Do Cashiers Steal More From Foreigners?

I know I’m blonde but… come on! Do I really look THAT stupid? Okay, yes, I guess I am sometimes!

I’ve written time again about how safe Bangalore is with respect to petty crime compared to my former home in Spain.  In Barcelona, all women adopt a certain way of holding their handbag to ensure no pickpocket attacks or from thieves who cut bag straps and run off with the whole bag.  We always lock the door to our car and flat because if not chances are high that we would probably be robbed.  Period.  It’s pretty bad, actually, and only getting worse as time goes on.

Since moving to Bangalore, I’ve really had such wonderful luck and have honestly been so impressed with how safe the city is…at least in my little microcosm.  I love that I never worry about my belongings.  I can go to a restaurant with Eduardo (that’s the name of my laptop when we are alone on a dinner date together) and leave him and my handbag at the table if I need to go to the restroom.  At hotels and restaurants, I leave my handbag and mobile phone at the table when I go to ‘plate up’ at Sunday brunch.  And I can leave my things out in the open in the car as I run into a shop or to pick up take-out food.  In Barcelona, however, none of those things would be possible.

But the bubble I have been living in has popped a bit.  Now I see that it’s not pickpockets or burglars that I have to keep an eye out for but the cashiers at shops and establishments where I’m actually a regular customer.  In the past one month I have been prey for two different cashiers trying to score a bit of extra pocket-money at my expense.  Well, not really trying because one of them actually scored my cash sadly.  And now I’m cheesed off!

Cashier #1: My favourite food store in Frazer Town

So, I’m not actually going to name the store because it is the only place in town that employs a guy who knows how to filet my fish the way I like it (in two long filet steaks instead of sliced as it is preferred here) so I don’t want to make it uncomfortable for myself there.  I also appreciated the way that management handled me and my complaint.

I’ve been going to this shop for about 11 months now so you can imagine that I’ve stood in queue and paid for groceries dozens upon dozens of times.  I’ve seen what happens when the barcode does and doesn’t work on a product.  I’m not an idiot and not a first-time visitor to the store.  But apparently the girl who attended to me either had never seen me before or I had some big red bullseye painted on my dumb blonde forehead and she had me in her scopes.  I was her prey.

My daughter and I had an over-flowing basket and were in queue to pay.  When our turn came I heaved the basket up to the cashier’s counter, pulled out my eco-friendly carrier bag and said hello.  The girl started ringing up everything from noodles to green beans and when her hand grabbed a shampoo bottle she attempted to scan it but it didn’t register.  She sat the bottle aside and told me that we would have to pay for the shampoo separately in cash after everything else was rang up and paid for because the barcode wasn’t working.  I told her No, that I wasn’t going to do that, and to please type in the barcode into the software.  She said, “no madam, it won’t work, you must pay in cash after.”

At that point I realised what she was doing because I’ve seen what the cashiers do when the barcode doesn’t register in the system so many times.  Hell, I probably could have gone back there and done it myself for her.  So I asked to see her manager immediately.  And that fixed the problem.  She miraculously remembered how to manually enter product information.  Hooray!

Later that day I decided not to let it go so I called the store and spoke to the manager who appreciated my call.  He was quite concerned and apologised and diligently requested the information from my receipt.

Cashier #2: Au Bon Pain in downtown Bangalore

UPDATE 30-April: I was contacted by the Au Bon Pain Marketing Manager, first by mail and then she called.  She showed concern for the EVENT that transpired, not the fact that I wrote a blog post about it, which I respect beyond words.  Here is their message:  Dear Angela, We deeply regret this incident and would like to thank you for bringing this to our notice. We would like to know more about this incident (location, date of visit) and would really appreciate an opportunity to discuss this with you.  Request you to please share your contact number with us. This is a very serious incident and we would really want to look into this. Sincerely, C. S., Marketing Manager, Au Bon Pain India

I struggled with whether to name the exact location because I am not happy with how management handled me or the situation but at the end of the day this particular event is also my fault so I have decided not to.

Since September 2011, I stop at this particular Au Bon Pain on average of 2-4 times per week for lunch because it is just around the corner from work.  The staff there knows me and are always very friendly.

This week I stopped in for “the usual” which is a Hawaiian chicken salad, chocolate muffin and a bottle of water.  I paid for my order, placed the change immediately back in my wallet, packed my goodies into my eco-friendly Au Bon Pain reusable bag and headed back to work.  It wasn’t until I went to buy dinner on my way home that I realized that I had only been given change for Rs. 500, even though I gave them Rs. 1,000.  I know this because I had just been to the bank and only had Rs. 1,000 notes on me, my wallet was empty before that.  The change was half folded with the receipt around it still, so after I paid for dinner I immediately rang the store and spoke to the manager, who knew who I was immediately and even described the colour of our vehicle to confirm.

The receipt itself showed that I had paid with a Rs. 1,000 but I explained that they will have an extra Rs. 500 in the till later because I didn’t have it.  He said to come in the next day and they would give me back the Rs. 500 if they discovered it.

When I went in the next day the same girl who had attended to me as cashier was mopping up the floor and when she saw me walk in she had a strange look on her face.  The manager walked up to me and started to explain that they didn’t have any money left over in the till last night.  I asked what the employee had to say about it and he said that he hasn’t spoken to her yet but will ask later.  OMG!  Was he joking?  I couldn’t believe he hadn’t cared enough about the seriousness of my complaint to approach his employee.  So I asked him to step outside so other customers didn’t hear us.  He assured me he would speak to her but that there was nothing else he could do.  I asked if he expected her to say she had pocketed the money because my gut feeling says she will lie to protect her job.  He didn’t say anything.  And didn’t apologise, either, which is when I told him that I was very unhappy about how this was handled.  I fully admit it is my fault because I never count my change but I expected a bit more from Au Bon Pain given that I’m a regular.

As I was leaving I explained that I’m a blogger and that I’m definitely going to write something about this, which will possibly make it into the Bangalore edition of DNA newspaper.  And that changed everything.  What a pity, too.  He offered to return the Rs. 500 to me and apologised.  Asked me to please not blog about the incident and tried to insist I take the money in exchange for not writing about it but I said no.

It’s a shame that management at Au Bon Pain wouldn’t offer me “Angela their regular customer” an apology and perhaps my next salad, muffin and water free in lieu of cash as a sign of good faith.  Only at the sign of bad publicity did they step up and do the RIGHT THING, which should be their standard customer service protocol to begin with in my opinion.

I laughed off event #1 and didn’t think much about it but after event #2 I did start to wonder…does this happen to Indians as frequently as it happens to us foreigners?  Do our big smiles, ignorance to how things work at times and constant state of wonder make for better prey for cashiers than our Indian counterparts?  Well, when I asked around to my Indian friends, they all said YES to the Cashier #1 scenario and mostly yes to #2.  In all fairness, there are so many benefits to being a foreigner here in India, it is only fair that there be some negatives on the list too.

XOXO Angela

© 2012 Angela Carson

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. Ben

    Something like this happened to me too. I was in Bangalore for 2 years, and it took me one and a half years to realize that my favorite cigarette shop was actually charging me more than the actual amount the whole time.

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Ben, thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂 I’m curious…how’d you find out they were over charging you?

      1. Ben

        I foolishly calculated on my own one day. 😀

  2. chris

    That sucks! But good for you for picking up on it. If I discovered that my girls at Mercadona were scamming me I would be devestated.
    p.s. Who knew there were Au Bou Pains in India? I used to love their yogurt parfait. ; )

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Chris, ahhhh Mercadona, reminds me of Sitges even though I know it is a French company 🙂 Sadly there is no yogurt parfait to my knowledge, that sounds sooo good. They do have the best quick pre-packaged salads in town though and they serve Snapple 🙂 🙂

  3. Edit Feleki

    Event #2 has happened to me twice.. The first time I realized it too late, the second time I saw it immediately and required the right change..

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Edit, hope you didn’t lose much the first time … see you before you leave next week! xoxo

  4. Sharell

    The worst thing that’s ever happened to me was that a beautician at Kaya Skin Clinic stole money from my wallet, which was inside my bag, while I was having a treatment and couldn’t see what was going on. She put my bag aside for “safe keeping” which is a common thing to do. As I left the store I was wondering why my wallet wasn’t sitting properly in my bag anymore, as if it had fallen out, and she’d put it back in incorrectly for me. However, it’s impossible for it to fall out, as it fits so snugly in the bag. What’s more , I always put it in the bag in a certain way that it fits like that, which isn’t easy to do. I was pretty sure that there was 500 rupees less in my wallet than what there should be, but I never did bother following up on it. I would NEVER leave my bad unattended anywhere now. It’s just asking for trouble to happen one day….

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Sharell, hope you and Pradeep are super! I can’t believe that someone was so bold as to do that in a salon. That’s not right. And you are probably right about “asking for trouble” but I have to admit that I love this part of Bangalore for me. Reminds me of how life used to be and I suppose I take advantage of it but eventually it could take advantage of me as you say. ((hey, tried to ring you the other night, need to talk about Alina coming to Mumbai in July!!)) xoxo

  5. Rhonald Moses

    sorry that happened to you too… yeah, here in india, even the indians gets such treatment occasionally. Especially if the guy doesn’t speak the local langauge, the shopkeepers/stores try to be smart.

    Anyhow, these days you gotta be careful for your own good. So be careful 🙂

    1. angela_carson

      Thanks, Rhonald. I guess an Indian who doesn’t speak the language is about the same as anyone from a foreign country. Interesting…. –angela

      1. Rhonald Moses

        Yep, I have had such experiences in the past.

        During my very first visit to Chennai, I had to pay at least twice the normal amount for an Auto to reach my aunt’s place from the train station because I am an outsider.

        Foreigner in India is a very broad concept. Unless I am from Chennai, I am a foreigner to that place (there might be some exception on most of the cases since I speak the same language – kinda).

        But of course, while it takes a while to know that the other Indian is an outsider (or foreigner) unless they are from totally different states, the same can’t be said for you.

        Just be careful till you get a hang of the people (btw… if you happen to shift to another city from bangalore, you will have to do the same learning exercise all over again) and their behavior.


        1. angela_carson

          Hey, thanks for commenting! So true about Indians from other states also being a foreigner. I hadn’t thought about it like that… Cheers, angela

  6. American Punjaban PI

    I haven’t had this happen to me but my husband has and so has his Indian cousin living in the house with us. The cousin is 14 and was ripped off by 100 INR from a shopkeeper the family had frequented for decades. He also pretended he had no idea what happened and said the boy lost the money while walking. Once you leave the store you’re screwed and they know it.

    1. angela_carson

      Too true, I think I might actually start counting my change … but only for larger amounts like this. I’m sure I’m still too lazy to count it all the time. Pity about your husband’s cousin… -A

  7. Arun Poovaiah

    It happened to me few times.. So sorry that happened to you too :(. Let’s count our change 🙂

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Arun, are you peddling your web work on my blog? haha Very crafty! And yes, I will start counting my change. See you at work tomorrow! -A

  8. PencilGirl

    Ahh! Cashiers are always on the lookout for a chance to make a quick buck. I don’t know whether it’s just with foreigners though. It could happen, as Rhonald pointed out, if you don’t know the local language. They try if you’re distracted (like maybe if you have kids around or happen to be on the phone during billing). They often try to con kids out of their money. Even if you just look a little flustered or unaware of the way things are done, they’ll try and fool you. It’s just an unfortunate reality here. 🙁
    That said, I must say that this is not always the case. I have had one particular person at a cyber cafe near college actually call me up to inform me that I had overpaid him. I was quite surprised he had my number, but then realized he’d gotten it from my resume which I had just printed out. Needless to say, I never visit any other cybercafe any more. They have a loyal customer for as long as I’m in the city. 😀

    1. angela_carson

      It’s so sad about the kids … they have so little pocket change for sweets, etc but I guess they are easy victims aren’t they? Love the cybercafe story, that doesn’t happen often in ANY country so hats off to them for being so upstanding. x

  9. 5w_haul

    i think in first case they mostly register manually if scanner doesn’t pick the codes.
    some times you have to pay separately if item is not included in computer like vegetables etc.
    in second case she might done it deliberately or forgot to give change but after realised and kept it.
    but the cashier thing happen mostly in big departmental stores.
    i always check my change and generally shopkeeper are professional enough,
    but some times in rush hours if you mistakenly paid less they don’t notice and some times they also give extra 50% of cases they call you back if you overpaid.
    as other guy mentioned above,he gone too far in different state because i have been ripped off by taxi wallas in other cities of same state.

    1. angela_carson

      Yes, I really like Pencil Girl’s tale of the cybercafe that called to give her money back. Nice when that happens 🙂 Shame about the rest…

  10. Jay

    I have several comments to this blog “Do Cashiers Steal More from Foreigners”.

    First, the various governments in India, from the federal to the state, also “steal” from foreigners – by discriminating the price they charge for various services. I’ve always hated this, despite the fact I am Indian. Of course, one may argue no government in the developed world ever gives a break to visitors from the emerging markets with thinner wallets, from train fares to museum tickets. But that’s no real logic.

    Second, even granted India is generally a lot safer than, say, Spain, Italy, or downtown in the cities of Australia and America (ok, I am widely traveled), still, one never leaves a handbag or a mobile phone while dashing off to the restroom or other. That’s plain silly – even in a five star hotel. An Indian would never do it, Angela.

    Finally, the matter of reverse discrimination. Angela, you should consider yourself lucky in India. Indians love foreigners – especially the white kind – and will bend backwards to please them, even as they give the shove off to their own kind. Trust me: you actually heard back from Au Bon Pain. That’s a miracle to the generally indifferent “customer service” in most Indian corporations. It can only be explained by the facts that you are (a) known to be a foreigner, an American to top it off; (b) white; and (c) could get space in DNA when you decide to write there. For us poor folks in India, well, I’ve never yet got a response from the supposedly professional corporations such as Tata DoCoMo, Vodafone, SeventyMM, the grocery chain More, or Axis Bank. Guess what? I’ve stopped giving my custom to all of them. They could care less, but it’s a personal step.

    1. angela_carson

      Hi Jay, thanks for taking the time to add to the discussion. I also become really annoyed at the pricing difference for foreigners. First time I experienced it was in Mysore at the palace, my brother and I had to pay Rs. 400+ whereas Indians paid Rs. 60 I think.

      I realise it is silly to leave my things but I don’t WANT to lug my laptop, bag and everything from the table with me when I run to the loo. Obviously if the place isn’t quiet or has high traffic I won’t do it but I don’t tend to go to places like that and I don’t see myself stopping and changing my habits at the moment either but I will come back and blog about my stupidity the first time it bites me in the ass. But so far, it’s been one year that I have been behaving this way and so far so good.

      Your last point, I agree with you in many regards. I am the first person to ALWAYS say that it is a huge plus to be a white female here in Bangalore. I’ve written about it so many times. And given that I have a high visibility hobby with access to being published each week in a major newspaper makes it even easier for me to get certain things accomplished. I’d like to think that Au Bon Pain would have responded kindly to anyone who voiced a concern but we’ll never know. What I do know is that it is unfair that I get continued special treatment for the colour of my skin but I can’t do anything about it so I just chalk it up to a benefit of living in India 🙂

      Please do come back and comment again, hope you will continue to follow my blog. Cheers, angela

  11. Khurshid

    Hi Angela,
    I am an Indian, but does not speak the local language, nor look like a local person, have been cheated royally by cashiers here in Bangalore too.
    Not once but three times at Daily Bread, and just last week at a cosmetic shop in Commercial Street, where the cash given is very cleverly rolled along with the change which you assume is the right one and shove it in your purse without checking and do so only once you reach home.

    Many a times the items I have bought at Daily Bread have not been packed and only on coming home I get to see that certain items have not been given in spite of being billed for it. Looking at the traffic and parking problems I just let it be, but have vowed never to visit these shops again. Not that they care to lose a customer.

    One word of caution, please check your bill for items purchased, many a times I have found double entry of items bought and billed for at the super markets.
    That’s the state the things have come to these days. You can’t trust anyone to be honest.
    Please be careful with your belongings, you have been very lucky so far.

    1. angela_carson

      Hi, thanks for adding your thoughts and experiences here. It has never occurred to me to review a receipt for double billings. Thanks for the heads up on that. Sorry to hear about your negative experiences, hope things turn around for you too 🙂 –ange

  12. I think what you did was wrong. It is our job to count the change. I think you punished the mgmt for a mistake they didn’t make. The manner in which you did it was also not right, you were threatening them. If I was the manager I would tell you to go ahead with the blog post.

  13. You have to put yourself in the position of the business owner. What would you do if a customer complained and you had no proof that he/she was being honest? Whom would you trust, employee or customer?

    It should also be noted that the average restaurant employee in Bangalore earns around INR 2000 per MONTH, which is about the price of a bottle of champagne.
    Assuming that the employee did steal, if you were in her shoes…wouldn’t you think of doing the same thing. You have to rememeber that they are desperate. I am not saying that you should have let her get away and I am not supporting the employee, but this is just a view from the other side of the coin.

    1. angela_carson

      Hi Nikhil, I do know the small salary that many people earn and it is a pity, I am often in shock wondering how families make ends meet here. Sort of makes me understand – in a strange way – why so many non-Muslims are vegetarian here … -ange

      1. manu

        Hi Angela,

        I have just recently started to read your blog which, I must say, is quiet interesting.

        I am writing to you r your comment “…so many non-muslims are vegetarians”

        Indians, predominantly, are vegetarians. I must admit though that this is changing back in India and it amazes me that people from the west are going the opposite way by turning towards vegetarianism. To some extent, cost of non-veg food is a factor but predominently it is because of religious, moral or ethical reasons. If you get a chance, get hold of a copy of a book titled ‘Animal Liberation’ writtten by Peter Singer, an Australian (from Melbourne) working as a Professor at Princeton University. So there are several other reasons for people in India to be vegetarians.


        1. angela_carson

          Hey Manu, thanks for adding to the conversation and …I hope the “quite interesting” comment was meant in good way 🙂

          You are spot on with your comment. In fact, an ex boyfriend of mine in California who used to make the most amazing filet mignon steaks and splash out on Dom Perignon and foie all the time is now a hard core Vegan who doesn’t drink Champagne every day anymore and it blows my mind! He went from being this super aggressive power CEO who ate and drank only the best (from my perspective, of course, this is opinion not fact but I still love champers and meats) … to going completely the opposite. Both in food and in attitude. He signs his mails Namaste (even though he’s never been to this part of the world) and he has a super rigid diet that blows my mind. There are so many reasons for people choosing one food lifestyle over another…everywhere around the globe 🙂

  14. DesiGuy

    It’s not just with foreigners…I grew up in India and even though I’ve lived in CA for a while, every time I come back, people seem to think I’m an “ABCD” and can’t speak or understand the language and try to rip me off. I actually had this one shopkeeper tell his employee in Hindi to change the price tag of the product I was buying, while I stood there as if I couldn’t decipher a word of what he had said. When he finally brought the item out, I told him I’d pay him the “original” price in Hindi (followed by some loving choice words) and the look on his face was priceless.

    1. angela_carson

      Yeah, I’ve now heard that a few now since writing this article…what a pity. Fingers crossed we don’t get ripped off anymore 🙂

  15. arindam

    Its not only for foreigners, but happens to anybody who is not alert enough. Not anytime and every time though. Typical places where you have long queues and transact in cash – say, railway ticket counters.
    I had similar experience in US in 2003, when I traveled from airport to my hotel in a taxi, and given him a 100, and two 20 dollar note, and getting down from the cab, and he asked for more money, claiming that I have given him one 10 and two 20 dollar notes. I was tired after a long journey, did not argue; but I double checked it once in the hotel room. This was my first expense in cash and I had an known amount of cash on me and I was right he cheated me off 90 dollars.

  16. Rajesh

    It happens to Indians also who r from other state and who cant speak local language……but they try to take maximum advantage from foreigners …..they think foreigners as tourists with lots of money to spend……i have seen it myself a person was selling pearl neckless , he offered it to us at 200-300 rp……after sometime some foreigner couple came , that person offered that same pearl neckless to them at 1000 rp……

  17. Meghan

    I realize I’m about 7 months late on this discussion but I just came across your blog recently and saw this post. Hope it hasn’t happened again since then…but my main thought on this was “OMG there’s Au Bon Pain in India!!” I live in Delhi and there is def. no ABP here 🙁

    1. AngelaCarson

      hahahha yes there is Au Bon Pain here and they have “ok” pastries 🙂  And I’m smarter now and count change when it is larger quantities now so it hasn’t happened again, thanks for asking! 🙂  -angela

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