EDITORIAL: Penny pinching creates challenges

Monday was the end for the penny.

That’s when the Royal Canadian Mint stopped shipping the humble copper-coloured coin to businesses and banks. Until then, the mint was essentially cleaning out its stockpile, as it hasn’t manufactured new pennies since last May.

Of course it will likely take years for the penny to disappear from circulation altogether, given the millions squirreled away in drawers and tin cans, savings for a rainy day’s small indulgences.

The mint says eliminating the penny will save $11 million a year.

But as with most things touched by government or its agencies, what one hand giveth, the other taketh away.

Businesses large and small will have to bear the cost of adjusting their pricing labels and cash registers to reflect the new penniless reality by rounding cash transactions up or down to the nearest nickel. For chains with retail outlets across the country, that could run to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For a mom-and-pop corner store, the expense of getting a technician to reprogram their cash register will likely rank pretty low on their priority list.

Some retailers say they’ll round up, others will round down. Some will leave it to the discretion of their cashiers.

For consumers standing in the checkout line, cash in hand, it’s likely to be a confusing time. A recent poll by Home Depot Canada found 88 per cent of them don’t know the penny is disappearing and 41 per cent have no idea how retailers are going to make pricing adjustments.

Oh, and don’t get too used to rounding transactions to the nearest nickel. One MP says he plans to introduce a private motion to eliminate it next, followed by the quarter, to re-jig Canada’s currency to multiples of 10.

— Burnaby NewsLeader



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