With every passing day, the use of debit cards, credit cards and online banking seem to become the norm as we inch closer to a cashless society. Given that certain vending machines and self-checkouts are only accepting cards now, are coins falling out of favour?
When we also consider that Canada phased out the penny four years ago and inflation has greatly diminished the purchasing power of low denomination coins, how is it that I became a magnet for people who need to unload some precious “doubloons” because their purse or pocket is getting heavy?
Don’t get me wrong, I completely sympathize and have been on the opposite side of the coin on a few occasions myself.
Given some underlying disc issues in my back that flare up from time to time, I am very much aware of the need to keep the contents of my messenger bag to a manageable weight for my travels to and from the office. If I don’t, and my spine compensates for a few extra contents by shifting a little more to the left, it could lead to neck, back or shoulder issues, which leads to an added visit or two to the chiropractor.
Trust me, I completely understand!
But what sometimes happens is that in the process of unloading their coins at the cash register, each one gets scrutinized like it just came out of a treasure chest and debates ensue as to whether each coin is a nickel or a quarter.
As my purchases start slipping from my sweaty hands, I shift my weight to the other leg to get comfortable. I feel a popping sensation in my back. Beads of sweat start forming on my brow. I need a drink of water. I need to go to the bathroom.
“Oh wait, is that a 1973 quarter with a picture of a Mountie on a horse? I collect those. I’ll keep that one.” And the triage continues.
My stomach starts growling. I remember something I should have picked up in another part of the store, but don’t want to go back and lose my place in the growing line-up.
I can appreciate that we need to stretch our money as far as it can go, and using up those pesky little coins is one way to make our dollars go further.
As for myself, I usually keep my stock of leftover coins under control by using them to buy my morning coffee at work. At a price of $1.65, there are many opportunities to use up my nickels, dimes and quarters. Also, I tend to grab the exact change before I leave the house so there is very little hunting required when I am at the checkout at the cafeteria. Plus our cashier processes our transactions at the speed of light, so I never feel responsible for holding up the line when paying with a handful of correct change.
I sometimes wonder if the coin conundrum is actually karma catching up with me. When I was in high school and university and working at your friendly neighbourhood pharmacy, I was pretty swift myself on the cash register. Given how busy it could get on Saturday afternoons or during the Christmas rush, we had to be as efficient as possible to keep the flow of customers as steady as possible. If we didn’t, the line-ups through the analgesics aisle could get pretty painful.
That being the case, when I announced the total amount like “that’ll be 12.79 please” and I could see the client pulling out a $20 bill, I’d have their change for the twenty ready long before they could say “oh, I have the 79 cents”. When they’d look up and see me with a big smile, holding their change inches away from their hand, they’d usually back down and say “Oh my, you’re quick!” Before they had time to change their mind about handing over coins, I had counted back their change, closed the drawer, torn off the receipt, loaded up their purchases in a bag and cheerfully wished them a great weekend.
In doing so, maybe I had shifted the universal ebb and flow of coinage by rushing our customers, and it’s now payback time with karma
Whether that is true or not, I think the answer is painfully obvious. With every inch we get closer to a cashless society, the opportunities to use excess coins are getting increasingly rare. In doing so, they accumulate, they get heavy, they take up space and they become an annoyance. We all feel it.
That being the case, when someone sees a shining opportunity to free themselves from the clutches of a heavy clutch purse, the patience and generosity of spirit to let those precious coins change hands is a small gesture of kindness and empathy to which we should all aspire.
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