Friday, June 08, 2007

Deep, Weighty Money Decisions

Oh, life is so fraught with anxieties and dilemmas that have to do with money. Here's a story illustrating the kinds of decision-making that keep the little cogs in my brain turning, turning, turning...

This past Wednesday, as I usually do, I bought a banana from a street vendor who is usually set up near my office. I always think of him as "The Bananaman." The way things usually go is that I've just bought my bagel and coffee from a nearby deli, and while paying for that, I set aside 25 cents to pay for my banana. But on Wednesday, I didn't have enough coins to make it work. I had over a dollar in change, but the thing is, I had a few quarters, and now that I do my own laundry in coin operated machines, I am always desperately collecting quarters wherever I can find them since I never seem to manage to get to the bank to buy a whole roll. So as I'm counting my change, I'm thinking that I really need to do laundry, and that if I give the Bananaman one of these quarters, I won't have enough. Setting aside the quarters, my nickels, dimes, and pennies amount to 24 cents. How frustrating!
As I approach the bananaman's stand, which I suppose I should call The Bananastand, I go back and forth as to whether I should just give him a quarter or ask him to accept 24 cents. I mean, people are always doing the take a penny/leave a penny thing, and of course the value of a penny is negligible these days, and they should just be abolished anyway. But I can't help feeling that it is presumptuous of me to just think I can pay the Bananaman less than his stated price. But I really want to do laundry!
So I decide to just go for it, with a little white lie: "I only have 24 cents today, can I owe you a penny til tomorrow?" The Bananaman knows me, so of course he says not to worry about it. I thank him, head to my office, and record my breakfast spending in Quicken as $2.84 instead of the usual $2.85.
On Thursday, I repeat the whole process, but while I'm sorting through my change at the deli, digging through the quarters that are in there because I never did end up doing laundry, I discover that I don't have a penny to repay my debt to the Bananaman. I hate owing people money, no matter what amount! I don't want the guy to think I'm taking advantage of his generosity and kindness and just forgetting my promise to pay him back. I buy a banana with a quarter, and don't mention the penny. I doubt he thinks of it at all, but I slink away, feeling dirty.
This morning, just a short while ago, I dug through my wallet, which is now bulging with quarters and assorted other coins that I really, really should have used to do laundry last night. Happily, I found 3 nickels, a dime, and a penny. I said good morning to the Bananaman, carefully selected a banana from the Bananastand, hummed a tune by Bananarama, wished my name was Roseanne Rosannadanna, and then handed the guy 26 cents. I didn't remind him about the penny I owed him, but I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
But just thinking about it how, I am wondering if maybe I should have pointed out that there was a penny in there-- what if he threw it all in his coin jar without noticing? What if he later remembers that I stiffed him for a penny and thinks "that b*tch never paid me back?" But it's not like I can say something to him next week like "hey, you did realize I settled my one-cent debt on Friday, didn't you?" Should I give him another penny next week and pretend I didn't do it today? Should I just try to forget about it? Will I be haunted by a shadow of doubt for the rest of my life? And when the heck am I going to manage to do my laundry?


SavingDiva said...

It's great that you thought you should repay the penny debt to the bananaman. I think that says a lot about your for getting your laundry done...I have no advice. All I have is three very full laundry baskets. Thank goodness I have a lot of underwear!

Anonymous said...

As a vetran of coin operated laundry machines I highly recommend getting yourself into the habit of a change jar. Dump those coins nightly and let the quarters accumulate.

When the laundry muse strikes or the dreaded empty underwear drawer appears you will be prepared to feed the laundry beasts with your jar full of accumulated quarters.

If you like paying for daily items with change just sort that coin jar periodically leaving the precious quarters behind and just refilling your wallet with the other spendable coins.

As for the paid-back penny - you know you did the right thing in the end. Knowing that he knows what you did is just a thought not worth an extra penny in my book :)

Madame X said...

I do try to remember to dump my quarters in a desk drawer, and even track that as a transfer from "Cash" into "Laundry Quarters," which is its own account in Quicken!

Dawn said...

My, what 1¢ can do to the mind!
I think you did the right thing and I am sure he noticed the extra coin when you paid. I wouldn't worry about it any longer.

mapgirl said...

Run to the bank. I always make a point of getting them from the bank. You don't even have to be an account holder. I just walk into the nearest bank hand them a $20 and get two rolls for the next month.

I also follow Boston Gal's advice and separate out my quarters when I dump my change into a jar.

However, I classify my quarters as Household expenses since making microcategories in Quicken is too much. To me, less is more on that kind of thing. But maybe we should ask Tricia and JD what they do since they're also Quickenheads.

Anonymous said...

The power of negotiation ...... (albeit it's for just 1 cent)

"Am I still eligible for a banana if I have only 24 cents?"

Later on you could still "repay" him, if you wanted to, without any pangs of moral conscience!

Anonymous said...

Considering your bananaman is probably not raking in the dough, you really shouldn't ask him to give you a deal just for the sake of one quarter.

He's obviously a good man and would never say "no," but consider that a penny means a lot more to him than to you.

Next time, do the right thing and pay him the full amount. Get your laundry money on your own time.

Unknown said...

your story is great. i can relate to this completely!!! it reminds me of a seinfeld episode. remember the one where (was it george?) accidentally drops too much money in the tip bowl and puts his hand in to pull the wrong bill out and the people think he's stealing tips instead of leaving a nice one. if i recall that scene correctly....very funny. you agonize about doing the right thing and then still beat yourself up when you do. i think it's probably fine to just let it go. i mean i doubt anyone would think twice about a penny and pointing it out would look weird, eh?

Anonymous said...

I work in Customer Service, and if you were a regular customer and were short even a few pennies, well, I wouldn't worry about it. I'd still let you buy your item. Cause, chances are, someone else will have some pennies as change, and won't want them. (Believe it or not!)

I save those for people who are short a little. I do this all the time, as long as someone isn't 'conning' me about it, I have no problem accepting a bit less then the total amount due.

Actually, I sometimes see other customers digging change out of their wallets to make up the difference owed...they want to help out! Amazing, eh?

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica..I'm the same way! Though I would let him know why I gave him 26 cents. But then he may have noticed. I see he is the type who loves his customers to be happy and come back to him for fruit.

john card said...

madame x, u r sooooooo weird, i really don't know why i keep coming back. have u ever heard of a penny smart dollar dumb? no i'm not saying u r not dumb and you're only probably trying to show u have a healthy conscience. which is good, but still a little weird because you're talkin about a penny.

changing the subject:

two request: please take off that tired old statue of liberty from your home page. it's so old and stupid looking. makes me want to run run far away.

lastly, please replace the worn out statue with a pic of yourself. judging by listening to your cd and the way u sing, i bet u r an arty looking girl with a splash of hippy.

be back tomorrow, unless u barr me.

johnny card

Anonymous said...

How did you get inside my head? Okay this exact thing has never happened to me, but I would worry and fret the exact same way. Try to hide the fact that you are a little crazy, and don't mention the penny to the Bananaman :)

ps do you ever go past laundromats? I think you could duck in there and use their machine to make change... unless you would then feel terribly guilty.

Anonymous said...

yeah I agree with justanavedude that you would feel perplexed by this particular penny issue is just bizarre.

btw, how do you (and most people) deal with the spare change? do you:

1. roll them and take them to the bank
2. put them in your change jar and feel use them accordingly
3. dump them into those coin counters at the supermarkets?
4. or is there some other ways?

Anonymous said...

hey...I think you did the right thing...a penny is a healthy 4% of the stated price for the banana, and moreover, you rarely go astray applying the Golden Rule. Cheers!

fin_indie said...

AMAZING, the power of a penny! Your stories are, as always, engaging as hell... Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hey apple - I have a great idea for pennies, if you can spare the time. Post office stamp machines take pennies. Last week, I cleaned out my purse and car and had about 65 pennies, plus various other change. I used it all on buying a small bunch of stamps.

Plus, it made me feel a bit better about the darn post office raising postage again!

Anonymous said...

I really like reading your posts, as Fin Indie, said they are always engaging. I have three thoughts on this post.

1) Your American bananas sure are cheap! I paid $1.80 for a banana yesterday. A few months ago there was a banana shortage and they were over $20 a kilo (a kilo is about 2.2 pounds).

2) I would have sacrificed the quarter and paid the bananaman the right money.

3) I am squicked out by the thought of communal laundries so I have installed a combined washer/dryer in my flat. I took out the dishwasher becuase leaving dirty dishes sitting around squicks me out too. I think the convenience and non-squick factor outweighs the cost. And I never have to short change a bananaman.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea. If you buy a banana every day, on Tuesday, give Dr. Banana a one $ bill, which will cover you all week. He gets the float on the 75 cents, since you're pre-paying, and you won't have to give up quarters on a daily basis. :-)
I'm sure he's happy to have you as a daily customer. Repeat customers are the best for small businesses. I'm sure he's not sweating the 4% discount.

Anonymous said...

You are insane - I'm unsubscribing from this drivel!

Unknown said...

Lol. Hilarious. And I'm glad to know I wouldn't be the only one thinking exactly the same way!