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Daylight robbery Daylight robbery
by Asa Butcher
2006-10-24 09:44:25
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Every day in the Netherlands and Finland, thousands of consumers are surreptitiously robbed by shops, newsagents, supermarkets and any establishment with a cash register. The form of this theft is through the rounding up of the total because both these countries have decided to ignore EU currency laws by not circulating the one and two cent coins.

It may seem trivial and petty to get angry over a couple of cents, but you will begin to see the principle of the matter if you stop to consider the effects. For example, a few days ago I bought a number of items from R-Kioski, Finland's extensive newsagent chain, and then after paying I realised a plastic bag was required. The shop assistant said, "That will be €0,23!" After laughing, I realised she was serious. She rang it up on the till and it magically changed to €0,25.

A two-cent increase for me, which means that, say, an average of 500 customers a day are over-charged the same, seven-days-a-week, 52 weeks a year and there are 720 R-kioskis in the country, which totals a potential €2,620,800 profit on carrier bags. Hang on, that can't be right. €2.6m is outrageous; let's try a one-cent increase…€1,310,400. Are you still laughing at the ridiculous couple of cents?

If you pay via your debit card the price does not fluctuate, but if you have cash then you are going to see the price rounded off to the nearest zero or five cents. Naturally, the number of times you see the price drop is far outweighed by the increase, especially when items such as carrier bags, bottles of water, bars of chocolate and cans of Coca Cola are the regular individual cash purchases, but are rarely already rounded off.

Strangely, if the price of the carrier bag had been marked at €0,25 I would not have had a problem, but to watch the till helpfully round up the amount pissed me off. I had just got back from Spain and had a few one and two-cent coins in my pocket, yet this would not have changed anything and the price of that carrier bag would not have remained at €0,23.

The EU has criticised the practice of both Finland and the Netherlands, but their reply has been, "Well, we've been doing it for two years already!" In that case the EU has no argument, if it has been in practice for two years then how can they dare change anything? I am sure it would be far too much hassle to introduce a one and two-cent coin into circulation. It's not as if Finland has ever had to cope with any major currency change like moving from the markka to the Euro after 142 years of use.

How can a country decide not to use the ones and twos, but still have prices that do end in 1,2,3,4,6,7,8 and 9? Is this called inflation at the point of purchase? Why not stop rounding up and always round down? Why not just make everything zero or five and stop this fluctuation? I can't believe that this practice is approved by the EU currency laws, so next time I will pay for it with my card and fight my own battle against this daylight robbery.

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Mike Jennett2006-10-23 23:43:42
Interesting - they've been doing that in Australia and New Zealand for a long time (don't know how long, but no one I know over there can remember one and two cents). It's part of their progression to the cashless society, by persuading people to use plastic and enforcing 'dissincentives' for using cash.

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