Czechs sick of small change?


Is the Czech Republic running out of small change? Here's a quick maths lesson: one Czech crown is worth around 3 US cents. Each crown is divided into 100 hellers, and the Czech National Bank issues 10,20 and 50 heller coins. But a 10 heller coin - worth about a third of a cent - is to all intents and purposes useless. And as Dita Asiedu reports now, more and more people are discarding them and shops are beginning to run out.

Today, ten or twenty heller coins do nothing but take up space in our wallets and purses. Worth less than one U.S. cent, the aluminium hellers can buy virtually nothing. All they're used for is paying for goods that have ridiculous prices, such as 29.90 crowns or 15.30 crowns. And so it's no surprise that Czechs are becoming increasingly irritated by carrying them around, and are keeping them in jars or leaving them on the ground when they happen to fall out of their wallets. The flow of small change has therefore become rather unbalanced, with stores giving but not receiving. I decided to pass by our local corner store to see how much of an impact this new development has had:

"Ten and twenty heller coins are only popular with the older generation who still see some value in them today. The younger generation though, only accepts money from the one crown coin and up, so when they come into a store and are asked for small change, they don't have it. On the other hand, the older customers still bring their accumulated hellers to us, saving us the trips to the bank. So it's works out well."

Whilst the smaller stores seem to get by, it's the bigger supermarkets and hypermarkets in mainly Prague and the Moravian capital of Brno who are complaining about a lack of small change. Central Bank spokeswoman, Alice Frisaufova, however believes that the problem is just a temporary one that is not as serious as many claim:

"Currently among the Czech people in the Czech Republic we have about 20 crowns in small change, which means that approximately each inhabitant has a middle-sized glass of change at home so I don't think that we have a lack of small money, it affects the circulation of money but it's not illegal. The lack is just in the big supermarkets and hypermarkets because they have a policy that they don't take change from their customers. They prefer to give the change back to the customers because it's cheaper and more comfortable for them personally."

The Czech Central Bank did, however, hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss possible steps to be taken if the situation becomes serious:

"We decided to make a serious analysis of the economic impact for three different possibilities of solving the situation. The first possibility is to keep the production as it is now, the second possibility is to just stop production completely and the third is to set up rules for everyone to be able to round up the cash payment to fifty hellers so that we wouldn't need the small change any more."