Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The Canadian Penny

 

Well, the holiday weekend is over and it seems most of us in J-Land made it through relatively unscathed. For me, it was the busiest weekend of the year. I am glad to report that it all went off safely and all the boats that left came back.

I was at a store the other day and paid in cash for my purchase. The cashier gave me my change back and there was a Canadian penny amongst the coins. This reminded me of a story I would like to share with you. It became known throughout an entire corporation as "The Canadian Penny Story." Unfortunately, it happened to me.

I was managing a marine retail store in Sarasota, Florida at the time. I had been a store manager for this corporation for about a year and was starting to get the hang of it, I thought.

One morning I got a call from the bank the store did business with and was told by a bank employee that my deposit was short. I was surprised, because I had balanced that one out myself. The reason it was short, she said was that the bank no longer accepted Canadian coins for deposit.

This was news to me, and I wondered what prompted this. We had a great number of Canadians living in the area every winter. These were referred to locally as the Snowbirds. Of course, many US citizens from northern states would also be among the Snowbirds.

The point here being that most of our visitors from the north, both U.S. and Canadian had some or many Canadian coins jingling around in their purses and pockets. It was no big deal and merchants accepted them without hassle.

I was a very conscientious manager and it was important for me to balance correctly every night, so, if the bank would not accept Canadian coins anymore, then my store was not going to, either. This went fairly smooth for a while. Most shoppers evinced surprise, but understood about the coins with a quick and polite explanation. Until it happened.

I was at the checkout counter and we were doing good business. A small line was formed, but I was getting them through quickly and efficiently. Until this one man gave me a Canadian penny as part of the payment. I handed the penny back to him and asked if he had a U. S. penny or another coin instead. My explanation for the reason we would not take the Canadian coin angered him. I had said that our bank did not consider the Canadian coins as legal tender in the United States and did not want to honor them because of the exchange rate. The term "not legal tender" hit a nerve and this man physically started to turn red.

Now, I know the customer is always right, and I knew it back then, too. But, I will not back off the truth when I am sure I know the truth. So, I tried vainly to explain to this man why the Canadian money was not legal tender in the United States. He swore it was! I knew it wasn’t!

Once again, let me state that many local merchants accepted Canadian coins as part of cash payments because they did not want to offend any of the snowbirds. But, that did not make them legal as tender. They were legal in Canada. The Canadian government must honor them as legal payment. However, the U.S has no obligation to honor them. We have our own monetary system and have made our own pennies for well over a century.

This guy wanted no part of this. To him Canadian money was legal tender in the United States and I was bound by law to accept it. The redder he got during this "discussion" the louder he got. By the time he stormed out of my store, (without his purchase), every eye in the store was on me.

The next two people in line had this glassy-eyed look of pure terror. No one dared pay in cash and they got out quickly. They had been too close to the action. A couple of people in line burst out laughing as the door closed behind our departing Canadian Penny Spender. They could not believe he was making an issue out of a foreign coin.

Well, this is the age of the cell phone and they were in evidence even back then, (It would be about eight years ago). The penny spender had gone out to his car where he was frantically finding and dialing the phone number to our corporate headquarters. The call came to me quickly, and not from my district manager, but from thevice president in charge of retail sales of the company.

Thank goodness I knew this man and he knew how I normally treat customers and do business. He listened to my side of the story and afterwards said, "Sam, the sad part of all this is that I know for a fact you would have taken a penny out of your own pocket and given it to this man if he did not have any U.S. coins." I told the VP that he was right, I would have given him a penny from my own pocket, but the man was not upset about that. He went nuclear because I would not agree with him that Canadian coins were legal tender in the U.S. I told him I would not lie, even to a customer.

I kept my job, the customer got some VERY nice incentives to come back and remain a loyal customer from the VP, and I learned a valuable lesson in human relations. Yes, I had been right, but the day would have gone much better had I just taken the penny, traded it for one of my U.S. ones later and never mentioned it to the customer.

I still laugh about this with my former associates when we see each other. You see, I went on to win many awards at that store location, and became fairly well known in the corporation. However, alas, I will never live down the "Canadian Penny Story!"

36 comments:

barbpinion said...

I just love stopping by to see you. Your entries are so interesting. Would be so great if I could sit across from you and sip coffee while you spin tales for me. HA! Well, you have to admit, it does sound good. Missed lots of your entries because my computer is messing up. Still is- but not quite as bad. Take care. Will be back
*Barb- http://journals.aol.com/barbpinion/HEYLETSTALK

billandnae said...

maybe you should have told him his purchase was double the price, canadian money, Canadian prices!

sanforized6 said...

I bet everytime you turned around one of your co-workers was saying " A penny for your thoughts!!" LOL Great story you "penny pinching" son of a gun. rich

joolsinwa said...

good story, I was sitting here thinking , just exchange pennies later!! LOL oh well
Julie~ http://journals.aol.com/joolsinwa/randommusingsofmymind

rap4143 said...

Sam I give the coins to my grandchildren for their coin collections.  When we travel to Canada, Canadians accepted American money but weren't too happy about the rate of exchange.
Betty

csandhollow said...

Lordy I had something similar happen! Only in my case it came down from headquarters that no Canadian money was to be accepted. If there were any in our till then it came out of our PAYCHECKS! I had a customer get very irrate at me because I would not accept his money. He was trying to pay with a whole handful of Canadian money, AND HE WAS NOT CANADIAN!!!

ryanagi said...

I wonder if canadian penny man tries to pass off his "legal tender" in other foreign countries too. Canadian pennies for croissants in France? I don't think so!

louie0768 said...

Yet again, a great story.

I have been told that a store won't accept Canadian coins and I live within 3-4 hours of the Canadian border. I graciously accepted and understood that policy and exchanged it for my own kind. No big deal.

But I can relate to the part about knowing that you're right, following policy. I have had quite a few customer service jobs and there were those days that a certain customer would use a certain tone and it would turn me into Ms. Stubborn, I'm not going to give in woman. What always amazed me though was how I was able to keep it together when inside I was seething.

It sure is amazing how even the littlest thing can set a person off.

It's not that you could've avoided the situation, it's about the principle behind it...

jcole16757 said...

I probably would have reacted the same way, simply because of the issue.  Sure, it's easy to trade a penny for his but he blew up on you.  If he wasn't so anal about it, I'm sure you would have just exchange it for a US coin. Obviously stores take them where we live because I end up being the one to get stuck with them as change and I live South.

yakima127 said...

You got your money's worth with that "education"...JAE

judithheartsong said...

great tale my friend..... sorry I am so late in arriving:):):) judi

onemoretina said...

    Hey, Sam !!  Being from Toronto, I have occasion to visit there, and I would NEVER expect them to take my American money, even thought the exchange rate would be in their favor, because that is NOT the currency they use in Canada.  I don't know what this guy's problem was, but he was definitely in the wrong.  Oh, well.... what can ya do, AYE  ??? lol lol      Tina

rivercitygirl1 said...

Oh Sam, what a delightful story.  I'm still laughing.  I can just picture that customer storming out of the store.
Tami
http://journals.aol.com/rivercitygirl1/PicturePages

robinngabster said...

Hey! We call the winter visitors in Arizona, "Snowbirds."  Great story, I always love reading what you have to write.  BTW....did you take buffalo nickles?

childebrand1968 said...

What a way to stand your ground, though.

I'm all for people of good will standing up and speaking out!  

Sure you could've put in your own penny and never said a word~but I wonder how many people (including Mr. Customer Man) immediately went to find if it was true ;)

And, you wouldn't have this great story to share!  

Have a good one, Sam....

Cat

mcjerseygiri said...

What a story! Some people are just instant hot heads. You were right. I have done customer service all my life and let me tell you.......the stories I could tell. Some people used to buy clothing, wear it, ruin it and try to return it because they kept the tags on. For years we accepting the clothing and then later the company changed the policy. Most people want their own way and come hell or high water they will get it. One way or the other. Great story! Nelle

fitzzer said...

LOL that's quite a story. Something to think about. Esp. since so many of us do accept them as we would our own. This would surely never happen if a dollar bill was the subject! :) ~ Lori

cw2smom said...

Great story!  Isn't it funny how such little things can be blown out of proportion?  Now....one more lesson...Don't take any wooden nickles!  The banks in the US won't honor those either!  LOL!  Lisa

lurkynat said...

Interesting....how bizarre some people react when the other person is only struggling to have a "normal and informative " day..thanks!

setcaptivesfree said...

Well, if NAFTA goes into effect we'll have the same currency with them and Mexico as well...

karensull12 said...

Well I learned something new...I didn't realize that the US didn't honor the Canadian penny.  Hmmm...now what is extremely funny is that I lived in Florida for a while and honest to God, the old people there would nickle and dime everyone to death.  Grocery stores were the worst.  I'd get behind some old woman arguing over a 5 cent discrepancy.  Holy Cow, I would just about lose my cool and toss her some change just to move the line along a little faster.  This was a weekly occurance by the way.  I really liked old people until I lived in Florida for a while....

blondepennierae said...

Funny story Sam.  Isn't it ironic how a little thing like a penny can become a great big fascinating story.   Pennie

guru4yall said...

Hi, I'm new to your journal and am really enjoying your writing. I live in Central Florida and have had plenty of experience with Snowbirds both Canadian and otherwise. I could easily see this happening. Sometimes people seem determined to be upset and even if they know they are wrong seem to refuse to listen to reason. Too bad he didn't just shut up for long enough for you to just give him a penny. For that matter if I'd been in line behind him I would have! I've done it when somebody seemed to be going to dig in their purse forever because "I know I have it in here somewhere". You have to wonder if even that would have pleased him though. Sounds like all ended well though and that's what counts.

justaname4me2 said...

Ah a lesson to be learned for all. What a great story, even if you were getting yelled and in a heated debate about. I always find it interesting that stores can manage to slip me a Canadian coin in my change back, and I never notice, yet when I go to use it, they always catch it!
Rebecca

sonensmilinmon said...

Very entertaining/interesting story! Now when I see a Canadian Penny I will think of this.

Monica
http://journals.aol.com/photographybymon/Mamarazzi/
http://journals.aol.com/sonensmilinmon/SmilinMonsAdventures/

cneinhorn said...

oh my goodness, all that hoopala over a canadian penny!  LOL great story!

~  www.jerseygirljournal.com

bookncoffee said...

People never want to be wrong do they?
In H.R., sometimes I have these awful exchanges with employees from time to time when a policy is different than they want it to be.  

ccancu said...


So, you probably DON'T want us to start referring to you as the capennyman . . . would that be correct?  I was afraid that when he stormed out of the store that he was:  IN SEARCH OF DUDLEY DORIGHT!!!

http://journals.aol.com/Ccancu/CEEGEEATLARGE

ecori said...

My experience is like Rebecca's. I get Canadian coins slipped to me by stores, and am disappointed I don't notice until later.  They gather dust in my coin jar because I happen to understand that they are not legal tender in the US.  Funny story.  There are, sometimes, customers that you cannot make happy for any no matter what you do ....
Peace,  Virginia

bosoxblue6993w said...

FOR YEARS I LIVED ON THE BORDER NEAR NIAGRA FALLS.  canadian coins were everywhere    it usually wasn't a prob ... unless some yahoo invoked 'rate-of-exchange' talk.

judypearllove said...

very funny. I work in a casino you should hear some of the stories and cussings I get from losing gamblers oh brother but I could just pic that guy face I see them everyday at work lol
http://journals.aol.com/judypearllove/ToBlessedToBeStressed/
come for a visit to my ranch I love your journal

colerainebhoy44 said...

Sam this  is what  my 14 year old daughters being going through since my  northern irish mammy  ( ulster) began sending her   ulster £10 notes for her birthdays n xmas,s! b4 i cottoned on (?!)  ( irish !lol) about opening a bank account for her and paying the cash straight in,i experienced similar clenched buttock reactions too!the look of sheer panic when presenting the shop assistant wie an ulster  note even though legal tender ,was a sheer delight! ( irish maso here lol !  ) the look around  in that helpless way, that only assistants can do , for the manager,fingers hovering oer the panic button.convergence wie other staff, mucho mutterings and sideways looks and gesturing, and all the time iam stood there like a spare prick at a wedding!  lol finally after much deliberating etc etc they informed me that they couldnt take it! so i got on me " high horse" and demanded why nae  ffs?  cause its got the queens head on it and instructions in engerlish ?they said managers discretion!but hey !never mind eh? cause in the meantime?
LETS DANCE!  lol
like yer journal mate  keep it up ( as the actress said tae the bishop !  )
slan
frankie

coy1234787 said...

Great story and a valuable life lesson, I''m sure!
              *** Coy ***

schnozbeary said...

Love this story!! :0) Penny

sunnyside46 said...

i really love your journal. i enjoy th enice comments you leave for me. I hope Paulette is feeling better. i have been catching up on back entries & read of her problem. please let me know how she is.
Marti
http://journals.aol.com/sunnyside46/MidlifeMusings

nightmaremom said...

I told you I'd be back to read this again :)~  I forgot all about this entry and laughed like mad, again!  You see, there are a lot of stores here that won't take Canadian coins and we are right over the bridge!  LOL  I have a mason jar full of them, would you like them to give as change?  ::giggle:: yeah I know you're not there any longer.......... but couldn't resist.
d