On Feb. 4, the federal government stopped circulating new pennies.
It costs more to produce the coins than they’re worth: about 1.6 cents for every piece. And with a growing number of people storing them in jars and sock drawers at home, many weren’t being kept in circulation, anyway. Phasing out the penny is expected to save taxpayers about $11 million a year.
It will also shorten the amount of time people spend waiting at the cash register.
“Anything that reduces complexity at the till is a good thing,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.
Counting pennies, after all, adds time to transactions, and the change will just make it easier for the person behind the cash register to focus on serving the customer, he said.
The government isn’t mandating how businesses respond. Pennies are still legal tender and can be used to pay for items. So the coins will still be floating around; there just won’t be new ones being made.
The difference will come in what customers end up paying. For final prices that end in 1s and 2s, the government suggests businesses round down to the dime. For prices ending in 6s and 7s, businesses should round down to the nickel. Businesses should round up to the nickel for prices ending in 3s and 4s and up to the dime for prices ending in 8s and 9s.
These changes only apply to total prices of all items, not individual items. And it will only affect cash payments, not those done by credit or debit cards.
Some Whitehorse businesses have been practising this for months.
At Tags Food & Gas on Fourth Avenue, they’ve been rounding since the fall, said manager John MacLeod.
“They’re kind of a nuisance,” he said of pennies on Wednesday afternoon as he re-stocked a drink cooler. “A lot of people don’t want them.”
Cathy Isaac, the owner of Bearpaw Music and Gifts on Third Avenue, agreed.
She was glad when she heard the penny was being taken out of circulation, she said. Pennies just added more clutter to her cash register. Isaac plans on rolling her pennies and taking them to the bank, she said. She’s been rounding her prices up and down for the last year or so.
“Nobody even says anything,” she said of customers’ reaction.
With so many people making payments through debit or credit cards, businesses may not end up losing much money.
“Nobody carries money anymore,” said MacLeod.
And it shouldn’t be that hard for businesses to go in and make changes in their electronic systems, said Karp. Franchises will probably give directions to their workers about what to do, he said.
At Knit Now on Third Avenue, little will be different. Owner Marney Mitchell plans to keep giving out pennies and carrying on as usual. She doesn’t have a computer system, so she won’t have to make any changes that way.
Mitchell wonders how the change will influence common sayings and practises. “What are we going to give people for good luck?” she asked. “All these little sayings are going to be irrelevant.”
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