What’s to make of the poor little penny?
Standing three-deep in the take-out line at a Southampton restaurant, I surreptitiously observe both customers ahead of me pay their bill in cash including pennies.
“Huh,” I think, “there’s something you don’t see every day: paying in cash and using pennies.”
When it’s my turn, I produce plastic.
As we’ve increasingly become a cash-free society, the penny’s use and usefulness have waned – to the point customers willingly leave them behind at the register for the next guy; deliberately step over them if spotted on the ground, and stare in amazement when detecting their use. They’re obsolete, impractical and a nuisance, say some, and it’s time the coin cash-out of circulation. Maybe. The U.S. Mint last year spent 2 cents to produce and ship each of the 5.8 billion pennies to banks. In addition, the National Association of Convenience Stores, among others, says doing away with the penny would save cashiers and their customers time at checkout.
But before we do away with the little guy, as Canada recently did, let’s consider the UaPLficaWLRnV. )RU HxaPSOH:
No longer a viable trivia question: whose face is on the penny? (Abraham Lincoln)
Lost art: learning to “make change” using the penny.
,nvaOLG: BHn )UanNOLn’V statement that “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
No longer a hobby: the “penny collection.”
DRRPHG: finGLng a “OucNy penny” isn’t. The penny couldn’t save itself, after all, right?
)RUgHW aERuW LW: “3Hnny candy” stands no chance at a comeback.
Spent saying: No one will understand or say “pennies from heaven.”
Should the penny disappear, it will mean some changes for the consumer. Retailers will need to round prices to the nearest nickel. (Since most items I see for sale end in 98 or 99 cents, you know what this means, don’t you.) While businesses state “rounding” will save time, a study by Penn State University Professor Raymond Lombra found consumers will pay a “rounding tax” of $2 billion to $4 billion over the course of two years.
I’m left wondering also what this means for Pennsylvania’s S percent sales tax? And has anyone considered the effect on the company that makes the zinc and copper blanks turned into pennies by the Mint.
On the other side of the coin is the argument the penny has outlived its usefulness; is a money pit for the U.S. Treasury, and will have no ill effect on consumers. To that end, a Wake )RUHVW 8nLvHUVLWy HcRnRPLcV study examined thousands of convenience store purchases and found consumers as a group would break even if prices are “rounded,” while the country’s economy wRuOG EHnHfiW ULGGLng LWVHOI of the coin.
But I bet you a penny it survives. That’s my 2 cents worth on the matter. Ante up and send me your thoughts.
Greg Vellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.