Do You Want Your Penny?

As I was paying for my breakfast of cereal and juice, the checkout clerk pushed some buttons and announced the price: $2.09. I handed her a $10 and she started counting out my change. “Do you want your penny?” she asked. No, I didn’t. I already have pennies in my desk drawer that I’ll probably never spend.

I barely gave up anything. Just a penny. In fact, even if I were to lose a penny at every transaction where the change would include a single penny, what would I lose in a year? Maybe 50 cents? Even at ten times that, it’s no big deal.

Now look at it from the merchant’s viewpoint. Rather than having just a couple transactions per day, the cafeteria has hundreds or even thousands. What if they profited an extra penny on some of the transactions? That could add up.

Or not — let’s run some numbers. Let’s assume 1000 transactions of which 20% would give a single penny in change. That’s only $2. Or $10 a week, $50 a year.

Okay, so it’s not a lot of money. Would she have asked if I was to receive two pennies in change? Running the numbers again, let’s assume 1000 transactions, 20% would give a single penny and 20% would give two pennies. That’s $6 a day, $30 a week, and $150 a year.

I wasn’t offended by the question. In fact, it made me smile, then it made me think (and then blog). However, if a customer were offended, then the potential penny or two wouldn’t be worth the risk.

What do you think? Would you be offended if a merchant asked whether you wanted your pennies? Do you think it’s worth the risk for a merchant to ask?

One more question, what would you think if the merchant rounded up your change to the nearest nickel? Would your increased “love” be worth the extra few cents?

Author: Brent Logan

Engineer. Lawyer. WordPress geek. Longboarder. Blood donor. Photographer. More about Brent.

2 thoughts on “Do You Want Your Penny?”

  1. If the merchants rounded down to the nearest 5 cents and removed the copper from their cash drawers, the labor savings – counting each transaction and end of day, coin stocking, etc. might significantly reduce or even eliminate the lost income. Additionally, eliminate the penny and be green . . .

  2. Apparently, it costs more to make pennies and nickels than their face values.

    I agree we should abandon the penny. I also think we should quit printing dollar bills, transitioning to the dollar coin and add a two or five dollar coin.

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