For many consumers, it is one of life's little annoyances: not getting exact change after you pay at the supermarket checkout. While many shoppers suspect the stores are turning a profit on the spare coins, the chains say that in fact the opposite is true.
ABU DHABI // When Alison Magnall goes grocery shopping, she never gets the right change in coins.
And because the amount is so small - 5 or 10 fils - she never bothers to ask for it.
But the British expatriate cannot help but wonder how much money the supermarkets might be gaining from her being short-changed every time she shops.
"I sometimes think about whether the cashiers get the extra coins at the end of the day or whether it goes to the people at the top," Ms Magnall said.
Ms Magnall, who lives in Abu Dhabi and does her grocery shopping at Mushrif Mall's LuLu Hypermarket, said it was an issue that should be dealt with.
"Supermarkets should set their prices at denominations of 25 or 50 fils, instead of these prices that mean we'll never get the right amount back," she said.
Donnie Hart, who has lived in the UAE for six years, said that cashiers often did not give him the correct change.
"The customers always lose, I reckon," the Scottish expatriate said.
The UAE has coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 fils and 1 dirham. The 1, 5 and 10 fils coins are struck in bronze but are so rarely seen or used that many do not realise they exist.
Yet supermarkets and shops across the UAE have products with prices set at figures such as Dh0.40 or Dh0.95.
A spokesman from LuLu said "most customers do not bother" with the small change.
"What will they do with the 5 or 10 fils coin? They don't want to stuff their wallet with all the small coins so that it's bulging," he said.
"Rounding up is common practice. You might lose 5 fils today but you'll gain 10 fils tomorrow. It's a part of business. You lose some, you gain some."
The spokesman said that LuLu rounds up for customers' sake and ends up losing money when making change.
Yousuf Sultan, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, said getting incorrect change bothered him.
Mr Sultan said he "always asks for it", so he could give it to workers who pack his shopping bags.
"It used to be a problem before, a few years ago, when the small coins had more value, but we'd get a piece of gum or something small like that instead," he said.
Uzma Khalil, from Pakistan, used to buy her weekly groceries at the supermarket with cash but she too did not get the correct change. She now pays with her credit card "so I don't lose money".
A spokesman from Spinneys said its cashiers are "strictly informed" to round up. "Our policy is to be fair to the customers, so we always give them the benefit," he said.
He said the issue was that there was a short supply of small coins from the UAE Central Bank.
"We request the coins from our bank, Emirates NBD, but their reply is that the Central Bank is short on these coins," he said.
For its part, the Central Bank said the issue is not a lack of circulation, but a lack of demand for small coins.
"We put the small denominations in the market for people to use them but the problem lies with the supermarkets who don't request the small amounts," said Sultan Rashid, assistant executive director of the banking operations and payment systems department.
Carrefour declined to comment, and Geant said its policy was to round up to 25 fils if the amount is more than 10 fils.
If the amount is less than 10 fils, the customer does not get any change, said Ranjith Punja, the supermarket chain's merchandise manager.
"By the end of the day we are not left with any extra money - in fact, we are short," Mr Punja said. "But we absorb this loss."
For more in this series, visit thenational.ae/consumerwatch