Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pennies - A royal pain

If you are new to America, the first thing that catches your attention when you are visiting a friend's house is a mountain of ancient coins. It could be anywhere, though more often than not in a prominent location in the living room. In a cover or in a bowl. Your curiosity is aroused. As you move in for a closer look, wondering if your friends are hardcore numismatists or have struck treasure of some kind, you see "1 cent" written boldly across the centre of a coin in the pile and realisation strikes.. Pennies!

Before we move on let me tell you what I think of pennies.

I THINK PENNIES ARE A ROYAL PAIN IN THE ..... In keeping with the tradition of this blog, I will steer clear from profanity and resist my urge to use an expletive here. But you get my point. Quite literally, in fact. I should know. Everyday, I squirm around in my chair cursing the ten odd pennies I've forgotten to remove from my wallet the previous night. Every night I find a new hole in my pant pockets courtesy the same pennies, that I had moved from my wallet to my pockets after violent protests from my err.. behind. Now don't get me wrong. I am not a coward who shirks at the very mention of pain or discomfort. I would gladly go through a lot of pain for a worthy cause but for something I consider to rank among the top 10 of all useless things in the world.. I REFUSE.

America is supposed to be the richest country in the world. Looking at the number of pennies being passed around, you would think she is a nation of beggars. Quite frankly, even beggars would have no use for pennies and I'm sure they have their own unusable collections of pennies stashed away. The onus is on the word "unusable". If all the unused pennies in America were melted we would have enough metal to lay a railway track from Los Angeles to New York.

At the current exchange rate, 1 cent would translate to ~40 paise. For ~2 cents in India, you could get ONE banana. In the US however for 2 cents you would get ZERO bananas. In fact, zero of everything. You would need ~20 cents to buy a banana. And I really can't think of anything much cheaper than that. I'm sure you will agree with me that any sane person would prefer to pay in a higher currency than carry around 20 coins. Lest there be any doubt, let me also state that I am as sane as my next door neighbor(Who is quite sane, let me assure you). So the coins in my wallet/pocket are dumped on my desk. I pay for a banana or anything else for that matter in a higher currency say quarters or dollars. What do I get in return? More pennies!!! grrrr... The height of the mountain on my desk is still rising. I'm afraid it will touch the ceiling before I graduate.

In the highly unlikely event that an American Senator or Congressman reads this post and decides to do something drastic like propose a bill abolishing pennies, he couldn't. Why couldn't he? Because of the abominable practice of pricing items in the following fashion:
Gas (1 gallon): 1$ 99c or after the recent increase 2$ 47c
Milk (1 gallon): 1$ 59c
Bananas (1 pound): 59c
Tomatoes (1 pound): 99c
Items on restaurant menu: 2$ 99c to 19$ 99c (but not a single round figure)

Note that every transaction REQUIRES that you get 'useless' pennies back. Do marketers seriously think that consumers are fooled by this "psychological pricing" gimmick? Do they really think that people would think of a 9$ 99c purchase costing them in the range of 9$ and not 10$. And by any chance do such people exist? If so, in which country? I would like to settle there and replace Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.

I thank the stars for the widespread use of credit/debit cards, for in their absence, utter chaos would reign in the United States; caused not by hurricanes "Rita" or "Katrina" but the force generated by continuously passing pennies back and forth.

What prompted this post:A few months ago, a friend of mine, Sunil, left UNH to study at a university in Florida. He left me some stuff that he thought I could use. I was rummaging through them today and found this polythene bag filled with pennies!!! With friends like him, who needs enemies?

If any resident of America reading this post would like to claim that she/he has never been in possession of more than a hundred pennies at some point in time, please post a comment with your contact information. I would like to set up an appointment with you for I have never had the privilege of meeting an insane person.

I'm attaching a picture of the pile of pennies on my desk for added emphasis...


20 comments:

vibha said...

Nice post Leon.
hey i found a simpler solution. i always use my debit card for any purchase. i dont have interesting friends.. :p
I used to curse Bata shoe prices (India)... 999Rs, 599Rs etc. Now i feel 1 Rupee or even 25p has more value. At least the bus conductors will be happy.

Ms. V said...

Hehehehehehe! That's it? That's all the pennies you have? The Canadians obviously have to ape the Americans on every front, so yeah, we have pennies too. Same dirty colour and everything. And I've probably got four times the amount of coins in that pic. I've actually started carrying pennies on me. And when I go to Walmart, I pay them 2 dollars in pennies. Hee hee. Spread the irritation around :D

Camphor said...

Unfortunately I don't even use buses! I have a mountain of 1 rupee, 2 rupee and 5 rupee coins. And like ms. v... I pay auto drivers, clothing stores, fast food, you name it in chiller.

Even paid for a 187 rupee dinner once. It is SO fun to see that waiter's face when you empty out that bag of coins and count it out, precisely. lol. I was vetti that day, and it was my treat besides. So here we were, with big grins on our faces, counting, recounting, and counting JUST one more time to make sure that we gave him 187.25 Rs. No tip (hey, students, and besides, service was shoddy. He deserved that pain :D )

Geo said...

Informative :_)

Even I had this doubt - why all these bloody sites quote prices in these god forsaken denominations...

Nice post

Leon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Camphor said...

Leon ~ I'd be really grateful if you didn't use my RL name on your blog. I work rather hard to keep it from all and sundry (and you aren't in that category anymore) I'd love to hear from where you ferreted that out - if my comments are actually sending out my real email address, then I need to to change that...

lol, you know, there is this auntie I know who had stacks of one rupee notes - we stopped printing them about ten years or so back - so she can give notes rather than coins at her son's wedding. Long range planning, that. And another who has a bag full of one paise coins for her first grandson's naming ceremony. Sometimes I wonder...

:D Wonderful that you know what vetti is. One guy who flaunts being vetti online is: navin

Treat becuase the other person had no money. I'm not nice neough to treat peopel o lunches or dinners. We'd decided to walk to the city and we had no option but to pay in chiller, because we didn't have notes. That lack of notes was supposed *ahem* to stop us from impulse spending. :D

I know the tip scenario there. :) It is worth it to part time wait. :) And what do they do if you did NOT leave the correct percentage?

silverine said...

he he looks likes a lot of bad pennies turning up in your life :)) Funny account this ...of penny pinching your er....behind ;)

Leon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Leon said...

[Silverine] I'm soooo glad to hear that my sore behind makes you want to laugh.. grrr..

Sugee said...

A very thoughtful post reminds me of those days when bata "Shoe company " was in vogue for its prices Rs.99.99 or Rs299.99...
Thanks for commenting my post i love cadbury chocolates too my favourite is the "almonds" Temptation.. Ummmm I wanna have one now, will keep coming...

Navin said...

my 2 cents on it :)..:
1. Poor Lincoln (Abraham Lingam)
2. In God We Trust...:)
There have been 100s of banking scams with pennies. One famous one is the rounding off. Your money is rounded off to the nearest penny by the bank. If they rounded off to the dollar, the amount they get from America's Credit Card Interest would be more than a million dollars per day. The Copperheads are useful leon. If not for them, many kids would not have given away their copper collection as donation to the aftermath of Hurricane Rita or Katrina. Donation in dollars is not possible from kids. If not for a penny then there would be a lot of phrases in the American Lingo...
Not a penny worth...
If I remember James Bond then I also remember MONEYPENNY...
Pain or not penny is more important than we think they are :)...thanks for visiting my blog..:) after being advertized by camphor ( I did not even pay her a penny)...and yes do try spyware sweeper...trail version free for 14 days...and its good.

Divya said...

I had a whole bunch of them myself... just when i began to wonder if i should donate those pennies to be of some use to tamil movie makers to shoot a dream scene where the hero/heroine/villan/comedian would be showered with money.. an organisation called AID(Association for India's Development) provided the solution... they were actually collecting PENNIES from any1 who was willing to part with them to help in many of the projects that they have undertaken.... SO I AM HAPPY THAT MY PENNIES WERE PUT TO BETTER USE!!!

Leon said...

[Vibha] Thanks.. Let me stress that this problem exists even with the large scale use of credit/debit cards. Imagine what would happen if everyone had to use cash all the time!


[Vids] Actually some of the coins in that pic are canadian.

I should've been there to see the look on the face of the salesperson in Walmart when you handed in 200 pennies.. hehe

Btw, I mentioned that even Beggars have no use for pennies. But you seem to. So what does that make you?.. :p


[Camphor] Believe me, pennies are more useless than coins of any denomination in India.. It's like having 1 paise coins NOW...

Aren't we bloggers vetti always? :D.. (yay! I know the meaning of 'vetti'.. :p). What was the treat for? Do I qualify? :p

As regards your mention of a tip.. that is a whole blog post. Here you HAVE to tip: student or no student. In fact the waiters/waitresses often count to see if you've left them the right percentage!!


[Geo] Thanks.. :-)

I didn't either.. but now, I understand the reason for the 'god forsaken denominations'.. Only I think it's a damned stupid reason.. lol.

Leon said...

[Camphor] All appellation related stuff in your email...

Oh.. I know about the superstitious money giving practice.. Giving 1001 Rs as a gift.. :D.. I would prefer 1313 Rs.. ;-)

Checked out navin's blog.. and outside of the 'vetti' part.. his spyware post made a lot of sense.. *hint* *hint*.. lol.

Perhaps you'd be 'nicer' when you have a job and income of your own.. :p

Several things could happen if you don't leave the right percentage.
1) You could be at the receiving end of a petrifying stare.
2) You may be forced to listen to a very sarcastic comment about your miserly nature.
3) You may be asked if "you are sure you have made the right calculation"!

And yes.. 3) has happened to some people I know.. :D


[Sugee] Thanks.. yeah.. psychological pricing is everywhere.. Umm.. I normally go for a 'standard' dairy milk but I would have no problems if I were gifted with a 'nuts' version... hehe.


[Navin] Thanks.. your '2 cents' were actually worth much more than that.. :-)

I think we'd just have other expressions in the abscence of pennies.. For instance assume that dimes were the lowest form of currency..

"My two dimes on the subject", "Not a dime's worth", "Not a dime more not a dime less" (you missed that one.. hehe) And I'm sure children could have collected in dimes if not in quarters or dollars.

As for scams, there might actually have been lesser of them.. :D.

I'll be sure to try the software you mentioned.. thanks.


[Divya]
//dream scene where the hero/heroine/villan/comedian would be showered with money.. ROTFL.. But it has happened before.. Only they wouldn't be happy being showered with pennies. They would need 100$ notes.. ;-)
Eh.. really glad to hear about AID. Why don't you send them over to my place? :p

Anonymous said...

navin rocks. And if he saw me saying that, then I'll deny ever saying it. :D See, it isn't even signed in as me.

Terrible fate indeed, the day someone questions my math abilities, I will take a plunge off the nearest cliff (Thank god no cliffs around!) :D

butting into your conversation with navin - anti-pennism might be "penny wise pound foolish" - the denomination will change. Big deal. You'll have a mountain nickles or a sea of dimes. Does it matter what it is, since the scams will still be there, the sores will still be there and the collection will still be there.

- camphor

Leon said...

Sure coins of all denominations pile up but none as fast or as permanently as pennies do.. Once I collect a sizeable quantity of dimes, I can just go buy something from a vending machine..

The same in india.. I always manage to get rid of the 50 paise coins sooner or later. It doesn't KEEP accumulating.. :-).

shrik said...

Oh thy of the double standards! First you say you want your blog to steer clear of profanity, and then you go ahead and devote an entire post to how your pants are filled with pennies...

I might have to agree with you, though, if you choose to point out that anatomical references are NOT prafanity. But then again, I might not!

Leon said...

Hey.. Shrik.. I hate to quibble over details but..

[1] The entire post does not talk about my pants being filled with pennies.. It talks about the total uselessness of pennies.. :p

[2] In case you didn't know, pants are NOT part of our anatomy.. :p

[3] Certain anatomical references ARE profane but "behind" is not.. (At least not on this blog).. Other synonyms for the same word might be considered profanity though.. (in case you were thinking of using some.. ;-))

I hope that clarifies the issue. :D

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Anonymous said...

Do your research bro!
http://www.pennies.org/research.html