Pennies from heaven, or unwanted garbage?
August 7, 2007 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Would it be insulting to give a jar of pennies, (probably close to $7 or $8 worth) to a panhandler?

Ok, so I just finished sorting through my change and putting it in rolls. I ran out of penny rolls half way through the process, so i now have a mason jar full of the copper slackers. I'd kind of like to be rid of it. Would it be a bad idea to give it to a panhandler in this loose form, (or any form really)? I really don't want to offend anyone, but it would be nice to do something with them that is win win. I kind of think they might have the same opinion about it that I do, that it's just not worth the effort to try and roll it up and turn it into cash.

thanks
posted by hector horace to Human Relations (53 answers total)
 
If they're offended, they certainly don't have to accept it do they? But if you're really concerned about that then maybe just leave the pennies somewhere where they can be found - whoever picks them up obviously doesn't mind, right?
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:46 AM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


yes probably.

ever tried to buy anything with a bunch of pennies? the people behind you hate you, the shopkeeper hates you... being a panhandler is humiliating enough, no?

better idea is to go to your bank, cash it out, and give the paper cash to the panhandler who caught your eye, since it's kinda like "free money" anyways.
posted by RedEmma at 9:48 AM on August 7, 2007


I was in a similar situation a while ago ... I just left the jar in the alley near the dumpster (I live downtown & there are always plenty of guys around looking for bottles, etc). It was gone the next time I checked.
posted by doublesix at 9:50 AM on August 7, 2007


I saw a big plastic pot of pennies in an apt lobby once with a TAKE ME Post-It; it was gone when I came back twenty minutes later...

I don't know about a bum -- where are they going to sit and roll it? -- but a student would probably love it. Find a likely lobby, I think.
posted by kmennie at 9:51 AM on August 7, 2007


just ask. you seem to be worried about being disrespectful, and asking someone's opinion and then abiding by it is very respectful.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:55 AM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why not sell them on ebay? Someone might actually want the big jar of pennies? And it's funnier that way. :)

Or the funniest things is : put them on the streat with a sign saying "take only one or two." lol
posted by jeffburdges at 10:01 AM on August 7, 2007


why do you have to roll it? Take it to one of the bajillion coinstar (or the like) locations and get the cash - then do what ever you want with it. If you were going to give it away anyway - the % they take shouldn't be a deterrent. I think some of those places also have options of giving the money to charity.
posted by Wolfie at 10:02 AM on August 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


What red emma said. If you wait until you would normally have gone to the bank anyway, it won't cost you much extra effort. And more of the money will likely go to the individual you give them to, since your own bank won't charge you a service fee to exchange the pennies, while that person might not have a bank. So they'll either have to exchange it somewhere for a fee, or seriously annoy a cashier or two.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:03 AM on August 7, 2007


You're worried whether anyone wants a jar of money? Here in San Francisco, you could put it down, blink and it'd be gone.

Many of the supermarkets here have those machines where you dump in a jar of change and it gives you cash in return. Or, if they wont do it themselves, someone else will do it for them and give them a few bucks. The underground economy will welcome your gift, trust me.
posted by vacapinta at 10:04 AM on August 7, 2007


Commerce Bank in Philadelphia has a "Penny Arcade" where you can freely trade loose change for paper money. I imagine there must be other banks with a similar service.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:06 AM on August 7, 2007


Something else to think about besides someone getting offended: it's probably a PITA for someone to carry around a heavy jar of coins before figuring out what to do with it. But you could still ask.

Also, some banks have free coin counting machines (some of them you don't even have to be a customer). You can just drop all the money in the machine and get the $7-8 in bills rather than sorting and rolling. Then you can help more than one person if you wanted, since it's easier to manage the money at that point.

(on preview, wolfie and everyone after)
posted by ml98tu at 10:07 AM on August 7, 2007


Also, if you bank at any reasonable place, there should be no reason to roll up the money. They ought to have a change counter, or another branch ought to (so long as we're not talking a single location credit union). And money is money, so if they will only exchange it if you've already rolled it, and you're a customer of theirs, it would appear they don't appreciate your business all that much.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:07 AM on August 7, 2007


If I were asking other people for free money, it would be pretty nervy to get offended over the currency.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:08 AM on August 7, 2007


Coinstar?
posted by sharkfu at 10:09 AM on August 7, 2007


Some crack dealers reportedly do take pocket change, which is why the police warn you not to leave change in your car and why people who break into your house take your penny jar. I've had my penny jar taken and indigent children have asked me for the pile of dimes on my dashboard. In the 80s a friend of a friend used to go "car shopping" on the way home from binges. He'd wake up the morning after boat race night hung over and rolling in the pile of change he'd cadged from unlocked cars the night before. This person might have appreciated being handed a jar of pennies. Or he might just have been confused and thrown a punch.

At my credit union you can come in with a pillowcase full of change and they'll throw it in their sorter and put the proceeds in your account or give you bills. They won't take rolled-up change.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:10 AM on August 7, 2007


Coinstar takes a 8ish%fee (unless you turn it into a giftcard, which might be of use for you). You can bring it to a Commerce Bank and turn it into "real" money. You don't have to be a customer to do this. I belong to another bank, but I go to Commerce every few months with my cup 'o change to turn it in.
posted by AlisonM at 10:12 AM on August 7, 2007


Crackheads broke into my house and stole my penny jar, so somebody wants them.

I agree that it would be politest to sort it yourself and give away the bills, or leave the jar somewhere people will find it.
posted by lemuria at 10:13 AM on August 7, 2007


I'm in Quebec so I have no idea what a coinstar is, though if it's a place where you can just bring a bunch of loose change in and walk out with hard cash I would be very excited to have one here.

vacapinta, you'd probably be shocked to see how some of the panhandlers roll here in Montreal. it's rare to see someone who seem truly down and out here, especially in my neighbourhood. I'm not saying there are examples of truly poor people here, just less then down south.
posted by hector horace at 10:13 AM on August 7, 2007


I mean't to say:

I'm not saying there aren't examples of truly poor people here, just less then down south.

didn't quite switch back to my English brain.
posted by hector horace at 10:19 AM on August 7, 2007




Coinstar is a machine that sorts coins, they're popular in grocery stores here (big wall installations). The banks have them, but not the branded kind. And lots of banks won't even take rolled coins any more! They just sort them themselves (using a machine) because it's more accurate. (This causes no end of confusion to my grandmother... No, Nana, you don't have to go and sort those into rolls.. No really, you don't have to. REALLY, you shouldn't......!)
posted by anaelith at 10:36 AM on August 7, 2007


Someone who is so piss-poor that they are homeless, is really in no position to be snooty about the form of money that is given to them. If they turn it down or act insulted, well, it's just a sign of the mental illness that causes many people to end up on the streets.
posted by jayder at 10:57 AM on August 7, 2007


better idea is to go to your bank, cash it out, and give the paper cash to the panhandler who caught your eye

? that's missing the whole point of the question. If it were no effort for the OP to turn the pennies into paper cash, then he wouldn't need to ask you what to do with his money - I'm sure he's capable of deciding what percentage of that goes to charity. The point is what to do with inconvenient cash that is still technically worth the same amount of money.

I used to live in a poor neighborhood where the woman who lived below me spent her entire day collecting cans and cashing them in. That is honestly, as far as I know, how she paid her rent. She was out there with her shopping cart going through dumpsters from before I left for work, and often in the stairwell sorting them all evening long. (This was lower chinatown in NYC). So I'd imagine there are people who wouldn't turn away something that might require some sorting or hefting to turn it into a more convenient form. Leaving it somewhere with a note seems like a friendly, if anonymous, transaction.
posted by mdn at 10:59 AM on August 7, 2007


(so much for Alberta Canada. I used the locater link above, and the closest machine was in the United States!)
posted by kch at 11:05 AM on August 7, 2007


Don't turn the pennies into money first -- allow the hobo to decide that. If you pay Coinstar first, and then take the proceeds to the hobo, you're basically selecting MegaCorp, Inc. over a needy person as your penny-cashing vendor of choice. Maybe the hobo will outsource the work to Coinstar after all. But they deserve a shot at the 8%.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:08 AM on August 7, 2007


Some Coinstar machines let you donate the change to a charity, and in this case they don't charge the 8% counting fee. They often have many different charities to choose from; I either donate my money to the American Red Cross or the Humane Society.

Maybe the Coinstar machines by where you live have a charity that serves the homeless population you could donate the pennies to.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:30 AM on August 7, 2007


Giving a jar of pennies would be impolite.

For one thing, they're bulky. For another, they're heavy.

You can store them on a counter. A homeless guy doesn't have that option.

Just take it down to a coinstar machine or a bank that will convert it to paper bills. It would take you about twenty minutes and you'd make a much better impression on the guy than if you'd dumped it in his lap with the take-it-or-leave-it attitude which some folks seem to believe is appropriate.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:34 AM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Many, many years ago, when I was a teller, we would only accept rolled change in bulk if a customer's account number were written on the roll. It was fairly common for people to turn in rolls that were a coin or two short. We had to unroll the coins, count out all the change, then charge back any shortages to the account. Any unaccounted for shortages went on our record as cash shortages. A person who turned in one hand roll would have to wait while we undid their work and counted the coins again in front of them.

That was a long time ago. Nowadays, coin counting machines are cheaper and more common. Long story short: don't roll your coins.

In Minneapolis, my experience at Wells Fargo is that they have no problem taking a jar of coins and converting it into bills, no charge, so around here, there's no point in using the Coinstar machine at the grocery store either. The WF branch in my neighborhood has a coin counter out in the public area--you dump in your coins, it prints out a receipt, teller gives you cash for the receipt, no fuss no muss. Not sure what the upper limit is (beyond how much the big hopper under the machine will hold).

OP's best next step is to ask at his local bank what their policy is (count coins for anyone, or only for customers? Do they take a percentage, or not?).
posted by gimonca at 11:53 AM on August 7, 2007


I vote for letting the panhandler do the work of changing the pennies into paper and silver. Coinstar (as mentioned) or any bank will do it for a small fee.

The last thing I would worry about is offending someone by giving them money in an inconvenient form.

But... if you REALLY want to do some random acts of kindness, here's an idea if you want to change it into quarters and maybe keep them in your car. It's something I do occasionally when I think about it.

Whenever you are in a convenience store, where they have a lot of candy for sale, find some candy that's a quarter or less. It's usually on a lower shelf, where little kids can see it. Put some quarters in with some of the candy. You'll make a little kid very happy, and maybe make their parents angry. :)I try to put it under the first level, or leaning against the front of the box, where it's not likely to be seen my anyone but a kid looking at the candy.
posted by The Deej at 11:54 AM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eight percent is not a small fee! It is 8 out of every 100 of the pennies you did not swallow or throw out the window but saved and carefully put into your penny jar! It is the opposite of small. It is in fact the very largest fee Coinstar thinks it can charge. Doesn't it bug you at all, you Coinstar champions, that this company spent time and money to figure out exACTly how much to charge so as to convince the largest number of people to pour buckets of delicious jingle into their great green demonmouths? Let's all revolt and refuse to feed the machines 'til they crank it down to like 4%. Then the Freakanomics guy can write another book about the strange phenomenon.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:15 PM on August 7, 2007


I used Coinstar exactly once. And actually, I paid no fee, because I chose a voucher to spend at the store where the machine was located, since I was there to shop anyway.

But, I was willing to pay the 8%, because it was worth it. Turns out I didn't have to.
posted by The Deej at 12:43 PM on August 7, 2007


I do not mean to be inconsiderate of your charitable inclinations, but why do you care about whether they are offended or not? It seems to me that they will either want the free money you or offering or they will not feel it is worth the effort for them in which case you can offer it to someone else who would value what you are giving freely to them.

Also if he were to go to the trouble of turning his change into bills he ought to just keep it, or donate it to a more worthy cause.
posted by BobbyDigital at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2007


I think the phrase "beggars can't be choosers" applies perfectly here.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another vote for just leaving the jar somewhere someone can take it. Might be a panhandler, might be a kid who thinks rolling coins is a fun and rewarding hobby for a hot summer's afternoon. (My younger sister thought a 50 cent roll of pennies was well worth a half-hour's work until she was at least 15.)
posted by Jaie at 1:56 PM on August 7, 2007


Why not ask the panhandler if he wants it? The worst he can say is no.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2007


I'm with jason's_planet - I think it'd be impolite. This reads to me like, "I wouldn't give these pennies to any of my friends or anyone I know because it would be a hassle and rude to them, but it's okay to give it to this homeless person, because that's different." A jar of pennies is going to be just as much of a hassle for some panhandler as it is for you.

Homeless people are still people. All people should be treated with dignity.
posted by Quidam at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2007


plenty of people don't think it's "undignified" to have to do a little work to get some money... and i'm sure you wouldn't suggest it's dignified to allow people to sleep on the streets / etc. to begin with. If this gets someone a nice meal or $8 closer to a room for the night, isn't that the important thing?

The whole point to start with was that the OP didn't have the time to bother. But the money to him isn't really necessary - it is a lot of work for little return. For someone much lower on income, it might seem like a much more worthwhile investment of time. I don't see how that's undignified. I'm pretty broke right now, with a fair amount of time on my hands until the semester begins, and I'd probably take a second glance at a free jar of pennies...
posted by mdn at 3:17 PM on August 7, 2007


ok, so I've been thinking about this all day, and I've come to this question: What would Mr. Rodgers do in this situation? Then it hit me... I'll take the best of all the great suggestions the hive mind came up with and add a twist: I'll leave the jar out some where as suggested, but I'm gonna throw a couple loonies (dollar coins for my non Canadian friends), in there so as to give the finder a real surprise for their efforts and "sweeten the pot." I think this will be good!
posted by hector horace at 3:27 PM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Mr Rogers obviously
posted by hector horace at 3:37 PM on August 7, 2007


Pre 1974 pennies are all copper and are worth quite a bit because copper has increased in value.

You could simply ask a panhandler - "Hi, I've got a bunch of pennies - want 'em?"
posted by theora55 at 4:23 PM on August 7, 2007


jayder: "Someone who is so piss-poor that they are homeless, is really in no position to be snooty about the form of money that is given to them. If they turn it down or act insulted, well, it's just a sign of the mental illness that causes many people to end up on the streets."

Wow. The disdain towards the poor shown in this thread is unbelievable! I'm a little sickened.

My first thought is that no homeless person is going to easily walk into a bank to get these changed, and lots of stores will refuse to take hundreds of loose pennies as payment, so you're basically giving them useless money.

And what person who may be carrying their life's possessions on their back is going to want to add a heavy glass jar of change around?

Furthermore, it absolutely is disrespectful to give hundreds of pennies, just as it would be offensive to give a restaurant server hundreds of pennies as a tip -- something you'd do as a mean joke -- and I don't really see why a poor person should be treated with any less respect than you'd give anyone else.

None of these reasons add up to snootiness -- but lots of the answers implying as much certainly do. For shame.
posted by loiseau at 6:28 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


What's this 8% people are talking about? I've never even seen a coin counting machine that wasn't free. They're in practically every bank at this point.
posted by dmd at 7:50 PM on August 7, 2007


Coinstar machines, which are typically in places like grocery stores, take a cut of your change (to cover the cost of moving the money around, and to make a profit).

Some banks have been known to charge for coin counting as well. I think Twin City Federal used to charge, although I haven't needed to know recently. Others may limit the service to customers, but not charge a fee. And other banks offer it as a free service. The trend seems to be away from charging, but that's just my impression.
posted by gimonca at 8:18 PM on August 7, 2007


I am having a hard time believing north american beggars are so wealthy they would refuse approx two hours of minimum wage income regardless of its form.
I find this astounding, and I can't imagine how this has come about.
posted by bystander at 8:48 PM on August 7, 2007


The correct answer to this question is: Learn to make change!
The clerk gives you the total, say $14.87. You pull out your handful of change, and... Starting with the pennies, count back to the nearest 5: $14.87 - $0.02 is $14.85, so two pennies. If you don't have any pennies, treat the total as if it was the next higher multiple of 5, $14.90. Then with nickels and dimes, count back to the nearest multiple of 25 - you need 10 cents, or if you didn't have any pennies, 15 cents. And finally, with quarters count back to the nearest whole dollar. Bonus points for combining smaller coins to replace bigger ones. Triple bonus for keeping this chain going all the way to the $20 bill level.

Anyway, it is clear that money in inappropriate denominations is worth slightly less than the same amount in appropriate denominations. Also, the effect becomes more pronounced the further you get from an appropriate denomination, and much more pronounced if the holder lacks the resources required to use the denominations appropriately (for example, an inability to make change properly, or lack of a home and table to count on). However, the notion of "useless money".. And, the idea that people who lack the ability to make change nonetheless can afford to put hundreds of dollars into jars, and then give it away..

Alas..
posted by Chuckles at 9:09 PM on August 7, 2007


Also,

whoever picks them up obviously doesn't mind, right?

I really like this solution!
posted by Chuckles at 9:10 PM on August 7, 2007


Beggers can't be choosers.
posted by mjger at 9:55 PM on August 7, 2007


People who do not read the thread are doomed to repeat it.
posted by vacapinta at 11:24 PM on August 7, 2007


You could create hours of people-watching fun for yourself by hiding them round a playground, or leaving a trail of them on the ground, or, the old classic, gluing them to the floor.

As for giving them to a pan handler, maybe ask them? "Hi, I have 800 pennies that I don't want, do you want them?".
posted by kjs4 at 11:43 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am having a hard time believing north american beggars are so wealthy they would refuse...

1 An early answer along the lines of "The question here is: do crack dealers take pennies? No, so..." now curiously missing was, where I am, pretty accurate in a good % of cases.

2 As far as the actual bums and not the addicts: you'd have a very finite number of hours in which to find a place to sit down unmolested and roll it. Finding a place to sit down unmolested is a full-time job for them, not the trivia it is for the rest of us. I am also assuming that they can find a place to cash them in, probably very quickly; I don't think anybody wants to have cash in any form overnight in a shelter.
posted by kmennie at 1:42 AM on August 8, 2007


Wow. The disdain towards the poor shown in this thread is unbelievable! I'm a little sickened. My first thought is that no homeless person is going to easily walk into a bank to get these changed, and lots of stores will refuse to take hundreds of loose pennies as payment, so you're basically giving them useless money.

I'm a little sickened by your implication that the homeless are so helpless and incompetent that they can't be counted on to find a nearby bank or tote the pennies a few blocks to a change machine.

A lot of things of value are cumbersome in some way. Believe it or not, if given a nice TV set, your average homeless person would find a way to get that TV set to the pawn shop.

Assuming the homeless are incapable of handling practical challenges like changing pennies is a bit patronizing, isn't it?
posted by jayder at 6:16 AM on August 8, 2007


A homeless man in NYC once carefully removed the pennies from a handful of change I gave him and returned them to me.

My friends and I walked away laughing. Sometimes beggars can be choosers.
posted by exhilaration at 7:03 AM on August 8, 2007


jayder: "Wow. The disdain towards the poor shown in this thread is unbelievable! I'm a little sickened. My first thought is that no homeless person is going to easily walk into a bank to get these changed, and lots of stores will refuse to take hundreds of loose pennies as payment, so you're basically giving them useless money.

I'm a little sickened by your implication that the homeless are so helpless and incompetent that they can't be counted on to find a nearby bank or tote the pennies a few blocks to a change machine.
"

Where did I say helpless and incompetent?

The fact is that people who appear homeless are not made welcome in a place like a bank, particularly if they don't have an account. Imagine how you would feel if you've been sleeping on the street or in a shelter and walked into a bank to wait in line for a teller. You think you'd feel comfortable? That is, if you weren't just straight-up asked to leave.

It is horrible to be in need in such a rich society.
posted by loiseau at 5:46 PM on August 8, 2007


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