Have you ever paid a quarter to make a call from a pay phone because you didn't want the hassle of getting change?
Have you ever thrown away a farecard with five cents' value remaining because remembering to bring it to the Addfare machine was too great an effort?
If so, you are one of thousands who choose to depart with an extra nickel or dime rather than be burdened for "petty" savings. Such burdensome occasions occur often and those nickels and dimes can add up to -- well, several nickels and dimes. Don't feel guilty, though; the system is rigged to encourage such overspending.
Take the two examples above. The most basic vending machine can be constructed to give change, but the telephone company conveniently left out that capability when it manufactured pay phones. And Metro could have had tokens like most cities, but instead it devised a system that will produce thousands of dollars in accumulated, unused farecard revenues.
Machines are the usual means by which we are nickel and dimed to death. If you're too busy to go to the post office, a small machine in the lobby or drugstore will be glad to sell you a stamp, but it will charge 35 cents for a 15-cent stamp and two fives. The two nickel stamps will be forgotten until you clean out your pockets, by which time they will have picked up too much lint to lick.
And while discussing the Postal Service, you might note how they only change 13 cents for additional first-class ounces, knowing full well that nobody has 13 cent stamps and will use a 15 cent-er anyway.
Machines that sell newspapers will also take your quarter for a 20-cent newspaper if you have no change. In fact, many of the machines make it more likely that you'll have to use a quarter since they will not accept nickels. Since the nickel will only get you 7 1/2 minutes at a parking meter and hasn't been able to purchase a pack of gum or baseball cards for years, the coin's only remaining functions are as change and serving as a weight on old phonograph cartridges so the record won't skip.
Other machines that take more than their fair share are clothing dryers that will not accept less than 50 cents for 30 minutes of drying time when you just need 10 minutes to soft-fluff your delicates; vending machines that never have change or that give you change but no product; and hotel computers that automatically bill you 50 cents for a call from your room phone, regardless of whether the call is completed.
Machines are not the only culprits. When you last bought a new car, it probably had stripes or chrome or fancy hubcaps that you didn't want or need but had to pay for in order to drive out of the showroom. At the supermarket, you have to buy cellophane-wrapped multi-packs of fruits or vegetables because the only items available for individual purchase are the bruised and malformed. Also at the supermarket, it is impossible to purchase a package of ground beef small enough to feed just one person.
What can you do about this situation? You can fight it any way you possibly can; or, like me, simply carry lots of change, buy stamps in bulk and several denominations, and don't hesitate to rip the cellophane off the good tomatoes.