Paying folk to see some rounding up done down
Wexford is about to try to live without one and two cent coins
Madeleine Quirke, Senator Feargal Quinn, Tony Grimes, chairman of National Payment Plan, and local businessman James O’Connor at the launch this week of the Wexford Rounding Trial. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan.
Over a decade after they were introduced, some of us still have trouble distinguishing one cent and two cent coins from each other, while more of us just throw them in a jar for a rainy day.
Yet within a year those little pieces of metal could be consigned to history depending on the success of an experiment kicking off in Wexford town this month.
The Wexford Rounding Trial gets under way on September 16th and will run for two months – taking in the Wexford Festival Opera along the way – and almost 240 retail outlets have agreed to take part.
Under the trial total transaction prices at the till will be rounded to the nearest five cent mark.
Individual prices of goods will not change but a total bill at the cash register of, for example, €2.22 will be rounded down to €2.20, while a bill of €5.23 will be rounded up to €5.25.
Customers can also opt out of the “rounding” if they prefer to pay in, or receive, exact change.
Following the Wexford experiment, which concludes on November 17th, the Central Bank will compile results from “before” and “after” surveys of both merchants and consumers.
The bank will then publish a report, which will be considered by the Government.
The Central Bank’s programme manager for the National Payments Plan, Ronnie O’Toole, said during the week in Wexford that the policy could be rolled out nationwide without much delay if that was what the Government pursued.
“If they decided they wanted it, it could be rolled out as early as 2014,” he told The Irish Times.
“It’s ultimately a Government decision.”
Mr O’ Toole said that, while 85 per cent of all coins produced by the Central Bank are one cent and two cent, both cost more than their face value to manufacture.
“It takes about 1.7 cent to produce a one cent coin and just over two cent to produce a two cent coin. It’s a cost that’s borne by the taxpayer.”
Some other countries not in the euro also use “rounding” to eliminate their smaller denomination coins.
Former supermarket chief Senator Feargal Quinn, a keen supporter of the idea, said he introduced a similar initiative in Superquinn stores about 15 years ago.
“People could see very quickly they didn’t want the one and two cent coins...I think the concept of rounding the total bill is so worthwhile, and I can’t believe anybody would object to it.”
He predicted a national adoption of the principle “within a very short period of time” once other towns saw how it worked in Wexford. “I think it’s a real win-win situation.”
Local businessman James O’Connor of the Greenacres art gallery and restaurant said retailers would welcome a reduction in the number of coins they had to handle.
“I think the ones and twos are a nuisance at this stage, just in terms of the mechanics of counting and balancing the numbers at the tills every day.”
Mr O’Connor said that banks were “ever-less givish” at the moment and anything that cuts down on time and overheads “is a help to us”.
A public information campaign will now take place. This will involve leafletting, advertising, the www.wexfordroundingtrial.ie website and a Twitter handle @WexfordRounding.