My two cents about my two cents

082216blog pennies
Credit: Roman Oleinik

Before we start the work week, here’s a tiny personal tale from the weekend that has me puzzled.

I’m at the local liquor store buying wine and my tab is $21.98. I hand the clerk $22 cash and patiently wait for my two pennies change, as I always do, because I like putting them in the “leave a penny, take a penny” (LAPTAP) container that you’ll see at all of your finer  booze stores.

That’s what I did, left my two pennies.

There had been zero pennies in the container before I donated my two. As I was walking out, my back to the check-out, I distinctly heard the clerk slide the two pennies out of the LAPTAP container, open the cash register, and drop them in.

Sliding coins on plastic. The ring and opening of a cash register. The clink of coins dropping onto coins. These are all distinct, recognizable sounds. I heard them clear as day and even though this was all happening in a second and outside my field of vision I’m fairly certain that’s what happened.

 What I can’t fathom is why?

Why would anyone take two pennies out of a LAPTAP container and drop them into the cash register? If the clerk had just slid the pennies out and I had heard nothing beyond that sound I would assume this master criminal had simply pocketed the pennies to support his drug habit. It’s putting them in the cash register that has me stumped.

Maybe the guy is stealing from the till in some other way and he’s using the pennies to cover up? That seems unlikely because even if he made this move 50 times a shift we’re still talking about only a dollar.

Maybe store ownership and its employees realize that despite the altruistic intentions of people like me, these pennies are routinely snatched up by cheapskates and shoplifters, so why not add a little to the store’s bottom line instead? Thinking about it I get the same why-not on this theory, though: because it’s literally a handful of pennies, not even worth a staff memo. And, if this were the reasoning, why not just have no LAPTAP container in the first place. They’re not required.

One more data point: Some time ago, perhaps in the same store, I remember getting the stink-eye from a clerk who apparently didn’t appreciate me waiting around for my two pennies no matter what my reason for doing so might be. I thought it ridiculous, but there was definite stink-eye. So maybe this clerk’s sweeping the pennies back into the register was a simple eff-you for me making him do all that extra work of giving them to me in the first place.

I was tempted to go back and ask for an explanation … or my two cents.

But it wasn’t worth my time and effort. Why was it worth his?

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