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Quick Change

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"Quick change" is a form of the Short Con in which the Hustler confuses a cashier into giving more change than they should. The most lucrative quick change technique is the "progressive", in which smaller denomination bills are thrust back at the cashier for consolidation into a higher denomination. "Here, give me a five for these ones." (then, while holding the five and the ones...) "Oh, wait. Go ahead and give me a 10. Let me see... one, two, three, four and five is .. yeah, a 10. Thanks."


If you were paying attention, that was five dollars becoming 10. A quick change artist can keep that rolling until he ends up walking away with a $100 bill.

An alternate technique is to pay for something cheap with a $100 bill, accept the change, and then offer to pay with a smaller bill. The object is to confuse the cashier into giving back the $100 bill without remembering to take back the change.

Yet another method is to show the cashier a large bill in your hand, but use sleight of hand to actually hand over a smaller bill. If the cashier doesn't look at it before putting it into the till, they'll give back more change than you deserve.

Naturally, the best way to avoid these schemes is by being cool, calm, nice and slow.

Not to be confused with the theatrical term for a very fast costume change. Nor the 1990 Bill Murray film.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Denjiro pulls a variant of this in a One Piece flashback, exchanging a recently-purchased pot to one twice its value by pointing out he already paid for half of it (by buying the smaller pot to begin with), then handing over the old pot to cover the second half. The shopkeeper catches on, but by this time he's long gone.

    Comic Books 
  • The Trickster does a variant near the start of The DCU's Crisis Crossover Underworld Unleashed, with rueful narration about how a charter member of The Flash's Rogues Gallery is now reduced to conning pizza boys.
  • José Carioca manages to get into the World Cup for free by responding to the cashier's request for money with a complaint that he hasn't gotten his change back yet. Joe takes the ticket and runs off while the cashier contemplates his statement.
  • An episode of the Finnish RPG-themed comic Peluri combined this with poking fun at D&D's complicated monetary system. After some back-and-forth involving copper, silver, gold, platinum and electrum pieces, the guard the conman was paying toll to ends up having to sell his weapon and armour to him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Art Sansom's The Born Loser had the title character, Brutus Thornapple, confronted by a man who asked if he had change for a seven dollar bill. Brutus gives him two ones and a five. Only after the quick change artist has left does Brutus, with seven dollar bill in hand, realize what happened.

  • An old Abbott and Costello routine does a variation relying on Abbott's fast talk and Costello's stupidity. "Could you give me two 10s for a five?"
    • As a variant, Abbott gets a few dollars off of Costello by counting 10 dollars in a non-standard fashion.
      Abbott: All right, all right, I owe you $10, right?
      Costello: Yeah, that's right.
      Abbott: Right. 1, 2, 3. Say, how long were you in the Navy?
      Costello: Six years.
      Abbott: Six years! Well done you, six years. 7, 8, 9, 10.
      [Costello tries it a moment later, but has trouble when the mark has been in the Navy 90 days.]
  • In The Marx Brothers' film Go West (1940), S. Quentin Quale (Groucho) meets up with Joseph and Rusty Panello (played by Chico and Harpo), with Quale needing $10 more to afford a $70 train ticket, so he gets talked into selling Rusty a beaverskin hat for $1 instead of $10, and Joseph points out that Rusty gave him a $10 bill, so he has $9 change coming back. Rusty secretly fishes his original $10 bill out of Quale's pocket, and buys a fur skin for $1, handing him the same $10 bill with $9 change coming from Quale, who has $18 less from the change he gave Rusty. By the time Quale starts getting wise, Rusty offers to give him back $1, only to find that he gave Quale a $10 with $9 change coming back, and they pretend that they didn't get their money, with Rusty putting his hand in front of his brother's and offering the $10 as a $1, getting $27 more from the transaction at Quale's expense.
  • Demonstrated in great detail in the film Mercy Streets. Particularly strange because Mercy Streets basically exists to be mild Christian propaganda; one would think the filmmakers would have been a little more concerned about showing easily-imitable criminal acts.
  • The film The Grifters has an example of the third type of con. Roy holds up a $20 bill but actually pays with a $10 bill. However the next time Roy tries this the recipient is wise to the scam, and hits Roy inflicting serious internal injury.
  • Juan does this trick at the beginning of Nine Queens. After succeeding, he tries again at the same shop with a different cashier, only minutes later. Naturally, he is recognized and exposed.
  • Done several times in Paper Moon, such as when Moses purchases ribbons for Addie and rapid-talks the befuddled clerk out of several dollars.

  • In the novel American Gods, Mr. Wednesday casually pulls a variant of this, involving a credit card as well as cash, on a gas-station attendant. The exact details aren't mentioned, however: Neil Gaiman once stated in an interview that he'd deliberately tried to obfuscate the details of the cons used in the book, to prevent anybody from trying to replicate them in real life. Didn't actually work, though. One of the bigger cons in the book (which was explained, after the fact) was successfully replicated by a Canadian fan, who walked away with more than $6,000...
  • The Howdunit series of writers' help books had "Pros and Cons", which details this con (among others.)
  • Frank Abagnale, Jr.'s, book The Art of the Steal, details the con, with pictures, to warn people what to look out for.
  • The novel Matchstick Men uses the change con during a sequence where Roy is teaching his newly met daughter Angela how to con people. Note that this scene was omitted in the film adaptation.

    Live Action Television 
  • Cheers: Harry the Hat uses this as a Short Con on Coach in Season 1 episode "Sam at Eleven". Asking Coach to break a $20 into 20 $1 bills, Harry casually mentions other numbers while Coach is counting out the change so he gets much more than $20 back.
  • Done with a twist in CSI- Hypnosis is used, and the teller ends up making change for a $20 — using $50s.
  • Done every which way in Hustle; whenever they pay for their drinks the barman is going to be left with less money than he started with. And he knows this, and still can't work out how it happens.
    • The Real Hustle demonstrates how to make it work in real life, usually on store cashiers, and how not to fall for it.
  • Inadvertantly Inverted on Late Night With David Letterman where Larry "Bud" Melman is sent out in a silly costume to get two fives for a ten and, getting himself confused, goes around offering two tens for a five.
  • Sygney Andrews attempts this in an episode of the original Melrose Place.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook The Complete Thief's Handbook. The end of Chapter 6 had a story that illustrated the second type of con, which they called the "short-change swindle".

    Western Animation 
  • In the South Park episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die", the titular Tenorman pulls this one on Cartman. Tenorman really pays for it later.
  • Hanna-Barbera's Hokey Wolf. The title character pulled this trick on a chuck wagon cook who has just baked some pies. After Hokey dresses up as an American Indian:
    Hokey: Hows about us make 'um trade?
    Cook: What kind of trade, Injun?
    Hokey: Well, take your delicious home made pie for instance.
    Cook: [snip] What about my delicious homemade pie?
    Hokey: [Takes the pie] Wouldn't you say it's worth a can of your home made beans? [pulls a can of beans out of the cook's cupboard]
    Cook: Sure it is!
    Hokey: Fine, sir, fine! [Hands him the can of beans and grabs another can of beans out of the cupboard] Isn't two cans of beans worth a sack of your flour?
    Cook: I guess so.
    Hokey: [Hands him the 2nd can of beans and grabs a sack of flour out of the cupboard] Then I'll trade you this entire sack of flour for two measly pies.
    Cook: You mean I gets my flour and my beans for only two of my measly delicious home made pies?
    Hokey: Right sir, exactly. Ooh, you certainly drive a hard bargain sir!
    Cook: [Laughs while running away] I sure got the best of that Injun! I have my beans and my flour back, and it only cost me [slams to a stop, outraged] TWO OF MY OWN PIES!

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, obviously. It will happen at least once to every person who works with both money and the public.
    • A friend of Penn & Teller shows you how it's done.
    • Banks have avoiding this trope as part of their teller training. If Teller tries this on a teller, all bets are off.
    • The ten for a five variant is especially popular in Canada, due to how similar the current iterations of the bills look. In general though, it would be harder than in America to pull off a Quick Change based on visual confusion alone, as Canadian bills are all different colors and have the numbers in much larger print.
    • Similarly, the ten for a five bill switch variant would be extremely difficult to accomplish in Australia where every paper bill is a significantly different colour (violet for $5, blue for $10, red for $20, yellow for $50 and green for $100).
    • Not Always Right has a number of variants, the biggest example being probably this
  • An unintentional variant is known to happen when English merchants deal with the unusual, but extant Scottish one-pound note; they habitually think it's the smallest paper denomination that exists in English, five pounds, and give change accordingly.
  • One variant involves two con men working as a team: One will pay for a relatively inexpensive item with a high denomination bill. Afterwards the other one will go in and buy something with a smaller bill, but insist they paid with a higher one, often describing a note or doodle that will appear on the top bill of its type in the register, the first con man having drawn it himself and showing or telling the other what it was.


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