DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please explain how to gently and politely prompt clerks, baristas and others who handle cash to help them focus on the task at hand.
With the spread of computerized cash registers, the mostly young people who handle transactions seem to pay less attention to the actual money in their hands. They wander off, leaving my money on the counter; they chat with their co-workers and punch in the wrong amounts; when the computer tells them that the correct change from a $20 bill to pay for coffee is something and 16 cents, they blandly hand me only the coins.
Is there anything kind and positive I can say that would encourage them to focus on the transaction for the 15 seconds or so that it takes to make my change, or is this a lost cause?
GENTLE READER: Your purpose is to get the barista's attention quickly without being angry or rude. You should therefore not be looking for kind and positive, but rather startling.
"Oh my goodness! Nineteen dollars and eighty-six cents for a cup of coffee!" delivered in a voice completely scrubbed of sarcasm -- but loud enough to turn heads -- will accomplish the task. Most service employees at least understand that customers who draw attention need to be dealt with quickly.
You can then be gracious and laugh at your own mistake. Miss Manners of course assumes that $19 for a cup of coffee retains some shock value.