from the cafeteria (that it brought its quarters from this window).
The answer was a very simple:  “Yes, but they buy in bulk – $250 at a time.”

I’m sure you know my next response…I looked her straight in the face and said, “Fine, I’ll take $250 worth of quarters.”  No kidding!  Again, I got that bored, resentful bureaucratic stare as the cashier triumphantly said “You’ll have to fill out a requisition.”

At this point, my patience was finally expended, and I then politely asked, “May I please speak to your supervisor?”

After explaining my plight to a not-too-sympathetic supervisor, she disappeared, then returned with a ten-dollar roll of quarters.  I thanked her profusely.

Trust me – I have never seen a more hateful glare than that of the cashier who was, in fact, overruled by common sense.

There is not one word of this tale that is untrue or even slightly exaggerated.   Although we don’t face this type of treatment on a daily basis, we are familiar with it.

The bottom line here is:  at tax appeals, be more than prepared.  It is a tough enough process without trying to extract 15 quarters out of a bureaucratic maze.

Through the ordeal, there was one bright spot:  the aforementioned receptionist, who was kind, compassionate, sympathetic (and good-looking).  When I left, I thanked her for her empathy.  As an afterthought, I asked her how long she had worked there.   Her answer:  three days.

Boy, could Kinko’s make a fortune in that building!

Peter Rosenthal
VIP Trust Deed Company