Take A Penny Leave a Penny


It’s a little embarrassing, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with the Take a Penny/Leave a Penny dish.  Now, I have an educated guess, which I will explain in a moment, but I do not know what the system actually is.

You see, the name is confusing.  It doesn’t make any sense (cents).  Why would you take a penny if you’re just going to leave one?  You don’t trade your can of beans at the grocery store for one of theirs.  Nothing is gained.  And nothing is lost, except time.  And since time is money I guess you could say that you do inevitably lose something of value while you’re taking and leaving pennies.  Anyway, that’s not my theory.

Here’s what I think.

The system exists for those times in which your items cost a few cents over the dollar.  Maybe your total comes to 15.02 for some reason and you give them two pennies instead of having them make the change for 98 cents.  Or, perhaps your total is between a multiple of 5, and you don’t want to dig through your purse or pockets for pennies so you just use the ones in the dish. When you get one or two pennies back, you can leave the pennies in the dish for someone else to use for the two scenarios I listed previously.   That sounds pretty good, right?  What else could the dish be for?  But even if I’m right, I already see a few problems with the system.

The system is designed to function in a society composed of both charitable and thoughtful individuals.  Certainly there are many who fall within these categories, but there will also be those who threaten the system with their greed and sloth.

There is the one who steals pennies.  I’d imagine this is a common occurrence inside of a penny candy store.  Even one dishonest individual could plant a seed of distrust in the cashier that could eventually sprout into a Tree of Cynicism that produces fruits of bitterness.  From that moment on, the dish becomes an illustration for human indecency.

Then there is the thoughtless or lazy individual who refuses to use the system when it is necessary.  If no one uses the pennies in the dish, well, the system is dead.


This is my suggestion.  Switch the name to “Make Change”.  Making change is actually the purpose of the dish, and much less misleading.  If you add a penny, you are making change.  If you take a penny, you are using it to make the correct change.  It is also shorter and less redundant.  Eventually, we will all get used to the new name.


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