There are a few big questions people in the future are going to ask when they look back at us and our time: Why did they consume other species’ milk? Were Egg and Spoon races ironic? Christ, they were handsome back then, right? Why were there so many TV shows about hospitals? Also, why would they use such small denominations of currency?
That’s right, it’s a pennies article!
George Osborne recently revealed that, in 2015, he was within weeks of scraping the 1p and 2p pieces but David Cameron vetoed it because he decided that it would be too risky a move for the Tories and their long-term reputation. It was considered too outrageous for the British public to possibly inhale. The upheaval alone would be incredibly difficult for us poor immutable island folk. The world treated us incredibly gingerly back then, in 2015. Like an old Picasso damaged in the Spanish Civil War, it was decided that we were too fragile to be moved, and any sort of restoration work on us would cause too much harm.
Australia got rid of pennies and the response was widely positive. Except that from charities, because so much of what is donated to them, annoyingly, is in the form of pennies.
But they probably had the same worries when it came to shillings and their disappearance? What happened was instead of chucking shillings into the charity tin, people threw in the new smallest denomination: pennies. Surely, if we get rid of pennies, 5p pieces will become the new thing people give away and then the charities will be a little better off?
Also, is it not time we came up with a better way to get money to charities? No one carries cash around anymore. If for some reason you end up with a pocketful of change, you run home, you chuck it in that hilarious novelty tin you got for Christmas and then you leg it down to a Coinstar once the thing is looking a little full. 20-25 short minutes later, you stroll away with a cool, crisp £6.72 Sainsburys voucher, which you use to get three of those big Birra Moretti’s and a Mango. Then you get 11p change, which you put towards the fiver for a new novelty tin, because you broke the old one open with a big knife earlier.
What we need is a better way to make charitable donations. Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of certain purchases to charity. So if you spend £100, your selected charity will receive 50p – which is something. But it turns out that as of December last year, Amazon Smile has donated $38 million.
If you want to feel a little bit more involved, Free Rice is an online trivia game which donates 10 grains of rice for every question you get right. And unlike those jerks over at Gratis Rice, they don’t take 10 grains of rice away if you get one wrong. And apparently, according to our friends over at Boycott Gratis ‘Don’t tarnish our garnish‘, if a question like this pops up:
What’s the capital of Australia?
c) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
And you get it, what they like to call ‘really wrong’, they forcibly take away 1000 grains of rice from a small family in Myanmar.
There are some other worries, of course. Things won’t cost 99p or £99.99 anymore, so 90% of the shops on Peckham High Street will have to change their name. Will they start charging 95p for things or just round it up to £1? And the introduction of this thing: ‘£’ changes things. That pound sign makes things feel expensive.
The Royal Mint says that there are 11.3 billion pennies in circulation. So we have got 173 each. But is that maybe too many?
Personally, I don’t like to have pennies. Never have, never will. Not because I don’t need the money or think they’re bad luck. It’s just because I like to avoid awkward situations.
It’s one of the most difficult British things in the world; standing around the till waiting for your 2p change. You’ve just given them £20 for something that costs £19.98 and then it turns out they have one of those cash registers without a lick of copper in them. So they have to go up to the office to get the appropriate change and you know what, time is money. But most British will just stand there and wait the ten minutes for that 2p. Why do we do it?
Personally, I gave up all that long ago. If my change is anything less than a fiver, I immediately run away. I avoid the awkwardness and the guy in Debenhams gets a rare tip. Do you know how often customers tip people who work in shops? You’ll find out next week in my EXCLUSIVE 5000 word investigative deep dive: ‘DEBENHAMS? MORE LIKE DEBTENHAMS’.