Keep The Change

Question

  1. Motti asked Yossi to buy a case of wine for him at
    a shop in the center of town since they had a special offer. Yossi
    duly made the purchase, but had to take a taxi in order to deliver the
    wine to Motti’s home. He paid 172 shekels for the wine and the taxi
    added another 20 shekels to the cost. Motti took out a 200 shekel bill
    and told Yossi to "keep the change". Does keeping the change
    present a ribbis problem?

  2. On another occasion, Motti and Yossi were in the
    bookshop together. There was a special offer on some seforim (books)
    that Motti wanted. He asked for the books to be wrapped up and then
    wanted to take out his check book to pay. To his dismay, he found that
    he had left his check book (and his credit cards and cash) at home!
    Luckily, his friend, Yossi, came to the rescue and paid for the books.
    Motti went to repay the money Yossi had laid out for him. The books
    cost 95 shekels; Motti gave him a 100 shekel bill and told him to
    "keep the change". Is this permitted?


Answer

Wheat is cheaper in the countryside than in town.
Reuven lives in town and asks Shimon the merchant to buy a large quantity
of wheat for him. He agrees to pay him a fee for his work. Reuven gives
Shimon the money for buying the wheat in advance. The Shulchan Oruch
(Yoreh Deah, 173:16) rules that this arrangement is
permissible if responsibility for theft or loss rests with Reuven while
the goods are in transit. The Shach (Note 31) comments that this
condition only applies if Shimon has the use of the money intended for
purchasing the goods for some period of time. It then has the status of a
loan. Should the borrower accept liability for the goods while in transit,
this is considered a form of "payment" for the loan – and
forbidden. However, if Shimon goes directly to purchase the goods he is
merely acting as Reuven’s agent and derives no benefit from the money. It
then does not matter if Shimon takes responsibility for the goods while in
transit.

From the above we can derive a principle. When extra
money is given for extra work, it is viewed as payment for services. If a
borrower does extra work or accepts extra responsibility without receiving
the customary payment, this is considered ribbis. Similarly, if a
lender receives extra payment for extra services (not the loan), this is
permissible. If the borrower pays the lender more than he originally
received without having received extra services, this is also ribbis.

Accordingly, in case (1), Yossi did not only lay out
the money for Mottie, which is considered a loan. He also took the trouble
to buy the goods for him and arrange for them to be transported to Motti’s
home. Since Yossi clearly performed extra work for Motti, the change that
Motti asks him to keep can be legitimately be viewed as a form of payment
for this work – and not for the actual loan. There is no problem in
keeping the change. However, in case (2), all Yossi did for Motti was to
lend him money. Therefore, he is only permitted to return the exact sum he
borrowed. Any additional payment – including keeping the change – is
considered payment for the loan and is forbidden as ribbis. Yossi
must give back the change in this case. Gratitude is a good Jewish trait.
Perhaps Motti can find some other (permitted) way of showing his
appreciation. Could we also suggest that he keeps some extra cash in his
pocket to lend to others who, like him, suddenly find themselves without
liquid funds?