In change, demand your 2-cents' worth

This Just In...

January 29, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

About five years ago, we started noticing that some store owners and restaurateurs stopped giving pennies with change; they didn't want to be bothered with the little brown things, and neither did their customers. And these days, it's not unusual to see deli cashiers and convenience store clerks forgiving the pennies due them; I haven't heard any customers complaining about that, either.

Pennies can be a nuisance -- they weigh down pockets, annoy cashiers and take up space in drawers and jars -- but most people aren't ready to give them up. Surveys show most Americans support their continued production, and the U.S. Mint still makes literally billions of them a year.

A friend among the penny-annoyed found herself torn on the issue the other night in a Baltimore pizzeria.

"The kid working the cash register apparently made a unilateral decision regarding pennies: He wasn't giving them out," she says. "Two young women in front of me were due $80.01 back from the $100 they had given him. No penny. They exchanged looks when the cashier failed to proffer the coin, but who wants to ask for a penny where you're standing there holding four twenties? Then I paid for my order, which came to $9.98. I handed the cashier a $20. I got $10 back. Who wants to quibble for two pennies?"

I would. Don't be a deadhead about this. Save your pennies, children. A buddy gave me a 5-gallon pickle drum from Burger King (empty, of course). In about a year, we filled it with nickels, dimes, quarters and mostly pennies. During one of the nation's widely reported penny shortages, we decided to roll the coins. We had $245. That would have been enough for a CD boom box, some Tommy Hilfiger jeans, and all-you-can-eat sushi for three at New No Da Jai. We put it toward a used canoe instead. There you go.

Bills from the blizzard

More blizzard aftermath, and a word to the wise: Watch your February bills for erroneous finance charges or late fees. TJI reader John Hammond says NationsBank tried to charge him extra on his credit card because his January bill arrived past the due date. Hammond insists he mailed the bill on time; the blizzard was the culprit. The storm slowed the Postal Service for a few days, causing the delay.

Last week, when Hammond called the bank -- and reached a human being -- the human being readily waived the extra fees. Check your statements, friends.

Takes his lumps, happily

From Joey Amalfitano, on the road again:

"Nobody savors a good crab cake like yours truly. Give me a broiled cake, wedge of lemon, some slaw, German potato salad and a cold beer and watch me. Especially when I let that scrumptious meat roll around in my mouth while watching the snow melt.

"So let me tell you about the winter crab cake Maxine and I found at Michael's Cafe on York Road in Timonium. Mike Dellis, the owner and an old Belair Road boy, does not compromise on his 5 1/2 -ounce ($9.95) all-lump meat cakes. Where did Dutch Ruppersberger call for crab cakes for himself, Peter Angelos and Art Modell a few weeks ago?

"Yep, from Mike's, who fashioned them special at 8 ounces each. His crabs come from Texas year-round; he pays $9 a pound in season, $21 a pound during the winter. He tells me that many restaurant owners in the winter either stop selling crab dishes, increase their prices or offer poor quality meat. See ya next time."

Dog's tailgate party

Ever used the drive-through at the McDonald's on North Avenue? Because of the configuration of the parking lot, the pickup window stands about 20 feet from the passenger side of customer cars. So drivers have to place their money in -- and fetch their food from -- the most elaborate contraption we've ever seen at Mickey D's -- part bucket, part conveyor, part duct work. It reminded me of something in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." Check it out.

And while you're there, note the number of people eating in their cars between McDonald's and the light at North and Charles. It's Gobble Corner.

Drive-through fast food tempts millions of American motorists to eat with one hand on the steering wheel.

But there's still hope for civilization; not everyone is caught up in the drive-and-chew rat race.

Observant TJI reader Terry Brown, who lives in the Medfield section of North Baltimore, looked out her living room window and noted the following:

"A good-looking man coaxed his beautiful yellow lab up on the tailgate of his pickup truck. The man opened a paper bag and pulled out a big hamburger on a roll and held it while the dog took bites until he was finished. Then the man and his dog drove off."

Backing Hillary to a T

Fed up with First Lady bashing, Baltimore-based writer/comic Dianne "Norma" Bates has produced "Free Hillary" T-shirts. They're selling for $10. "Or," Bates says, "I'll give one free to any Republican congressperson willing to wear one to work."

Contact This Just In at 332-6166.

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