Saturday, January 14, 2006

Postage increase and a loathing of pennies

As of this past Sunday, it now costs 39 cents to mail a standard business sized envelope via the United States Postage Service. The previous rate was 37 cents.

I really do not mind postage increases. The amount we pay for first class postage is still quite a bargain compared to the rest of the industrialized world. At the current exchange rates here some other countries where it is still more expensive (see this site for current 1st class postage rates:

Great Britain0.53

What I mind about our postage increases is the bizarre ammounts. At this point, why do we have to increase the rate by a penny or two? I would much rather pay for postage in five cent increments. Maybe if the postal service would round up every increase to the nearest nickle we could keep the same postage for longer, and the service could operate in the black for longer.

All in all, I think it boils down to my loathing of pennies. When I was a kid, pennies were worth something. You could buy a piece of candy with a penny. I don't think you can buy anything with a penny any more. You have to put a few of them together before you can get anything. Does anyone know of ANYTHING you can buy for less than a nickel?

Pennies have become disposable in our society. Many people will mindlessly toss any penny change they get during a cash transaction into the (now prevalent) "penny cup" or, if one isn't apparent, into some charity collection display near the cash register. I've seen people in a hurry not wait for their change if it was only going to be a couple of pennies. In our "fast paced" society, waiting for or putting away pennies is just not worth our time.

Again, back in my childhood, I would gladly take pennies that relatives and friends of the family offered me. Periodically, I would roll the pennies and use the rolls to make significant (to a child) purchases of small toys.

My son has piles of pennies in his room. Even when he is supremely cashless, he is almost never inspired to roll the pennnies up. It takes a bucketload of pennies for him to acquire even the most inexpensive item that he is interested in. How many pennies does it take to buy a CD? [ on average: 1500 pennies - that's 30 rolls of the little suckers ]

The British offer their own version of the "penny", their "pence", in valuations of one, two, three, and four, in addition to denominations divisible by five. Maybe they have the right idea. Maybe if our wallets weren't weighed down by a hundred coins valued at one cent each, but with thirty-five or forty coins with slightly higher values, we would be more inclined to respect a few pennies worth of change. Taking such change at every transaction's end wouldn't ultimately lead some of us to seek out our chiropractor at week's end.

Alas, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Postal Service will not be listening to the likes of me. Fortunately, for the stalwart among us, there is now the ubiquitous CoinStar machine. A couple of times a year, you can gather up all the heavy, seemingly valueless, change. Put it in a sturdy plastic bucket. Take it to the grocery store with you. Stand there and slowly, laboriously feed it your treasure. Allow it to calculate it's minor commission on your booty (about 3%), and then take the proffered receipt to the check out register with you where it will be exchanged for "real money". But note, experience has taught us that it takes nearly a gallon of pennies to net you the cost of a CD. [ grin ]

1 comment:

Jenna said...

I was in England last summer, and the British don't have any more use for pence than we do. Plus, the coins are bigger, so they bulk up your wallet faster.

As far as loose change goes, don't scoff at it. We've got a big jar at home that we dump spare change into. I spent a couple hours rolling it all up last week (it's strangely calming and meditative to roll coins) and wound up with $238 in "found" money.