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It has been a while now since the cash register machines were introduced to businesses. Once resisted and despised by many, now this small machine is part of doing business.
Although the penalty for failing to produce a receipt by a business owner to customers is pretty big, some jail time to be exact, it is not at all uncommon to see a lot of establishments doing just that.
Case in point, I was in a café a couple of weeks ago to get some breakfast with a friend of mine. After the eating and drinking was done, we asked for the bill. The waitress came over and just told us how much we owed with out providing a legal receipt.
Most people I have seen just pay what they are told and leave with out asking for the receipt. But I always find it fascinating when establishments fail to do that because the consequence is supposed to be harsh.
So I call back the waitress and ask her to give me receipt and she went on to get it very hesitantly. It was like I asked for something I was not suppose to ask for. When she came back with the receipt, I ask her if she knew what the penalty was for establishments not providing the appropriate receipt to their customers, she just shrugged her shoulders and left.
This happens in many places. In some establishments they do it due to pure negligence and in others they do it to make more money and evade tax. Either way, with an issue as serious as tax, I still don’t understand how businesses get away with doing it.
In some places, they flat out just don’t give you receipts, or they make you wait for it for so long that you get fed up and just pay and leave. How do they manage to do this with such confidence? Clearly the law applies to everybody, so how is it that they continue to function and flourish as they do? Yes, I smell corruption.
In one of my favorite books “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, it says “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” and that is absolutely true. Where corruption is the judge and jury, not all people will be treated equally under the law; those with deep pockets are more equal than others. And that seems to be the reason with the case of the receipt.
I’m sure the government is doing all it can to decrease or eradicate corruption; we have all seen the billboards around the city, the TV/radio ads condemning it. It has also been a topic of discussion by government officials and the crackdow on the corrupt has been pretty intense during the last year with some high profile arrests.
Through all that though, corruption remains a huge part of everyday life in the society. Maybe that is why not issuing a legal receipt, although punishable by years in prison, is not a big deal for some business owners.
Corruption eats away at the system that is meant to protect everybody equally. Instead of providing equal opportunity and the same fair share of hardship, the corrupted system only follows the money while staying blind to the law.
Unfortunately, corruption is a very hard thing to remove from societies. Especially in those where there is a huge gap between the poor and the rich, and barley a middle class. But nothing is impossible and in time, maybe Ethiopia will free itself from this bondage and we will leave in a place where one gets a receipt with out having to ask for it twice or more.