Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Take a penny, leave a penny

Coffee and a bagel, $4.97. I handed over a five dollar bill, got three cents change and put the coins in the little ceramic dish next to the cash register - a small gift for a future patron who comes up a few pennies short. The next time it may be me who needs the help, and without a second thought I'll reach into that same dish.

In a very unscientific study of coffee shops along Massachusetts St., I found that all five of the locally owned ones I visited maintained penny dishes, while the two corporate chains I checked did not.

It's a modest convenience to help make change and keep the wheels of commerce turning. It's also a form of gift exchange that operates right next to the cash economy. As pennies lose buying power (Canada minted its last one cent piece in 2011, and many in the U.S. have called for the End to the penny here), they are easier and easier to part with. But imagine, if there is, let's say, just $20 in change that circulates through these exchanges in Lawrence in a week, that would mean $1,040 in a year, and literally millions circulating freely across the country, from those with more than they need to those who don't have quite enough.




La Prima Tazza
All of us who give and or take a coin or two are participating in a kind of 'pay it forward' economy predicated on trust (there are no explicit rules for how many coins we can take) and long-term reciprocation (we can imagine that one day we will be the ones in need). This begs the question, if we can freely exchange pennies, nickels and dimes, why not quarters, and why other things like food, housing or education?

As an answer to my question above, an old friend who lives in Nevada City, California sent the blog post below. The original source can be found here. To see more photos of the veggie cart click here.

Outside Inn Veggie Cart

The Outside Inn’s veggie cart has made its 2102 season debut, for those of you who have been wondering when it would reappear.  The original antique cart didn’t weather the winter and we’ve been trying to come up with an alternative option to house our free neighbors vegetable baskets, so we apologize for the delay in the opening of our free fruit and veggie stand.  For those of you unfamiliar with our cart please check out this blog post about the 2011 Neighbors Vegetables season.  Lots of great pictures from last year’s bounty, click here to see more.  The Outside Inn loves watching the flow of traffic, from the generous people sharing their extra homegrown fruits and vegetables, to the folks who enjoy collecting a goodie or two to the Outside Inn guests who don’t understand the concept that the cart is free, the whole project is another reason why we love Nevada City.

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