The Problem with Monedas (Change/Coins)
This is really really annoying. To the point that I have to actually ask the question: is a single peso coin worth more than a two peso note? The answer is quite clearly yes! Several situations, the most recently of which just happened right now, as I sit here in this fair coffee shop, have popped up in the last week. Ok, so everyone knows that change is hard to come by in Argentina, that breaking 100 peso notes is hard, and that the buses only take coins, but it seems as if no one really understands the gravity of this problem. Here are a few situations: 1. Cab driver gives me a two peso note as change when I paid with a 20 for a fare that was 19.12. He would rather give the two peso note and LOSE MONEY than give up his coins. 2. Coffee shop last friday. Bill is 9 pesos. I pay with a 10 peso note. No change is given. I asked for the coin. Then they asked me for a coin so they could give me a two peso note. Why should I even have to ask for my change? I said I would leave an extra two peso note as tip if they gave me the coin. They said NO!!! (and they even laughed about it) 3. Coffee shop just now. Bill is 14. I pay with a 5 and 10. 1 peso change is due. No change is offered. Same situation as 2 (but a different location). 4. (And here is the kicker...) I go to the bank to get change. I walk to the front of the line to change a 5 into 5 coins. They say that they will only give 3. That their policy has changed. 5 is too much now. Oh, and also, I have to wait in the line of 40 people to do a transaction that will take all of 30 seconds. So the bank is putting up barriers (lowering/taking away incentives) to actually have correct change. Don't people realize that they are paralyzing their own economy when they do this? That when the people at the supermarket, or kiosk, or corner store refuse to make sales because they do not want to lose coins that there are dead weight losses? Everywhere down here there are signs posted (subway, train, stores, etc) that say "No hay monedas" or "Colaboren con monedas", and this does not help the problem. People are so afraid of giving away coins that they hoard them. I have seen many many kiosks that refuse to sell me a 10 centavo item for a 2 peso note because they know that I just want the change. So then I offer to buy something worth 1 peso, so I can still get the 1 peso moneda, and ride the bus--and they still refuse! This amounts to economic insanity. When the value of a one peso coin clearly outweighs the value of 2 pesos printed on paper, something is drastically wrong with the system. There are only 2 things that I see as possibilities: 1. People need the coins to take the bus. This is really the only thing in the whole of Argentina that operates only on coins. The bus system is also extremely extensive and is probably the main mode of transportation (although I don't have exact figures and the subway could be more) and as such, requires a huge influx of coins to operate. So the only logical explanation is that this huge influx of coins is not balanced by an equal outflow (i.e. the bus companies don't go to the bank and deposit these coins in their accounts thus giving the banks enough coins to give unlimited quantities as they do in the U.S. and other developed countries). But why would the bus companies do this? The only explanation I can come up with here is that they don't trust the banks and therefore hoard coins. Yikes. Anyone else have a thought on this? 2. There actually aren't enough coins in circulation. Supply and demand. Under supply and high demand. Again, the only place where there is a real high demand and no counterbalance is the bus system. Would it be possible to solve both problems (because they are not mutually exclusive) with a card system? As in people buy 10 peso or 20 peso bus cards that can be punched or scanned and avoid this change issue. I think that's wishful thinking.