The Oga We No Get Change Article

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change changeYes Nigeria needs change, but not that Barack Obama type “yes we can change” not that JFK “what can you do for your country” type change and definitely not that MLK “I have a dream…do you have a dream?” type change. It is a much simpler type of change…

You enter Chicken Republic or Mr.Biggs…you buy 1 large chicken and 1 sausage roll and pure water. You are told that the total cost of your purchase is N950 naira (hypothetical cost o!). You reach for your wallet to grab your N1000 note…but before you pull the note out of your wallet you hear the words “Ah! Oga abeg we no get change o!”

9 out of 10 times, said Oga or Madam leaves their N50 change behind. Then another Oga comes in and does the same and then another.

By the time the day is over, potentially 1000 or so customers would have left some fraction of their change behind. Assuming on average N50 is left by each customer, the store would have made like N50000 extra and in just one day! Multiply that by 30 and that is a cool N1,500,000 in change left behind in a single month!

To me this is robbery of the highest degree…I call it micro-stealing, where seemingly insignificant sums of money are withheld from multiple people, which when combined become a significant amount.

Sadly, this happens every day in Nigeria, and not just in Mr. Biggs or Chicken Republic, but in our government. It is that LASTMA officer that takes N100 here and N200 there and before you know it, he is running a lucrative side business all from the comfort of the road.

There are several scenarios as to why this happens in the government from extortion to bribery to blackmailing to others. But when it comes to collecting change I feel we the people (you and I) are particularly mute. A total contradiction to the west…

When I worked at my Uncle’s beauty supply store in Houston in 2001, I would see people who spend over $200 (I kid you not) on hair products, their change at the end of the day would be like 2 cents, and they will stare at you and wait for you to count those 2 cents and place it in their hand before they leave. For the record 2 cents is like 3-5 Naira in Nigeria. 3-5 Naira! Let that sink in.

Every (bolded, underlined and italicized for emphasis) morning at about 6:30 am before we went to the shop, we would head over to a particular street in Houston called Harwin.

Harwin was and is still the wholesale capital of beauty supply shops in Houston, they sold everything from relaxers to human hair. It was like a black woman’s heaven.

We would stop by the weave stores, then the hair accessories stores and then the hair cream stores. But before we finally headed to the store, we always stopped at the bank and the reason was so we could collect change. We would exchange cash for rolls of coins…cents, nickels, dimes, quarters and one dollar bills for the strip club. This seemingly insignificant step was an integral part of running the shop for the day.

Because we knew the importance of having change in America.

The American economy is much stronger than the Nigerian one, the standard of living much higher, but every American that I met while working the cash register, requested their change. It was an expectation.

Which is why I have never gone to a store in America that did not have change (fact check please: if you have ever gone to an American store without change let me know below).

So you ask, what’s love change got to do with it, go to do with it?” especially 2 cents (aka 3-5 Naira), well it is a culture of expectation. If you expect that a store has to give you something as trivial as 3-5 Naira because it is your hard earned money, then you will grow with this expectation day in day out. And soon it will become a part of your subconscious thinking. So when a government official steals 100,000 naira of your tax payer money…then you will expect…if not demand an explanation talkless of 100,000,000 naira!

Sometimes America…aka Europe seems like magic when we see the final product. But when you study their fundamental foundations and see what drives them and see why my Uncle had to ensure change was at his store every single day then you see the difference.

And that difference is that the little things matter, that if citizens (you and me) demand their change every single day at the cash register, then overtime they would evolve to collectively demand their tax payers be accounted for at the National Assembly level. But it starts with the little things!

twitterWritten and Drawn By Okechukwu Ofili of
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73 comments on “The Oga We No Get Change Article

  1. Gordon on said:

    Those ladies will even ask u whether is ordinary 50 naira your waiting for. Just imagine the embarrassment, then everybody around will that staring at you as if what your requesting for isn’t your money again.

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      lol…so true. Sometimes you will even feel stupid standing there…and then you will start insulting yourself…like “guy na only N50 dey worry.”

  2. Pippa on said:

    Well said. I noticed this ‘mess’ when I got back to Nigeria last year. Every time I complained(and I still do), people would give me this weird look and I always wondered if it was the norm around here.
    To me it’s a total rip-off.
    I keep questioning and suggesting why the customer can’t get free services or purchases then if the seller’s quick to chant the ‘Oga/Aunty no change’ phrase. Something needs to be done ASAP!

  3. emike on said:

    Since service people refuse to give change, a good strategy to adopt as a consumer will be to have your own change, so that you always pay the exact charge and nothing more…. I know this might sound odd but someone has to make the trip to harwin street. If muhammad won’t go to the mountain, the mountain will go to muhammad. .. ^_^

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Emike you make a sound point. Similar response I gave to Ese, we already provide our own electricity (generator), water (bore hole), security (holy spirit) so we might as well provide our own change!

      • My mother owns a business centre so I can empathize with some of the sellers, there is always an abscence of change. Even when we visit the bank which is just beside her shop, the same answer is given; “abeg, no change ooo!” We have no option than to give the same reply to customers but it doesn’t change the fact that as a customer myself, I don’t appreciate leaving even 20 naira. Therefore, ther is a fundamental wrong in the Nigerian economy if the commercial banks, the sole monetary distributing organisation CANNOT provide change. I think we have to dig deeper and not stop at the level of sellers.

      • Cheenyayray on said:

        Lol! We provide everything for ourselves. Shoprite Ibadan is the greatest culprit. They just abandon u there and wat u av bought and face d nxt customer.

      • Cheenyayray on said:

        Lol! We provide everything for ourselves. Shoprite Ibadan is the greatest culprit. When you get to the counter to pay and they have no change, just abandon u there and wat u av bought and face d nxt customer. But Da viva Ibadan will neva turn u down.

    • R we missing the POINT here? This article isn’t just about money change! Correct me if am wrong but I believe it’s about our culture as a nation to ignore the little details. We always overlook stuff! The change story was just a medium to stress that point.

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      lol…when that happens to me it is so annoying. You will leave like N50 change but they will hold your trousers for N20 change.

      • The part that gets to me is when they WILL NOT leave 10naira for you but dnt mind holding onto your 50naira. many a time I’ve had to bring out the drama queen show just to get my change. And God saves any customer who dares stick his/her nose in wid dat look of “just because of 10naira???”

  4. Nigeria need law for everything. I think it’s time somebody sponsor a bill to compel every business to make change available for customers else a complain should attract a fine. Public complain commission or consumer protection council should be given the enforcement responsibility. I use to eat in a particular local Bukar in Wuse zone 1 here in Abuja and each time I eat I take a small bottle of coca-cola which is #70 and the sales boy there keep telling me No change. There was a day I told him that my change with him is enough to buy a whole crate of coca-cola he laugh but that was a plain truth. What I simply do now is each time I go there I only eat and go no more coca-cola not because I don’t want but because he is making money illegally from me which is very bad. We really need change

  5. This post had me nodding from the title to the last word. I experienced this and continue to in most restaurants. These days I have tons of small denominations. I remember paying a bill once with 10 and 5 naira notes. They stood there watching while I counted it out. I still carry a wallet with little denominations around

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Ah! Madam that one is gangsta o! But its a good point, if you have to provide your own electricity you might as well provide your own change.

  6. Millicent on said:

    Pheeeww! Im glad someone else also shares in my POV. Good governance can and will only happen when the governed stand up to demand for their rights. #irestmycase

  7. Mordi on said:

    And this change issue is a reason why some restaurants are refusing to adopt a reliable ePayment system. And even when they do, they tell you most of the time that ‘network is down’.

    And then the issue of ‘Corporate Begging’. The person at the counter takes the change for selling; the person at the door wants an amount for hailing.

  8. Happiness on said:

    I, Happiness always demand that my change is given even if it is less than 1 cent or 5 Naira. I have left orders several times because of this.
    It is a very dirty attitude they have in all these fast food joints.

  9. Zikman on said:

    Nice piece on financial literacy! Sometimes its a deliberate ploy to hold back your money. Even when you opt to dig into your beg to sort it out, some will say “Oga leave that one for your girl make e drink pure water na”. More awareness needs to be created on this. Abeg Ofili gimme my change joor! LOL…

  10. pamela on said:

    This also goes to show the indifferent attitude business owners have regarding their businesses….the “oga/madam” complex, the real owners of these businesses are never available to check their employees, that is why when u demand for your “change ” the sales person can very easily tell you “abeg we no get change if u no wan bye leave am or go find change “

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Very sound point. Most of the owners don’t even pay their employees well enough to begin with and Nigerian companies have not really experienced competition….but its coming very very very soon.

  11. Oluwafisayomi on said:

    I remember once a cab driver rudely told me he had no 20 naira change to giv me nd drove off almost smashin my feet in d process.Fortunately for me a couple of days later I entered his cab again nd I counted his money in little denominations and made sure I deducted my 20 naira.when I dropped I gave it to him nd explained who I was nd what he did,he was so vexed he insulted me till I walked into my wrk place.He did it to me without a tot nd figured it was an injustice when I returned d favour,dats naija 4 u.We are our own worst enemy,corruption nd wickedness is practised from d ground up!

  12. Dope! Love d piece, best approach to it, as a customer do well to have lil denominations with you always as to avoid been cheated on.

  13. mazi emdi on said:

    I will think about hauling a backpack full of 1 naira coins when next im in 9ja….

    A good subject to bring to the attention of the masses.

  14. Nice piece as usual Ofili. It reminded me of a day years back when I was at the filling station for petrol, after the female attendant deducted (the stupid) #20 for keg from my change, she had the gut to tell me she doesn’t have #30. I stood my ground that she should find my change by all means or have her fuel back. She made the silly mistake of saying “Oga na wa for you o, you no fit leave #30 for me when your mates leave more money for us, oya come back for it”, and I proudly tutoured her on how she lack manners, self worth & has nothing upstairs. I made sure I collected my change despite it being a token I easily could have ignored, but na MY CHANGE na 🙂

  15. dayo on said:

    I remembered Shoprite Abuja gave naira coins as change when they newly opened. But the issue for me was where to spend it?
    There’s no amount of embarrassment that will make me leave N5:00. #na my change

  16. You’re right Ofili! Nigeria really needs “change”-Naira and kobo! And sadly this lack of change thing contributes to arbitrary inflation. Imagine the days when we could buy bubble gum, trebor luckies & tom-tom with those 25kobo, 50kobo and 1 naira coins. Now even with 5 Naira you’ll have a hard time finding what to buy! We need CHANGE!

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      Precious you can use the N5 change to bribe LASTMA and Police…but they might change your face with slap! #okbye

  17. I was at the bank few days ago to pay my school fees and the bank commission for such transaction was #250. I gave the cashier 500 and i had to wait for a customer who came to do a similar transaction and had the exact #250 bank commission before i could get my change; that took about 30minutes.
    I think the problem is from CBN, they need to print lesser denominations of naira notes. The #1000 notes in circulation is rather too much. I don’t think business people would want to hoard change if they had it at the expense of loosing a customer.

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      GOod point. You bring up another angle. I have asked cashiers why they don’t have change and some (not all) say that sometimes the bank does not give them change when they ask for it. But for those some there are a large amount of people that hope you forget to collect your change so they can pocket it.

  18. There are those of them that just hand you your receipt with words like I’m owing you N10 have a nice day. I would’ve ignored things like that in the past but not any more. If you like go to Jerusalem and find change, I’m waiting for you.

  19. Don Dyke on said:

    Good article. That said, why most ppl leave their change is cos of time constraint. Nigerian ppl may value money a lot but they also value time. Most times, the attendants are very slow in bringinf the change. And u ask, “is this 50 or 100 Naira change worth my 10 mins or 20 mins that I I wil hv to spend waitin for it?” Most times, u wil decide its not worth it and u leave. That’s just it. Btw, in America and the west, though they usually await their change, they give attendants tips mst times so that it is like a culture there but not so in Nigeria

  20. Kieho on said:

    @Ofilli, its a great piece you got above. Thumbs up! For me, the experiences I have had with change palava are numerous. Ranging from the conductor in a Danfo Bus, the ticketer for BRT, even the bank when making certain withdrawals. Change in our nation really starts from us as a people even from little things like this. Stand up for what is yours afterall, its ur #Change.

  21. Dami on said:

    Well….. the change issue has helped Lagosians embrace cashless policy. Best way out is to ask for a POS machine. 😉

  22. ChySparkZ on said:

    Ohhhh how this issue irks me!! I think these fast food joints know what they are doing, I think its a strategy. So I walked into a fastfood joint this weekend, just before I placed my order, I saw d sales girl pack all the money, change included, from the register and take inside and as soon as she comes out to attend to me, first thing from her mouth is ”There’s no change o” Ohh, how I held back from cursing her!! She had to produce dat change o, b4 I baptize her with words!

  23. anene on said:

    Nice one ofili. Truth be said, telling us that they have no change seems to be a deliberate attempt to get egunge. A small pharmacy near my house never has change, they would inform u instead that I have no change so i owe u n10, n20 ….or u can buy sweet or gum for d change( I eye them nastily, u wan finish my money abi). I reply seriously how are am I supposed to remember my change, u won’t remind me and I might also forget d next time I come. I have asked them severally why they don’t get change from their bank and they tell me they don’t have. If the tellers don’t have, u inform your relationship officer / the head of the operations unit about your needs, it’s their prerogative to ensure your business is serviced. So, I have resorted to have change with me or I ask before I buy… do u have change

    • Nicely Anene. Everyone is a culprit. Fact is that N1000 is cheaper for the banks to handle so they stifle change so they can dish out the big currencies. At the end of the day the solution seems to be like the generator solution…provide your own electricity and your own change as well.

  24. Iquo Umoh on said:

    Its funny i stumbled on this article i cant trace where i found it . lolz! but truth needs to be told we all are robbed daily by people who complain that the government is wrong or the people in government are cheats when we all do the same thing by creating ourselves in the little transactions we make daily!
    last night i closed late from work and got home to see that PHCN as usual had not put on their switch to give everyone light. OK, i was determined to have power by any means and have my generator fueled up and revving with power. i picked up my 10 liters plastic can and another 5 liters can both empty and began my journey to the nearest fuel station. i boarded a keke napep tricycle. while waiting for the vehicle to load up a young man walked up to me and asked if i wanted to buy fuel and pleaded i buy with him that he does sell close by. i asked how much he said 150 Naira per liter. i turned his offer down and insisted i was headed to the station. he then said there was no fuel anywhere. I laughed because i knew that there was no fuel scarcity hence no need to hike up the price of fuel and that 150 was a rip off when everyone knows fuel goes for 97 Naira at the station. i got to the first station and there was no fuel and then proceeded to the second one and met a long queue and a crowded station selling fuel. the funny thing was i told the attended to fill up my 10 litre can and he said he wouldn’t fill it up that 10 litres will not fill up the can. Ok now, i told him fill it up anyway guess what, my 10 litre can showed up as 11.8 litres and the attendant insisted i pay 1200 and then my 5 litres showed upas 4.8 litres again he insisted i pay 500 naira. i asked for change… he said NO CHANGE!
    Imagine this happening everyday with the teeming number of generator users and vehicle owners that fuel their cars and machines getting ripped off daily!
    Its so sickening.
    Before i left,I left and saw he did the same to the next customer.
    and of course i got no change returned to me.
    Aye wa oti baje o!

  25. Mimz on said:

    At the UPS store in Garki Abuja it was a bit different. I watched as the sales personnel refused to provide service to a customer as they didn’t have change and neither did he. I asked why and they explained that they had tried to get change several times but the CBN is not ‘printing it’ so they cannot kill themselves. The customer seemed puzzled but I couldn’t be mad at them as I can imagine many like myself must have shouted them down in the past for this ‘NO change’. But for them isn’t the business owner at a loss? PS I am now one to carry my own change since realizing this mess!

  26. Great post Ofili. Most times when i take public buses(danfo), i have observed that the conductor always want you to forget your change. That is one of their strategies to make money from their passengers. From my own point of view, i think 1,000 naira note is the most in circulation cos that is the only note that comes out of the ATM apart from 500naira note that comes out atimes

    • Ofili

      Very good point. That plays an effect. But I am sure the ATMs will not load the ‘change’ cause it will take up space in the ATM.

  27. Esteepens on said:

    Thanks a lot for this. Come to think I was the only one. Am used to buying bread from a bakery close to my house and everydayam faced with ” no change” and am like you guys should remove the extra money on top if u cant get change! At first Ikkept quite but with time I started keeping record cos I was a regular buyer from 20-30-50 till it almost got to the amount of one loaf! All I need was make up the remaining and collected my bread! Wetin. Check out how much they’ve ripped off people with that strategy.
    On the other hand, your exposition at the conference on Saturday was mind blowing. Yourself and other speakers sprouted me up, thank you. I just kicked off my blog, getting off those stuffs piled in my laptop for the world to see and give me a push either via criticism or acknowledgement. I hope to get assisted by you, would be honored. Thank you

  28. sojitweets on said:

    Believe me, I did try to read through all these posts…

    Sigh! Anyway, I think we’ve got the notion that “demand for change is so wrong” woven into our moral fabric. Wait for your change and you’re made fun of; carry your own change and you’re labelled a cheapskate.

    It’s even eaten into our economy; the disappearance of coins didn’t happen overnight, neither the ‘upgrading’ of certain denominations. Acts that eventually kill the tradition of change….

    Yeah we Nigerians gloss over the little details..atleast, I know I do as well as many I know closely. Only an internal u-turn in mindset (a mind shift) can reverse this. We are so wrong but we can be right again.

  29. Mr Biggs is notorious for this, they never have change, from Aguda to Bode Thomas to Itire to TBS, Mtcheeeeew! As beautiful and insightful as this post is, I doubt it would make any impact on us, we’re apathetic to demanding change, whether it’s naira or from our leaders

  30. Igbegocho on said:

    A very irritating attitude we have honestly. This so called “little things” have such a huge impact on us. Sometimes i feel like a cracked record when i start to talk about these things, just this morning i had this conversation about change with my colleagues, though it was from a different aspect. The ones who tell you “i no get change” and wont sell to you cause they can’t be bothered to look for change, unless you take it and forget about the change. I can still relate though cause i use pulic transportation and when the conductors don’t have change they give me this look that says “seriously you not fit leave N20” and sometimes i get the feeling the passengers are giving me the same look. I’ve had to tell some you help me work for am?

  31. Aha this issue! It is so bothersome. Firstly the problem sprouts from the CBN who issued a directive that no denomination lesser than 500 naira should be dispensed by the ATM. Bigger monies get to ( in circulation and changing it posses a big problem. This has another impact that if the situation is not addressed prices of things will increase (inflation) and bigger denominations will be produced to solve it. Our economy will then become like that of Zimbabwe or whatever country has her highest denomination as 1 billion dollars or thereabouts. I once approached a bank official about this issue and how they should put denominations like 200 naira into the ATM but hour said there is nothing he can do and that they only work on directives. I implored him that whenever they are having a company meeting that he should do well and mention this issue but I don’t think he will remember.
    Now to change the 1000 I get from the ATM I have to buy unnecessary things and most times they won’t sell you the good if what you are buying isn’t of much monetary value to them. For example, I wanted to buy recharge card because I wanted to change the money and immediately the vendor saw me bringing out the money she said no change but when I told her I wanted a 200 card she produced the change immediately and I noticed that she had lots of change in her pouch. To eat food at eatries you either have your change or starved, I starved numerous times due to these while I still had lectures of two hours while I was dizzy!
    The bikes and buses here are another thing, they keep their small changes and tell you no change. Three people at a go can tell them to keep the change but the next person can’t be given a 10 naira. I remember been in a bus one morning and the driver started raining insults on the woman who had begged him before entering that she had 50 naira for a 60 naira bus trip. The driver asked her to enter and after collecting extra 10 naira each from 3 passengers, due to no change, he decided that the woman should produce the 10 naira and people that tried to defend the woman were looped into the insult sharing. Trust me, defender of the oppressed added mine and maybe because I am a student and not a cleaner like those women in the bus, hour kept quiet albeit grudgingly. At times they even drive off without even bothering with the no change chant. I hold on to their buses and more than ones have they tried to drive over my feet or drive off while dragging me along. Stubborn me makes sure that I get my change and sharply return their insults. People that look at me and say in their minds that it is just 10 naira think it in vain as I don’t care.
    The situation is really getting out of hands fast if petrol stations themselves don’t have change and you end up not buying what you went there for. I go everywhere with change and 5 naira is my most treasured change, it is the last change I spend. I am not buying 2 satchel of pure water when I only need one nor am I leaving my change with any vendor. One annoying one that happened to me was that a vendor rounded up the fee and the little change from it and charged me for it, I didn’t pay attention and wasn’t aware that she had charged me 14 naira extra for a fee that had 1 naira at the back. She couldn’t leave the one naira to me but she could charge me extra 14 naira. Gone are the days when you don’t want to change your large money because you don’t want to spend it frivolously but now you change it at any chance you get. If you see my purse you will see it filled with change. Whew! Long post

  32. *covers eyes* too long a post, if not longer than the actual article sef. I have a penchant for talking too much

  33. Just saw this post. Mehn! this change issue is turning to something else. It could really be frustrating when all you have on you is a one thousand naira note. You’ll probably not be able to get anything unless you are willing to buy something worth 1000 naira. Apart from the issue of putting blame on the people selling stuffs, the one thousand naira denomination thing is a problem. And that’s what one keeps getting from the ATM. It now looks lyk d lower denominations are not relevant or something
    Anu latest post is MUCH ADO ABOUT MONEYMy Profile

  34. Ofili o! Sometimes I get fed up of talking abt my country and mind u I am not of the snub-nosed older generation that condemns everything like it wasn’t their generation that ruined the country. I was born when the effects of the rot just started being visible.

    The country is sick, very sick, in every fibre of its being. The issue of the Chibok girls just seemed to drive the realisation of the level of rot straight home. I have watched a lot of American shows where Nigeria has been dissected and everytime I have been very ashamed to say the least. My learned comrade we need a change, something has to give and soon. We cannot continue like this. ,We need to use the opportunity of the upcoming elections to push for a credible leader for this great nation. Posterity, will spare a majority of Nigerians on the basis of their glorious Ignorance that seems to be so wide spread among the majority of the populace, but to us the learned ones, the educated ones, who can see beyond the hoodwinking, razzmatazz and the-more-u-look-the-less-see that the politicians are performing, we that are in that class, posterity will not be kind to us. This time around, our job is to pass the message to the not-so-learned, educate them; our grandmas, our ignorant neighbours, the market women, the aboki shoe shiner and all those who are so easily decieved. Convince them, help them see the lies of these policians and let’s get a credible leader in The Rock. Because the change we all yearn for will begin with one man. My humble logo maki

  35. Ayodeji on said:

    The part that is more madenning is when you carry your own keg †☺ buy fuel at the filling sation and you are gallantly told that you have †☺ pay for keg, ℓ̊ don fight tire on this but ℓ̊ had †☺ stop fighting by either going there with extra smaller notes in order †☺ give the fuel attendant the exact amount of fuel sold or and sometimes because even a poor and pathetic looking citizen will just look at me ƪĩк̣̣̥ε ℓ̊ am mad with all my english speaking mouth all because ℓ̊ am trying †☺ drive home a point and refuse †☺ be robbed. ℓ̊ think we all have †☺ put our hands on deck else we keep getting the kind government we deserve

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