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!"