Who Cares About Pennies When There’s Candy?

In Argentina, buying a pack of gum can throw you into a standoff with the cashier, who, due to the country’s coin shortage, often lacks the correct change.

Facing similar problems, nearby Paraguay has adopted a socially acceptable solution for vendors: when you don’t have change or need to round up, candy is acceptable currency.

If Americans place as much value on Jolly Ranchers or Skittles as on pennies, could this practice assuage those who fear being ripped off in a penniless society?

But this form of currency already posed a problem in Indonesia, when an Australian expat tried to pay for his groceries with a wallet-full of candy.

(Hat tip: James B.C.)

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  1. Craig says:

    I am sure someone else has suggested this before, but why can’t we let the market work for pennies and nickels? Why don’t we change the laws such that the Mint can sell pennies and nickels to banks at a price that reflects the full production cost of the pennies and nickels? If banks want pennies and nickels, they will pay the higher price. We should also allow banks to sell pennies and nickels to their customers at whatever price they want. Of course, we should also allow stores to do the same thing. Thus, if there is sufficient demand for news pennies and nickels, the Mint will produce them. If not, then we can save millions in production costs.

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  2. Brian says:

    I don’t understand the obsession of people who would feel “ripped off” if the penny went away and merchants rounded prices upwards.

    If it’s such a big deal to you that your 99-cent soda pop suddenly costs one dollar, get back in your car and drive a mile (using 10 cents in gasoline) to a store that will sell it to you for 95 cents.

    Or choose not purchase it at all.

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  3. Susan Donovan says:

    This would just make people fat.

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  4. TT says:

    As much as I hate dealing with penny’s, it is better than the alternative of being ripped off at least 4 cents for every purchase.


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  5. AaronS says:

    Well, when you think about it, grocery stores are “buying” our money by giving us food. And car dealers are “buying” our money by giving us a car. And cable companies are “buying” our money by offering premium channels, etc.

    So, really, when it comes down to it, virtually everything is a form of money–we just tend to define money as coins or legal tender. In truth, I am no more buying groceries than the grocery story is buying my money.

    After all, I wouldn’t buy it if I didn’t think it was worth it…and they wouldn’t sell it to me for less than it was worth. So we have an equal exchange.

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  6. Ken Spink says:

    The Army and Air Force Exchange System (AAFES), which during the mid-eighties Reagan heydays of US military strength was America’s fifth-largest retailer, has done away with pennies for a couple of decades, rounding off change to the nearest nickel unless the customer pays with plastic. Military families sometimes grumble about it but it works.
    Of course, overseas military families are used to being guinea pigs for Federal monetary experiments. I remember being stationed in Germany in the mid-eighties when all paper dollar bills in the US military banking system were replaced with a dump of the domestically unpopular Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. The military had to discontinue the practice when German banks refused to accept the Susan B. for currency conversions.

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  7. Brett Dunbar says:

    Regarding rounding, the reason for charging 99? rather the $1 was a security measure rather than marketing. It ensured that the transaction would go through the till by require change to be made for virtually every purchase. Retaining this would require rounding down prices.

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  8. Wesley says:

    Candy as a substitute for 0.10 yuan change is common in the part of China where I live.

    But it’s about as equally common for supermarkets to round your change up by 0.10 yuan if that would allow them to make change without candy.


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