Today's the fateful day. After hundreds of years of faithful service, the penny is being sent into forcible retirement. Or killed off, if you like.
The move was announced in last year's budget as a - ahem - penny-pinching measure by the Federal government to help bring Canada's fiscal picture into balance. No more pennies means an annual savings of $11 million to the treasury, considering that it cost 1.6 cents for every one cent piece minted. Still, what we will save in pennies is about to cost us in headaches.
Now if you're one of those people that pays for everything with plastic, and by that I mean debit or credit card and not the new polymer bills, stay calm and carry on. But for the rest of us who still enjoy the use of cash for at least some of our daily transactions, no more pennies means rounding up, or down, to the nearest nickel. And if you think there's any kind of consistency on that point, you must think that we, and our government, live in a world where logic and reason are as omnipresent as air and water.
But since we don't, the Royal Canadian Mint as offered a simple outline for retailers to deal with all that pocket change. Basically, if the amount ends in 1, 2, 6, or 7 cents, you round down to the nearest nickel, but if the amount ends 3, 4, 8, or 9 cents you round up to the nearest nickel. Can you keep that straight? Good luck to the poor kid manning the register at Timmies and starring down a long like full of people angrily wanting their morning coffee.
Of course, this being a consumer-driven market, victory goes to the ones who can make the headache pain seem less painful. To wit, Home Depot is rounding down all cash purchases to the nearest nickel, a move that will win them laurels with costumers who will then turn around and hand out daggers to others who follow the Mint standard. And do you know why? According to Home Depot's own numbers, about 80 per cent of people didn't know this change was coming. Surprised? As much as I'd like to cynically say that nothing surprises me anymore, this level of ignorance in the wake of a paradigm shift like no more pennies, is a bit shocking.
And to small businesses, whom the Conservative government claims to be no better friend to, how will this play havoc with their bottom line? "A penny saved is a penny earned," but how does one quantify the extra time trying to figure out which of those pennies were saved the customer by winding down, and which were earned by the business in winding up? Is there a presumption that between the two, it will all come out balanced in the wash, so to speak? Obviously people running their own business aren't going to be so footloose with their own bookkeeping, and everybody loves math, right?
But maybe this day was inevitable. The penny's time was come and gone in terms of being vital currency. Once you could buy things with a penny, or a few pennies, but now you can't even buy the penny candy for a single cent. It is the way things go. We no longer get milk delivered door-to-door, there's no such thing as the evening edition of the newspaper anymore, and many of us don't even watch TV on TV these days. In this modern 21st century world, perhaps a penny is just worthless.
Rest in Peace The Penny. A viewing will take place in the spot right next to my framed $2 bill.