Here is something I’ve been wondering about for quite awhile. Why do some places charge 99 cents instead of a dollar? As in $239.99 by AT&T, $149.99 by the New Yorker magazine, $38.99 for Must View TV, $74.99 for The Atlantic magazine. $9.99 for a month of ESPN+ to watch an OU football game.
More accurately, I’ve done more than wonder; I’ve been irritated by having to write checks for some amount plus 99 cents. Why not just round it off to $240, $150, $39 $75 and $10?
It’s like their PR people or finance advisers are saying, “Oh, $239.99 sounds like a lot less than $240.99 cents will fool our customers into thinking that’s a lot less than a penny more if rounded off.”
Bah. Humbug. Phooey. Etc.
When I’m balancing my checkbook, I have to use a calculator because all those 9s might not add up right otherwise. Yours, maybe, but not mine. I always made Cs in arithmetic. Zeros, as in 240.00, 150.00, 39.00, 75.00 and 10.00 dollars are easier to deal with. Four cents more, that would cost me, four cents.
And how are these 99-centers going to pay us back one penny when the government stops making them?
The U.S. Mint announced that it would start to phase out the production of the penny by the end of 2022. The last batch of pennies was to be minted April 1, 2023. When the minting process is complete, the last batch will be sent out in proof sets to be auctioned to coin collectors. The proceeds will be used toward paying the U.S. national debt. Doesn’t that make you feel a lot better?
“A penny saved is a penny earned.” I thought Benjamin Franklin said that. Not exactly.
In his 1758 Poor Richard’s Almanac, Franklin wrote: “A penny saved is a penny got.” And he didn’t say it first. In 1695, writer Edward Ravenscroft is noted for the same line in his work, “Canterbury Guests.”
Call me cynical but it just seems like all those 99 cent charges tacked onto a total bill is an attempt to fool the public. Fool me once, fool me twice — I’ve saved two cents.
Pennies are made of zinc coated with copper. The U.S. Mint’s most recent annual report showed that an estimated $85.4 million from penny production was lost by taxpayers (along with $33.5 million from producing nickels, which might be stopped as well.) As of 2021, it cost more than 2 cents to make one penny. In 2019, pennies accounted for 59 percent of the 12 billion coins that the U.S. Mint manufactured that year.
When I used to walk a bunch of blocks because it was good for me, I usually found a few coins along the way. I always picked them up, even the pennies, most of them pennies, actually, wash them off and put them in a jar. I think I’ve still got that jar somewhere, probably covered with cobwebs.
If I ever find that jar of pennies again, I guess I could donate it to help pay off the national debt. Or use it up giving my two cents worth. Or I could just buy chocolate instead.
Mary McClure lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.