Penny poses minor inconvenience

Lindsay Jerome, of Jack’s Everything and More Store, shows off the jar of pennies that will be donated to the Vernon Salvation Army and the children’s ward at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. - Graeme Corbett/Morning Star
Lindsay Jerome, of Jack’s Everything and More Store, shows off the jar of pennies that will be donated to the Vernon Salvation Army and the children’s ward at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
— image credit: Graeme Corbett/Morning Star

You can’t pinch them anymore, you will no longer be able to rub two together, and you certainly won’t be able to sell your thoughts for one.

That’s right, the penny has finally dropped from the Royal Canadian Mint. Since Feb. 4, they are no longer in circulation.

The Morning Star caught up with a trio of retail businesses, and reached out to the social media community through its Facebook page, to gauge local reaction to the latest shakeup in the monetary system. Responses ranged from indifference to acceptance to downright irritation.

Mike Gardner, owner of Pooh’s and Bean’s Sweet Shoppe on 30th Avenue, isn’t all that comfortable with the idea of having to round up cash transactions to the nearest nickel or dime. His solution is to continue trading in pennies until the public has grown accustomed to the changes.

“It’s more of a guilty feeling when I’ve purposely got to shortchange someone,” said Gardner, who bought Pooh’s and Bean’s last summer with his wife Anny.

“I’ve got enough pennies to carry us for a while yet. So what if I give an extra two bucks away a day in pennies? It’s not a big deal.”

Gardner noted that, compared to the upcoming reversion to the PST (ironically, it happens on April Fool’s Day), losing the penny is insignificant.

“The big deal is going to be when the taxes get changed because now we’ve got to pay people to come out and reprogram our cash registers,” he said. “That’ll be the real pain in the butt.”

Daina Bull, owner of Anna’s Vitamins Plus on 27th Street, addressed the penny predicament by programming her till to handle all transactions in the same way, regardless if customers pay with cash, credit card or debit (card transactions can still be processed in cents).

“I just did all transactions to make it easier,” said Bull. “I haven’t noticed any difference. People really haven’t said anything.

“I’ve taken more flak about the new bills ($20, $50 and $100 polymer notes) than the penny disappearing. More flak about how the bills stick together, and really double-checking that you’re giving one ($20 bill) instead of two.”

Bull expects larger companies will likely have a more difficult time dealing with the disappearance of the penny.

“It probably only cost me a couple dollars to change my till, whereas bigger companies there’s more confusion and more things to train people.”

Bull has one regret about the penny’s final withdrawal: “How are we supposed to have good luck?”

Kai Tolpinrud, general manager of Jack’s Everything and More Store on the Landing Plaza, is using the penny’s retirement as a way to fundraise for local charities. He has placed a giant jug by the till so anyone can donate their unwanted pennies. Money raised will be split between the local Salvation Army and the children’s ward of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“We’re trying to get one more use out of them and raise a little money,” said Tolpinrud.

“We’ve had people come back with Ziplocs full of pennies and dump them in there. We’ll try and fill that jug three, four, fives times before we’re done.”

Like the other merchants, Tolpinrud has had to educate customers on the rounding up, rounding down process, but overall he said people haven’t kicked up much fuss. In time, he thinks it will become a non-issue.

“Change is difficult for a lot of people to handle, but can you remember when we had one- and two-dollar bills anymore? It goes pretty quick.”

Feedback from the social media landscape was a little more divided. Here are some responses from a survey posted on The Morning Star’s Facebook page:

Colleen Williams: “I think it’s a shame. First, I’m old enough to remember the value of a penny (it was worth one Mojo or a Dubble Bubble at the little store by Coldstream Elementary, where we had to line up outside the door because only two kids were allowed at a time) and it’s sad to think that we’ve come so far past that point.”

Vernon’s Kunal Chander: “No big deal with the pennies. If you’re that worried, work harder and make it an issue for yourself. You can’t change it back so just live with it.”

Shawn Young: “Good riddance. I think all forms of cash should be discontinued. It’s obvious that electronic funds will be the future method of all transactions. Let’s get on with it.”

Lumby’s Kathryn Davis: “I am still trying to figure out how to balance my till.”

Some penny facts, according to Wikipedia:

- The final penny was minted at the Royal Canadian Mint’s Winnipeg plant on of May 4, 2012. Like all discontinued currency in the Canadian monetary system, the coin remains legal tender.

- Queen Elizabeth II’s likeness has seen three design updates – in 1965, 1990 and 2003.

- The current coin has a round, smooth edge, however, from 1982 to 1996, the coin was twelve-sided to help the visually impaired identify the coin.

- The first Canadian cent was struck in 1858, had a diameter of 25.4 millimetres (one inch), a weight of 4.54 grams and comprised 95 per cent copper, four per cent tin, and one per cent zinc. The most recent version has a weight of 2.35 g, length of 19.05 mm, and contains 94 per cent steel, 1.5 per cent nickel and 4.5 per cent copper (plating).

- The cost of minting a penny is estimated at 1.6 cents.

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