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More on My Favorite Coin Crisis!

The International Herald Tribune has this interesting article on the coin crisis.

A kiosk owner bribes a bank worker with cookies to break bills. Subway workers let commuters ride free because they can’t change their cash. Bus companies resell the coins they collect at a steep black market markup.

Argentinians are increasingly scrambling to get their hands on pocket change for everyday transactions, as soaring inflation makes the copper and aluminum that coins are made of worth more than their face value. Many suspect profit-seeking hoarders are scooping them up to stow away.

The Justice Ministry is meanwhile investigating Buenos Aires currency distributor Maco S.A., for allegedly withholding nearly 5 million pesos in change to resell on the black market. The company denies the allegations.

An anonymous Central Bank hot line has meanwhile received 5,000 complaints about black market coin sales since it opened in February, according to the bank.

There are some cool stats here, but their ultimate link between the coin crisis and recent inflation seems tenuous, at best. The coin crisis has been around for many many years if you talk to Porteños… .

I’m Going to Buy a Metal Detector

pesocoinsI recently gave Zoe a whack on the head for suggesting that I offer up some of my precious coins to a cab driver. (The very idea.) Yes, that means that unfortunately, we continue to hoard monedas like crazy people with an obsession for shiny metal objects.

You’ll be happy to know that about a month ago, the government declared the coin crisis solved when the President mandated that an electronic card payment system be installed within 3 months for all Buenos Aires buses. Of course, in true bureaucratic style, the second she announced this initiative, the agencies in charge of implementation turned around and said it would take at least six months to complete!

Needless to say, we’re not holding our breath.

Photo by J. Used under a Creative Commons license.
(Some great high dynamic range photos of Argentina you should check out!)

Standoff at the Subway

(Sure, we’ve talked about the coin shortage crisis a few times before, but here are a couple examples of how it affects me every day. — Tom)

  1. To get to school every morning, the girls and I take the bus, which only accepts coins. So, everyday I have to figure out how to get more coins. One strategy I tried, when I happened to take the subway, was to forgo using the convenient subway card and actually stand in line to pay for a single fare ticket. A huge pain, but in exchange for a 2 peso bill, I would pay my fare and receive a precious $1.10 in coins.

    Problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. The clerk at the subway stop I most often frequent stopped selling me single fare tickets. I would show my 2 peso bill and ask for 1 ticket, and he would say “no monedas” and wave me through the gate for free. Every day, the same thing would happen. Same clerk. Same 2 peso bill. No coins, and he would wave me through for free. This went on for 2 weeks.

    You would think that I’d be pretty happy about this, but actually, it infuriated me. I don’t want to ride the subway for free…I really want the coins instead!

  2. Paying cash at the supermarket can be glacial. They keep very few coins in the cash registers, so every time they run out of coins, the checkout clerk has to call for a manager, who has to go to the safe to get more coins, who then exchanges 2 pesos worth of coins for a 2 peso bill. Yes, that’s right…they restock the coins in the register with the equivalent of 60 US cents at a time!