Why there's no penny-rounding conspiracy

Tease the day: Cashiers aren't making money on the elimination of the one-cent coin

(Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Office Space fans all over Canada were suspicious when they learned that, just as the penny was phased out, cashiers would round transactions to the nearest nickel. While the rest of the internet was making the same joke over and over and over again—”Penny for your thoughts?” or “If I had a nickel for every time…”—the rest of us were thinking about where exactly all those rounded cents were going. Among the many thousands of cashiers in Canada, surely someone would game the system. Right? We all remember our Office Space heroes, those paragons of cubicle culture in the Y2K era, who hoped to rip off their evil bosses a fraction of a cent at a time.

Luckily, the National Post was on the case this morning, investigating the potential for “salami slicing” in this brave, new, penniless world. The Post points out that so-called penny shaving “aims to collect tiny rounding errors over many transactions,” almost a verbatim description of Peter and Michael Bolton and Samir’s cinematic quest. The Post explains that transactions ending in .03, .04, .08, and .09 all round up to the nearest nickel. That means cashiers keep a penny or two on those transactions. What if they attempted to maximize the number of such occurrences? Might they get rich at our expense? The answer is pretty much no. The Post enlisted an expert to conduct a random test, and he found that after enough transactions, the rounding balances out—just as the government suggested it would. Much less dramatic than the attempted heist at Initech.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with potential infrastructure spending in the next federal budget. The National Post fronts the slow free-trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with a city councillor’s potential ouster over campaign overspending. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s denial that it will cower to a Conservative history agendaiPolitics fronts an American regulator’s consideration of national security in its potential approval of CNOOC’s takeover of energy company Nexen. leads with the BlackBerry 10’s debut in Canadian storesNational Newswatch showcases a Canadian Press story about an unnamed executive at the Canadian International Development Agency who the federal integrity commissioner has cited for wrongdoing.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Enviro commissioner. Canada’s federal environmental watchdog, Scott Vaughan, will present his final report today before leaving his post at the end of March. 2. Charbonneau. A former director of real estate at the City of Montreal testified at the Charbonneau commission that he quite his job after growing tired of fighting rigged contracts.
3. Northern Gateway. A coalition of Aboriginal groups on B.C.’s west coast have left the Northern Gateway pipeline review after spending more than three times their federal allotment. 4. TED moves. The popular conference that has produced hundreds of short, online, ideas-based videos—TED—is moving to Vancouver, a “cosmopolitan” city, from California.

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