No cents at all.

My co-worker Phil and I conducted a bit of an experiment.

Jenni, who once occupied the cubicle across from me, moved to another section and as such her desk has been left vacant. She took everything with her save for a collection of business cards and a tray of pennies in her desk drawer. I’m guessing there was about $1.25 worth of them.

“Hey, don’t you want all of these pennies?” I asked her.

“Uh, no, not really…”

“There’s gotta be almost a dollar’s worth in here…”

“Nah, nowhere to put ’em. They’re a pain in the ass. You can have them.”

I didn’t want them. Phil didn’t want them. Nor David. Completely viable currency and nobody wanted them.

It was a slow Monday and Phil and I had the brilliant idea of using the unwanted coin-age as projectile weaponry. (Boss is on vacation for two weeks, and it was more of a stealthy assault anyway, albeit painful.  Did you know pennies frickin’ hurt? They do.)

My marksmanship was pathetic.

Post-slaughter there were pennies scattered throughout the 6-foot span of carpet between our cubes. (He and I are diagonally across from each other). We thought about cleaning them up, but neither of us wanted them and we were lazy. So there they sat.

This is where the experiment comes in.

We wanted to see if anyone would pick them up. There were about fifteen of them, roughly a dime and a nickel’s worth. Valuable enough, or so we thought, to warrant collection.

During the next hour or so approximately 3 people passed by, and nary a one was interested.

Later in the day, a couple of people walked by and asked, “why are all these pennies on the floor?”

“Don’t you want them?” We would ask.

“Uh, no, not really…”

“But there’s at least fifteen cents down there…”

“What the hell am I going to do with fifteen pennies? You pick them up.”

Phil and I would snicker at them while a look of irritation crossed their faces that we were having a giggle at their expense. Fifteen cents worth of irritation.

Hours went by. The pennies remained.

Allow me to pause for a “Did you Know?” interlude about the penny:

– Because of the soaring price of zinc, it now costs nearly a penny-and-a-half to produce a penny.

– The Federal Reserve, banks, retailers and customers lose millions more because of the costs of toting around and handling these nearly worthless coins. Time is money, and conservative estimates of the value of our time lost using pennies exceed $300 million per year.

– Breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the federal minimum wage.

– Since the Mint currently manufactures more than seven billion pennies a year and “sells” them to the Federal Reserve at their face value, the Treasury incurs an annual penny deficit of about fifty million dollars.

The “time spent picking up the penny not being worth enough to equal minimum wage” was the main argument for our blatant abandonment of them. It just wasn’t fiscally viable.

Hours went by, the end of the day arrived, everyone left for home…the pennies remained where they were. We were strong in our resolve.

The next morning the pennies were gone, more than likely due to the fact that they would choke up the vacuum cleaners when the housekeeping staff came through. We wondered if they kept them. Maybe they argued amongst themselves as to who was going to pick them up. Perhaps they flipped a coin.

We have been doing this daily for about a week. One day we decided to establish a control case and left a nickel on the floor. Gail walked by…”oh, hey, a nickel!”

The pennies remained untouched.

“Hey, you missed the pennies…”

“No I didn’t. Don’t want ’em.”

“Why not?”

“What the hell am I going to do with a handful of pennies?”

You see, the vending machines in the break room will accept nickels. It will not, however, have any pennies. Pennies will not buy you M&M’s.

Eventually the drawer will be empty, we will run out of pennies and the experiment will be over. But I mean seriously, how many of us have “change jars” at home full of pennies? How many of us have actually thrown one away and thought nothing of it? You give nothing but pennies to some panhandlers and they actually scowl at you. You pay for a loaf of bread at the grocery store, you are met with groaning and exasperated sighs from the patrons in line behind you. We pick the quarters out of the change jars like the bits of chocolate out of trail mix, leaving the pennies and peanuts for last.

I’m tempted to bring in my own change jar and pave the aisle with them. I know I’d have Phil’s support. Maybe throw some quarters in there for good measure. Maybe super-glue the quarters to the floor. Definitely. Super-gluing them to the floor would be brilliant. Very teh hawesome indeed. However, there may be repercussions for damaging company property. It would definitely be more than fifteen cents worth.

voulez-voulez-vous “find a penny pick it up all day long you’ll have 1.5 cents worth of zinc…?”

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