“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog


Change Change

One advantage of working in the university is seeing trends emerging out from the Young People. Something I’ve noticed a couple of times in the last few weeks is students in the campus shop ignoring the attempt by the cashier to give back the 1p change when they have e.g. paid for a 99p purchase using a pound coin. That is, to start walking once they have handed over the coin, and make no attempt to indicate to the cashier what to do with the change. The staff put it in the charity box.

A neat alternative to this is spreading in the US by I haven’t seen it here: a little tray of low-value coins kept on the shop counter, to which customers can add small change or remove a small number of coins to make up the fiddily last bit of a transaction.

I’m slightly surprised that when the major British coin redesign happened a year or two ago that an opportunity wasn’t taken to eliminate the 1p and 2p. It is 25 years since the decimal half-penny coin was removed from the currency system. That said, I can see that a government would be very wary of this; whilst it would probably be generally accepted, the risk of the public/media taking it as “the government doesn’t care about small amounts of money” (by contrast with “ordinary people” who do).

I have been trying to persuade myself for years that one pound is not a large amount of money; when I was a kid, not all that long ago in the greater scheme of things, it seemed like a large amount. I am determined not to gradually become paralysed into thinking that everything is overpriced, as has happened to an older generation. I think my epiphany on this occurred earlier today in the campus shop where I witnessed the aforementioned incident. I noticed that the price of an ordinary daily newspaper has reached a pound; the newspaper has always struck me as the canonical “throwaway purchase”. At last I feel a shift in intuition to match what I have felt rationally for a few years. Of course, another advantage of working in the university is getting the student discount is applied automatically, so the paper actually only cost 40p!

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