I am back after taking two weeks off for a little travel. As part of my ventures I spent some time in Canada. My wife, whose family is from the French-speaking areas of Quebec, had me trail along while she visited relatives. Even though I cannot speak French (très peu or “very little” is my response to when I was asked) I did have a good time. My wife’s relatives are good people and it would be interesting to see some of them come to the United States to visit.
While I was in Canada I decided that it would be interesting to buy rolls of one dollar (Loonies) and two dollar (Toonies) coins and see what I can find. The process was very interesting. First, I had to find a teller who could help me in English and accept U.S. currency. Thankfully, my wife had business at a local bank and the banker she worked with introduced me to a teller I could work with.
As I was introduced to the teller, I decided to buy two rolls of Loonies and Toonies. I thought this would be a good idea since these rolls may not have many coins. After all, rolls of U.S. dollars has 25 coins and the half dollars have 40 coins. I was surprised to learn that both the one and two dollar Canadian coins contain 50 coins! Playing it cool, I pretended I was not surprised and decided that purchasing 100 of each coin would be more fun to go through.
The rolls that were handed to me were clear plastic with locking tabs to hold the coins in place. Opening the roll is as easy as pulling apart the tabs. It does not require banging the rolls on the counter or tearing apart paper. While I did not open the roll all of the way, I was able to press the tabs closed to keep the rolls together.
Since I was paying for the rolls using U.S. currency, the bank used the current exchange rate for the conversion. With an exchange rate of a fraction over 98-cents per Canadian dollar, the two rolls cost less than $150 in U.S. currency. This presented a problem trying to pay with coins. Thankfully, my wife had some Canadian currency and paid for part of the transaction and added the C$5.00 fee since I was not a customer. What was more interesting was that without one-cent coins in circulation, the change had to be rounded. In this case, the change was rounded up!
After I walked out of the bank I began to wonder how the bank balances its books? Having worked on computer systems that supports accounting with all of the auditing capabilities and the ability to balance many accounts at once, what happens when the balances do not match? Do the banks track the plus-or-minus cents in order to make the books balance?
While in Canada I had to continue with my usual coffee habit and found myself at a Tim Hortons. For the United States audience not in the northeast where there are Tim Hortons franchises, Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by Miles “Tim” Horton, a hockey player and entrepreneur, in Ontario as a donut shop. Although Horton died as a result of a 1974 automobile accident, his namesake restaurant is the largest fast-food chain in Canada. When I am asked to describe Tim Hortons I say that it is similar to Dunkin Donuts but with a better system and better coffee. When purchasing coffee at the Tim Hortons and paid using cash, the store worker would enter the amount of money I handed over and the electronic cash register calculated the change. On the screen it noted the change and how much would be actually dispensed without the one-cent coins. When I made a $1.78 purchase and handed the cashier a toonie, the cash registers said I was owed 20-cents in change.
Even though these transactions were in my favor, I had mixed feelings about the situation. I could have paid the exact amount using a credit card, but I am not comfortable using my credit card for small transactions.
Canadians seem to be comfortable, or at least accepting, with the elimination of the one-cent coin. I noticed they are comfortable with the one and two dollar coins. In fact, I liked having the coins from change while purchasing my coffee or other items while in Canada.
I am not sure that eliminating the one-cent coin or the paper dollar is ever going to happen in the United States, but if Canadians can adapt then I do not see why we should not be able to!