Luckily, I don’t have a family that embarrasses easily.
It could be because after years of living with me they’ve built up a resistance to your everyday, garden-variety mortification. But one thing that makes all of them uncomfortable is when I pay for things with change.
“What’s wrong with change?” I ask them. “Is it not legal tender?”
Lately, I’ve been forced to use change more and more as a payment for goods purchased. Totally, not my fault, by the way. It seems the American financial system hates change.
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Back in the day (two months ago), I used to periodically take all the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that collected in the kitchen “coin bowl” to one of those automated change-counting machines. And let me tell you something, nothing says living the dream like dumping two quart-sized Ziploc bags stuffed with change into the Coinstar at Walmart. I would hover in eager anticipation as the money “no one wants to use” was turned into dollars.
But then my happy coins to dollar bills metamorphosis was stymied when an almost 10 percent surcharge was levied for the privilege of counting my change. Ten percent! Talk about predatory banking practices. For sure, I get that the coin counting company has to charge something, but 10 percent is a just a little too rich for my blood. I decided to take a stand. I would no longer pay for having my change converted to dollars. I would start spending my dimes, nickels and loads and loads of pennies in an effort to share the joy of coinage.
At first, I sorted all my change into separate Ziplocs. You know, quarters in one, nickels in another, and I kept the bags in my car for easy access for paying for purchases at places like the drive-thru. This proved to be not such a great idea. Last month, I was at McDonald’s, with the windows rolled down, and loudly told my teenaged son, “Hey, grab one of those dime bags for me!”
The McDonald’s employee gave me a weird look and then said, “Ah, ma’am, we don’t do that here” and my son just about crawled out of the car. At first I didn’t get what the big deal was. Like, what’s up? I can’t pay for my Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper with change? Does McDonald’s, home of the Dollar Menu, think they’re too good for 21 dimes, one nickel and two pennies? It took my son explaining to me that a dime bag meant 10 dollars worth of pot.
“Ohhhhhh” was all I said and then I asked him how he would know that. His reply, backed up later by my husband, was that “anybody who’s ever watched a cop show should know that.”
That incident made me rethink my whole paying in change plan. So, I went to the bank with my purse laden down with a single yet significant bag of coins (by this time I had graduated to the Ziploc gallon-sized freezer bag with reinforced sides) and requested that I wanted to deposit my big old bag of change into my account. A teller quickly told me no. As in “no, we won’t take your coins” and the way she said coins you would have thought I was asking to deposit soiled tokens from Chuck E. Cheese’s.
I was close to giving up on my “joy of change” spending plan but I’m no quitter. So, I persevered. My next move was to sort all my change into different bags according to dollar amounts so one bag would have $5 worth of coins, another $10, etc., making it easy to go into Hen House and take out a bag with $5 worth of change to pay for a half gallon of skim milk. Well, well, well, apparently if you want to really irritate some snippy chick in yoga pants double-fisting a Starbucks and a coconut water, all you need to do is pull out a couple of bags of change. She was behind me in line and when I got my change bag out she audibly sighed and whisper-dissed me by murmuring I “must be crazy or homeless.”
I gave her a look that said, “I can you see your cellulite through your yoga pants,” and then, just because I could, I decided to go “full penny” on her. That’s right, I used pennies. I had planned to use quarters — because I’m not a monster — but the homeless remark really got to me. (The crazy, not so much, because it’s not like I haven’t heard that before.)
As I ever so slowly counted out almost four dollars in pennies I learned something new about coins. They’re not only good for purchasing items, but you can also use them to punish annoying people behind you in line. I call that a financial two-fer.
Freelancer Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs in 913 each week. You can follow her on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and read her blog at snarkyinthesuburbs.com. She’s also written a book, “Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.”