I'm Still An American on the Inside

As I’ve mentioned before, I use taxis a lot here in Cancun. They’re easy to find, they’re cheap ($20 pesos to get almost anywhere you want in downtown Cancun), they’re fast and I even get serenaded by taxi drivers on occasion.

They do, however, have a habit that causes my inner American to scream, “Oh no he didn’t!!”

Not having change.

I totally understand if they don’t have change for larger bills. If I have anything worth $200 pesos or more, I will always ask if they have change for it before I get into the vehicle. However, what really bothers me is when they don’t have change for my $50 pesos or $100 pesos, and don’t bother to tell me until we reach our final destination.

Some will ask you from the beginning, “Do you have exact change?”, which I think is great. Usually I have it, and if I don’t, we’ll stop by a gas station along the way (gas pumpers always have change).

But what I CAN’T STAND is when we get to our destination, I hand them a $50 peso bill, and they say to me “Sorry, I don’t have any change. I just started my shift.”


My American mind reels, screaming in my head that people providing services should always begin their shift with change, to make life easier for everyone and to earn money faster. I could certainly forgive someone who started their shift with change, then ran out as the day went on. Completely understandable. But not having change to begin with would seem to be just plain rude.

Still, I have to bite my tongue and remember that I’m a visitor in their country. The local culture has a tendency not to plan ahead, which works just fine for them because they have been blessed with the virtue of patience… something seriously lacking in American culture.

So when a taxi driver says to me, “Sorry, I have no change. I just started my shift”, all I can do is sigh, let go of my inner American, get in touch with my inner Mexican, and answer, “Ok, no problem… let’s go to a gas station for some change.”

17 thoughts on “I'm Still An American on the Inside

  1. I learned real quick to ask if they had change. And when I forgot to ask I always found it so overwhelming! Cause in America a text driver would flip if they couldn’t be paid right away, so I was always afraid I was going to get yelled at.

    But like you said, they are very patient, so I never got yelled at!

  2. yikes! that sucks – but thank god they have patience… you’re right, American’s don’t have much to offer in the way of patience (in most cases)

  3. Giiiiiiirl! I totally know that feeling. The first time that happened to me, the ride was only supposed to be 4 soles…and I only had a 10. We get there, and the guy says ,”Oh..I don’t have change.” I had NO idea I could go in somewhere…so I basically threw it at him after arguing about it and got out. I was SO ticked. Then I got home, and Shaun told me…”Babe, next time tell him to wait until you go in somewhere and get change. It’s not like he’s going to leave without getting paid and you don’t have to give him more than he told you.” I was even more furious after that!

    Now I just ask beforehand. UUggghgughgughg! So frustrating! The worst part is…they NEVER do that when Shaun is around, it’s just when Im by myself. Jerks.

  4. Yep, I make them wait while I find change. If I have to be more patient for the lack of planning, they have to be patient in solving the problem. Of course my inner American screams that this is so inefficient! Why should time be wasted needlessly?

  5. I’ve learned to keep some small bills hidden in my wallet and keep exact change for the bus driver too!

  6. Ok, that’s totally not acceptable! It’s your JOB to have change if you’re a taxi driver! Once I ordered a pizza and the pizza guy didn’t have any change- he had the nerve to act annoyed with me! Ridic.

  7. My first thought when I read this was they see a gringa and say ‘yep, here comes my tip for the day’ as they are probably thinking that you are just going to say, okay well then here take this….

  8. As a server I always start my shift with $20 in 1’s and a bunch of change as well. Otherwise I have to go hunt down a manager for change and they hate that. Not fun.

  9. I’ve seen this every time I’ve taken a cab. New York, New Jersey, Chicago…doesn’t matter. They do it on purpose. They don’t even say it in a way that invites a resolution. They just say, “Sorry, no change,” as they pocket your $50 bill and shrug. They get more tips that way. To me, it seems a little like theft but it’s probably closer to taking advantage of people…

  10. ha ha… I love that you make them go to the gas station for change! Totally one-upped them! Great thinking.

    In India I’ve been battling that also– no store or vendor wants to change anything as big as 100 ruppees ($2.27 USD). They always ask you for the exact amount of money,telling you they have no change and I hate it.

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