I shelled out the most I’ve ever paid for a tank of gasoline last weekend in Minneapolis; $3.99.9 a gallon. How stupid do they think we are, to fall for that old penny pricing trick? “Yah, it’s high alright but at least it hasn’t gotten up to four bucks yet.” Although I admit I once tried to talk Linda into letting me buy a new HDTV by telling her it was only $999.99 instead of a thousand. She didn’t buy it..nor did I.
I really think it’s time to do away with pennies in our U.S. currency.
You never have one when you need one at the store; then end up with a bunch of them you don’t want from all the change you get back. Oh, sure, lots of retail places have a little dish of pennies by the check-out stand for customers to use but it’s usually empty by the time I’m there so when the clerk says “That’ll be $4.01 sir,” I end up leaving the place a half pound heavier because of all the change in my pocket. Sometimes I’ll be three or four cents short and, even if there are pennies in the dish, I feel guilty about taking more than one or two…especially if they’re the LAST two.
No…I say it’s time to round all prices off to the nearest nickel. It seems to me that stores would still come out about the same and people would certainly be less stressed out not having to scramble for pennies all the time. Or, worse yet, be standing BEHIND someone in line who won’t give up until they find that penny they know is buried somewhere in their pocket or purse.
Pennies lost their luster a long time ago when we first decided it was more trouble than it was worth to bend over and pick one up off the street.
Although I must admit, they once proved to be a real blessing when I worked full time at Keloland. Years ago, one of our guest cooks on Monday Menu left an empty two gallon glass jug in the studio. When I showed up for work the next day, somebody had put that jar on the corner of my desk with a little note that said “Doug Lund’s retirement fund, pennies only.” There were even a few coins inside to prime the pump. I decided that rather than take offence I’d play along promising that once the jug was full of pennies, I’d cash them in and buy pizza for everybody in the newsroom.
Before long my desk became like a toll booth as co-workers walked by and unloaded their pennies; often by the handful. After every donation I got into the habit of saying, “God bless you.” It was fun watching the pot grow and speculating as to how much money was in there. But then Steve Hemmingsen would show up, give the jar a shake, which settled the coins way down, then he’d walk off laughing. Eventually, though, after a huge donation from photographer Kevin Kjergaard and his brother, Buddha, who apparently cleaned out their dresser drawers at home, the jug was full to overflowing. Now, this was at a time when the government was talking about a penny shortage and urging people to stop hoarding them. So, I decided to make a Lund at Large report out of it and called Sioux Merchant Patrol who sent over an armed guard to accompany me, a photographer and the penny jar to Home Federal where bank employees played along as we dumped the money into the coin counter. I don’t remember the exact total but we were pleasantly surprised to find it was just over 62 dollars; more than enough to fill everybody up with pizza the next day. I thought that would be the end of it but employees kept dropping their pennies in and Hemmingsen kept torqueing contributors off with his regular settling shakes. After a couple more years and a few thousand “God Bless Yous” it was full again. This time we ordered Chinese food. We were well on our way to filling it a third time when Hemmingsen, now retired, stopped by the newsroom to say hello, drop in a few cents and just had to shake the jar for old times sake. This time, the stress was too much. The glass broke sending thousands of little coins rolling all over the floor. We found a smaller replacement jug which eventually was filled up and cashed-in for one last pizza party. Then I actually DID retire.
As I think back on those seven or eight years that the penny jar sat on my desk, I remember that it wasn’t just my workmates who donated. Senator Tom Daschle, Mayors Hanson and Munson along with a lot of other politicians and notable people who passed through the newsroom would smile, toss in a few coins and get a blessing just like everybody else. Come to think of it, maybe pennies aren’t so bad after all.