26 October 2010

Valueless Money

Welcome to Sino File, my blog dedicated to the discussion of sinology from a modern perspective. This site deals entirely with sinology so unless you're interested in Chinese matters you may soon become incredibly bored.

I was waiting for a more auspicious day to begin Sino File but the remainder of 2010 is fresh out of days in the Chinese calendar that would make this launch more memorable. I'll therefore have to settle for plain old today.

Hong Kong coin denominations below one dollar
I was standing in line one hot summer day in Tsuen Wan waiting to buy a cold milk tea. As the cashier rang up my order, I began digging in my coin pouch for spare change. I counted out twelve dollars in coins: 1 ten dollar coin, 1 one dollar coin and 2 fifty cent coins. After handing over my money to the cashier something strange happened. In fact, it was fantastically strange. She immediately handed me back the 2 fifty cent coins with the simple explanation that they don't accept small coins!

As I gazed into the cashier's face with what I'm sure was a dumbfound look, I couldn't help but analyze the event that had just transpired. She's not taking my money. Is there something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with my money? Being a simple man and not being able to comprehend what just happened, I inquired further about this policy. Unfortunately, all I could get from the young lady was the same apology and the repeated fact that they don't accept small coins. A bit upset that my money was worthless at the shop, the cashier returned my coins and I walked off feeling robbed.

Over the next few days, friends and colleagues related similar tales of frustration when trying to use their small coins. In fact, a lady colleague of mine told me how a mini bus driver berated her for attempting to pay the bus fare with small coins. Today, most shops in Hong Kong won't accept them.

The refusal of businesses to accept small coins is a result of banks instituting fees for handling them. This greedy practice has caused the good people of Hong Kong to question the real value of the coins they keep at home, especially the elderly who are fond of using change to pay for newspapers and fruit.

It's little surprise then that the biggest culprits are two of the biggest banks in the city: HSBC and the Bank of China. The former charges a maximum of 10% while the latter charges 5%.

Highway robbery at its finest.

No comments:

Post a Comment