Making cents of doing without small change
Wexford trial begins to see if businesses and consumers can dispense with 1c and 2c coins
Meabh O’Conner of Reville’s newsagents in Wexford. Photograph: Mary Browne
A change is as good as a rest, it is said, and yesterday the people of Wexford began giving small change a rest when they embarked on the Wexford Rounding Trial, a pilot project for the Central Bank to see if businesses and consumers can survive without one cent and two cent coins.
Ronnie O’Toole of the Central Bank said the bank asked consumers last April what their feelings were towards the small denominations when compiling the National Payments Plan and people clearly stated that they did not like the one or two cent coins.
“People said they couldn’t use them any more to buy anything or use them in machines,” Mr O’Toole said, “so what people do, of course, is that they take them out of their wallet or purse and put them in a jam-jar and, as a result, we have had to replace those coins going out of circulation.
“We have issued over €30 million worth of one and two cent coins since the euro was introduced in 2001 – in fact our issuing of replacement one cent and two cent coins accounts for 85 per cent of all coin production for the Central Bank at the mint in Sandyford.”
Even small change comes at a cost, though. Mr O’Toole said each one cent coin cost 1.7 cent to mint and each two cent coin cost more than two cents to mint, resulting in the Central Bank having to spend well in excess of €30 million on the coins over the past 12 years.
Wexford Chamber of Commerce applied successfully to the Central Bank to carry out the pilot project. Businesses will round up or round down uneven total prices to the nearest 5 or 10 cents to dispense with the need for smaller denomination coins.
Fleur Creed of Wexford chamber said 251 businesses in the town were participating in the project, which runs until November 17th.
She said the initial response from both business people and consumers – who can decline to participate – was generally positive.
“We’ve had a very positive feedback from retailers and from the majority of the public. We’ve had one or two negative reactions, including one guy who started lecturing his three- year-old that this was ‘to suit the bankers and we have to shoot the bankers’,” she said.
On the streets of Wexford yesterday, people were just coming to terms with the pilot project. Even among those who did not know about it until they went into the shops, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I didn’t know about it until today,” said Gavin Young who was out with his Dalmatian dog Susie, “but I think it’s a good idea – those one cent and two cent coins are just rubbish.
“The size of them are too small and they take up too much space – five cent coins should be the minimum.”