Earlier today, I purchased a one-gallon jug of spring water from a local convenience store. The total came to $1.29. I handed over $1.30, then silently waited for my single penny to be returned. It never came. Apparently the clerk was unaware of the optional “courtesy thank you” that a customer can say that means “keep the change”. I didn’t give the “courtesy thank you” on this particular visit, and it took me a minute to realize that I wasn’t getting my penny back. And that was OK. I turned and walked out with my jug of water that I had just paid $1.30 for.
I didn’t mind not getting the penny back — in fact, the more I thought about it, the more I was probably better off without it. It would’ve weighed my pockets down, eventually rolling around the dryer. You see, I hate pennies.
The penny’s worth has reached such a horrible low, that I’ve stopped bending over to pick them up. If I mistakenly drop a penny, I’ll pause for second to consider the effort that’s involved in picking it up, then realize that the amount of time I’ve spent contemplating its retrieval has probably already surpassed the value of the penny itself. So on the ground it stays. Someone else will pick it up, eventually. Or will they? I’m sure I’m not alone.
To complicate matters, nothing costs $1.30, or $1.35. I always get a kick out of stores that price things in seemingly awkward amounts like “$3.81″. It’s only when the sales tax is added (5% in this case) at the register that you realize the brilliance of “even pricing”, where the awkward price + tax = an even dollar amount. No need for any additional exchange. These store owners are smart store owners — and likely the type of people that won’t bend over for pennies either.
There are, however, those that still believe in pennies. A few weeks ago, I bought a sandwich and lemonade at a local cafe. I always order the same thing, and know that the total comes to $7.01. The cafe never charges me the $.01, simply giving me back $3 in change for a $10 bill. But this partcular day, the cashier asked, “do you have a penny?”. I went through the motion of checking my pockets, knowing full well that I didn’t have one. I may have had one earlier, but I probably had dropped it and quickly moved on. “No”, I said. “Oh, no problem! Don’t worry about it!”. Good. She didn’t mind and, like usual, I’ll get three dollar bills back. But instead, I got a fistful of coins. 99 cents in change.
Unfortunately, the little plastic “Give a Penny, Take a Penny” dish was absent from the counter at the cafe. For those that aren’t familiar, this little plastic dish is a place where fellow penny haters can leave their unwanted coinage for those that run into the aforementioned $7.01 predicament. It’s a community penny repository — not to be confused with the nearby “tip jar” (another story for another entry).
My point: will the penny ever be phased out? A friend of mine thinks not — not unless the tax structure changes as well. But with inflation continuing to rise, change seems certain.