Your total is 5,250 Lebanese pounds, says the local retail vendor. I ruffle through my pockets and pull out a crumbled 10,000 LL. The vendor pulls it up to the light, looks closely and flips it over. He looks at me suspiciously: Do you have a smaller bill?

[Seriously, how much smaller do you want?]

“No,” I answer curtly. With a heavy sigh, he reluctantly hands me back 4,000 LL, and points to a tray of stale candy. “Please pick something from below.”

We’ve all been there. Most local Lebanese vendors and small grocery stores have historically handed back cheap chocolate, chiclets, or candy in lieu of small change.

I now have a desk drawer filled with expired goodies: from dark chocolate wafers, to generic tasteless cookies, and then let’s not forget the all-time favorite of most Lebanese kids: crème-filled chocolate delights, also known as tarboush or rass al 3abed.

But what’s even worse is when you step into a place that doesn't even have a pack of stale chiclets to offer up and instead cheats you out of your change. What’s a mere 500 coin shortage to you? Calculate this shortage over a five-year span, and you’ve got your answer.

But wait... there could be a really cool solution to all this.

According to the Arab Business Review, in 2013, Vodaphone Egypt launched micro re-charge cards for talk-time. The cards “were designed to fit into the cash register’s cash tray” and were handed out in place of small change.

Brilliant - now that’s a thought for the Lebanese market!

So the next time you plan a trip to the supermarket, do yourself a favor and have exact change – or be ready to demand your right to frata. But don't be surprised if you end up leaving with the stale scent of 10-year-old chiclets on your breath instead.

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