© 2005
Paul Cooijmans

The rounding off fraud exposed

A few years ago the Euro was introduced. Unfortunately and extremely stupidly it had far too many coins; denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, as well as 1 and 2 Euro. Everyone noted this right away, and I believe Finland even abolished the 1 and 2 cent coins at once. Currently supermarkets and shops in the Netherlands do not use the two smallest coins anymore either. They round everything off to the nearest fivefold in cents.

This rounding off practice is not satisfactory, however. It is hypocritical; on the one hand they are still playing the psychological game of having prices like € 0.99, € 39.98 or € 999.99 (Just under 1000! I buy it!), while on the other hand they round those amounts off so you are paying the full amount anyway. They fool you twice.

It is also simply unfair to not let people pay the exact amount they bought for. And it invites inflation; it is not interesting for shops to price things ending in 1, 2, 6 or 7 cent this way. They lose something every time then. It is profitable to have them end in 3, 4, 8 or 9, because they win something every time. This argument is countered by the off-rounders by saying the rounding off only takes place after summing the unrounded prices, so it may go either way and is balanced out over time. But this is not true for those who only buy one or few items (like people who live alone); they mostly lose as prices typically end in 8 or 9 cent.

Also, the 1 and 2 cent coins you happened to have in your wallet when the shops decided to not use them anymore have turned into dead weight. That is a giant sum they basically stole from their customers. And they think they can get away with it because it is only a small amount per person.

So the rounding off must go, but at the same time we need less coin denominations. I propose a decimal system: 1 and 10 cent, and 1, 10, 100 and 1000 Euro (bank notes are abolished; see my article Money). These two measures will also teach them to quit the idiotic prices ending just under round numbers. Because those will cause them extra work with all of the 1-cent coins.


There are two alternative methods of payment that go around all this; one is the bank card with Personal Identification Number (P.I.N.) that uses a network connection to take money from your bank account. You pay the unrounded amount then, and no hassle with coins. Nowadays the computer network is quite fast, and supermarkets even allow it for small amounts. Unfortunately, many people abuse this system by asking the cash register girl to withdraw extra money from their account and hand it to them, to save them a trip to the cash point. That should not be allowed.

Another alternative was the chip card, which enabled quick electronic unrounded payment without P.I.N. or network connection. This has been in existence for years, but is not used much because not all shops have the equipment installed to accept it. Where I live, the stores do not have it. So the chip has been on my card for many years without ever being used. It will probably soon be abolished.

But all in all, cash is best, provided we move to the denominations recommended above. The objection that cash invites robbery is easily countered; to avoid cash for that reason would mean to give in to terror, which is bad and must never be. As always, safety is better than security. That means: Rather than to take security measures to prevent robbery, we must remove the robbers from society, and strive for a community of good ethical people where everyone is safe and no locks are needed.