Penny wise, pound foolish

Greg and I collect our spare coins in a large jar in our closet. Once every year or two I get around to taking the jar to the bank. Today was that day.

I used to take the jar to the bank branch that was nearest our house, but they don’t have a coin counter there, so they would send the coins off to some other branch, and two or three weeks later, a deposit would show up in our account. The last time I brought in the coins, they advised me to take my loot to a larger branch of the bank with a coin counter, so I did.

Henry and I walked into the big bank branch today, which seemed swankier than the last time I had entered. The walls were all glass and wood, the floors marble, and they had “Private Client” signs standing in the doorway. I couldn’t see an area with bank tellers. Could a normal person bank here anymore?

I spied a lone man tucked in the back corner, and he waved as I approached. I set my deposit slip and my enormous bag of coins on the counter.

“That’s a lot of coins,” he said nervously.

“Yup,” I said.

He slid the coins to one side of his desk. He slid the coins to the other side of his desk. He looked at me with questioning eyes. He didn’t touch his computer.

“We only accept coins now if they are in rolls,” he said. He pulled a dozen of those brown coin wrappers from beneath the counter.

“What happened to the counting machine?” I asked. He told me that they didn’t have a machine anymore because so few customers used it. And they no longer sent coins away to be counted either.

He handed me a wrapper for quarters and told me that it would hold 40 quarters. I counted out 10 and slid them into the paper tube, but it was open on both ends. When I tried to hold one end closed, all of the quarters tipped sideways instead of remaining neatly stacked. I tried over and over. I had more than 1,000 coins to sort and stack in these wrappers.

Meanwhile, Henry — remember Henry? — was there, too, climbing on the plush chairs and venturing into the offices of the bankers. I don’t take Henry out in public except to the children’s section of the library because he embodies all of the toddler euphemisms. He is “spirited” or “a handful,” if you will. Henry does the opposite of what I want him to do — always. This whole paragraph should be bolded and filled with exclamation points. I cannot emphasize the trouble enough.

I grabbed a lollipop from a bowl sitting on the teller’s counter and called Henry over. Meanwhile, the teller had declared it a “slow day” and started to help me with my sorting. He pulled out a plastic tray that had indentations to hold coins in groups of five. It appeared to be from the 1930s.

One of the bankers spied Henry and came out to help. “You could use one of these offices,” she said. “Then you could close the door and keep your son locked in there with you to make this easier.”

“I actually think that might be more difficult,” I said. I tried to keep my voice calm, but my eyes were crazed. I was not going to attempt to sort 1,000 coins into a little plastic tray while locked in a room with a toddler whose favorite word is “dump.”

Henry finished the lollipop, and I handed him a couple of pennies to look at. He laid on the floor and slid them across the marble tiles. The teller and I were making good progress. I talked to him about how coins seemed to be obsolete now. What are we supposed to do with them? The grocery stores have coin machines, but they charge a percentage of your money to take the coins. I object on principle. I shouldn’t have to pay to deposit money. Why are we keeping coins in circulation if banks don’t even want them? But standing in that swanky bank, I was feeling less principled and more embarrassed, miserly even.

When we had finished sorting about half of the coins, the teller offered to do the rest for me. I told him that I could come back another day, but he said that his job was so slow that he would rather have something to do. I felt sorry for him.

I gathered up Henry, who by this point was looking for an escape route, and we were on our way. I am $98.26 richer but much poorer in pride.

9 thoughts on “Penny wise, pound foolish

  1. Wow. What a crazy experience! I’m among the group who has no coins to my name. I don’t use cash because of all those reward-based credit cards and so, no change. It’s heavy and I don’t want it. BUT, I do vividly remember rolling coins as a child and it was actually quite fun. What did they do with the coin sorter? Why not just keep it? Was it really taking up too much space? Seems odd. It is money, after all. Money we still use quite regularly.

  2. When I was in elementary school, I’d save up my coins and spend them on pens and Lisa Frank folders at Walgreens. The poor clerks and folks in line behind me!

  3. I am with brandy that I never even pay in cash— and so where does all this damn change coming from? My Ben is also “spirited” or “a handful,” so I could picture this all quite well. I hope you can laugh about it now that it’s over!

    How is the job search going? Any leads?

  4. Heather, I pay cash for small purchases like a pack of gum or a greeting card, but I only pay if I have small bills. I never use coins to pay, and over the course of a year, that apparently creates about 100 bucks in change. I used to go through coins when I worked in an office. Vending machines!

    As for the job, I started a freelance job a couple of weeks ago, writing for a parenting app. So far, it’s been a good fit, so I’m still searching, but I feel less urgency since I have some work.

  5. My bank is one if the major ones in the UK, they have a machine you just chuck all your change in and it’s paid into your bank account. Sounds like you had a crazy experience!
    When I was a poor student, cashing in my change jar literally fed me and the dog. Now I’m a bit less broke and a mum we save the jar until it’s full and then use it for treats – love my change jar!

  6. Its because you went to a swanky bank… Go to the hood next time; they deal with more coins in that sort of environment.

  7. I found out a few months ago that our bank will no longer accept loose coins either. I was, until I read your post, thinking of bagging them up for Eleanor and Henry. I’m rethinking that idea…..

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