Town left penniless as the first day of Central Bank's 'rounding' trial begins
A BUSKER singing his heart out on Main Street was a true ambassador for Wexford commerce – all the coins being tossed into his guitar case were of high denomination, with not a one or two cent piece to be seen.
It was day one of a Central Bank 'rounding' trial to remove the lightweight copper coins from circulation.
Under the system, the price of purchases are rounded off to the nearest five cents.
Prices ending in six or seven cents are rounded down to five but anything ending in eight or nine is rounded up to 10.
It means that something retailing for €4.97 would now cost €4.95, while something costing €4.98 would now be €5.
It's a definite gain for retailers because it means less hassle when it comes to counting out the tiny coins at the end of each day, and for consumers because it means that their purses will be lighter when it comes to coins. Although some fear it could mean lighter purses in every sense.
"I'm never in favour of anything that will see money being taken away from us," said shopper Carmel Murphy. "Nobody is doing this for the good of the common pleb."
Others see it as another not-so-subtle form of taxation.
Dermot Kavanagh, out shopping with son Robert (3), dismissed it as a "cynical ploy" to take money away from the people who really need it.
"I always keep the small coins in a jar as a form of saving. Every month I empty it and I have about €20 – that's better in my pocket than it is in theirs," he said.
At Sherwoods chemist on Main Street, pharmacists Glenn Nolan and Aoife Curtis said nobody had complained so far – but that this could change as time goes on.
"Our totals seem to have us rounding up more than down, so people might get fed up of this," said Aoife.
At the Green Corner fruit and veg shop, Paddy Reville was having no problem adapting. "Common sense isn't it?" he beamed.
But he predicts that charities might lose out with less small coins in circulation.
An Irish Cancer Society box on his counter top is often used by customers to toss in the one and two cents they receive in change. This box is collected every two months by the charity and generally holds around €30.
"And that's only my small shop – what about all the other shops in Wexford – or all over the country, if the scheme takes off?" questioned Paddy.
However, the president of Wexford Chamber of Commerce, Fleur Creed, said the minting of new copper coins costs taxpayers €30m each year because they keep being withdrawn from circulation and collected in jars on shelves at home.
Cousins Shannon Doyle (19) and Victoria Baxter (17) were a good example of the youth reaction to the scheme.
"I'm delighted because they're a nuisance to carry around, they're so heavy in your wallet," said Shannon.
Victoria, who has a part-time job in McDonalds, added that nobody ever seems to have a one or two cent coin anymore anyway.