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Reader Puts In His 2 Cents: Coin-Exchange Service Idea Comes Up Short

December 22, 1996

"A Fistful of Pennies Brings In Bucks" (Nov. 11) was an article that emphasized that there are a lot of people who are either stupid or lazy or both. It described a service where one person (no, thousands) are putting coins that they saved into a machine, and losing 7.5 cents on the dollar. Whatever happened to "A penny saved is a penny earned"?

Every day we worry about interest rates--those that we pay (credit cards, mortgages, loans) and those that we earn (CDs, money markets, savings). Newspaper headlines are made out of the prime rate going up or down a quarter-point. Why bother? Now we can give away the money we earn and save at a loss of 7.5 cents on the dollar.

How about the two large transactions made in Southern California? The person who put 22,500 coins worth $4,957.90 in a Coinstar machine and got $4,612 in return. A loss of $344.84. And how about the person who dumped his/her coins in a Coinstar machine and received $7,497? This had to be a loss of over $600. Have we gone totally nuts?

Being very curious about this new "service," which is in many local markets and soon to be in local banks, my wife and I went to Ralphs and watched people line up at the Coinstar machine. Did they really know that they had saved money to give it away? Does this make sense? I don't think so.

The best part of going to the Coinstar machine was when, after following the instructions for putting coins in the machine, we received a voucher for 19 cents without putting in any coins at all. The machine malfunctioned! The person who used the machine before us lost 19 cents.

So, a notice to all those fellow coin savers out there: Buy a $20 coin sorter showing in all department stores this holiday season. Get free coin wrappers from your bank and get dollar for dollar for your hard-earned money. It doesn't take long, and the kids love to do it.

And remember, a dollar saved is a dollar earned--not 92.5 cents from Coinstar.


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