Picking up pennies...

I’ve seen a couple of different treatments on this question, that generally use the same method of boiling it down, which is quite a good one. (Estimates on a plausible rate of picking up pennies will vary, of course.)

One thing that occurs to me, though, is that Cecil is assuming that everyone will want to jump on, in essence, an endeavour that pays 7.20 an hour (even if that is 40% above the minimum wage,) and that does carry at least a theoretical risk of injury in squatting down and/or bending over to claim a small object from the floor. (Particularly I think that risk might be a little higher for occasional penny picker-uppers, as opposed to our theoretical ones who are doing it for hours at a stretch and presumably have a chance to get themselves limbered up.)

But my main point is, isn’t that decision of whether it’s worth your time to pick up a penny best left up to the individual, keeping in mind the ‘hourly rate’ principle?? A highly paid doctor, for example, would probably not feel that picking up pennies was worth his time given that time/benefit analysis. :slight_smile:

And yes, I know, I’m a nit-picker LOL.

Welcome to the board, Chrisk! :slight_smile: One of the things we ask is that, if you start a thread, you provide a link to the article under discussion. In this case, that would be Is it worth it to pick up a penny?. In the old days, making links was a pain; now it can be done relatively easily with the “add link” button on the bar right above the window in which text gets typed. :slight_smile:

The actual question asked by the poster was, would picking up the penny represent a “profit.” Under that concept, Unca Cece chose to assume that any activity that pays $7.20/hr. was “profitable” given that less remunerative jobs still are allowed under minimum wage laws. I suppose the alternative is to question whether $7.20/hr. is truly “profitable.” :slight_smile:

Again, welcome to our fun!

Surely there must be crops that people pick where the individual picking by hand reap an amount that is less than a pennys worth per ‘bend and snatch’.
But it still would be worth it whether you were picking for food or a wage otherwise people wouldn’t do it.

I was glad to see this question on the straightdope, because I’ve always wondered about it, but frankly I thought it would be more interesting if answered from the energy expended vs. energy consumed standpoint. In other words, there are definitely other ways to determine the “worth” of a certain activity. A more complicated answer would have been more entertaining, IMHO.

I think this has been bugging me since he first wrote this column. Cecil correctly starts thinking of it as an economy of scale, but what he misses is the we aren’t ever going to have that scale. An analogy: if I asked somebody to go to the corner store and get me a can of soda, in exchange for a nickel (I’ll pay for the soda), most people would probably refuse. It’s just not worth their time and effort. However, if I were to say “I wll give you a nickel for every can of soda you can deliver to me” then it’s a different ball game. maybe you take a handtruck and can come back with 10 cases of 24. That’s $12. If it takes you half an hour, then you could be making $24/hour steady. Then it might be worth renting a truck, and on and on. So back to the pennies. It is doubtful whether any of us will find ourselves in the situation of being able to pick up a virtually endless quantity of pennies. If it is just one penny, then it is back to my analogy of getting me a soda for a nickel, one time only, and it’s just not worth it.
Go easy on me, I’m new…

Don’t forget that’s a tax-free $7.20 per hour. Picking up a dime is tax-free $72.00 per hour. Not bad work if you can get it.

It’s tax-free only if you are dishonest enough to lie about this on your income tax return.

Dishonest? How? It is an anonymous gift, not income. There is a gift tax, but it is subject to certain exclusions (major one: $11,000 annually per individual you gift to), and is paid for by the giver, not the givee.

For fourteen years I’ve collected every penny I’ve come across. It’s a “thing” with me. They seem to follow me around. They wash up on the beach at my feet, show up at the same Magnolia tree three days in a row, turn up in my suitcase or on the window sill… They are my “pennies from heaven.” But that’s a long story.

At Thanksgiving I count them, double it, add a few dollars, solicit more money from my husband and send a check to the Nashville Rescue Mission . But I never get around to cashing in those pennies. So they are there to count up the next year too with a few more added.

I’ve made it worth it.

Just by coincidence, I robbed my makeshift piggy bank today of quarters, nickels and dimes: Over $134 of loose change! (Probably about ten years’ worth. Not bad considering that I don’t leave the house every day.

aaslatten, the column in question was printed in 1983. At the time, poor Unca Cece was limited to a very small portion of the Chicago Reader, which is not, shall we say, one of the major newspapers of the nation. If you review the archive, you’ll see that, at the time, his answers were short, biting, and to the point.

It is only in recent years when more enlightened management at the Reader have allowed our Perfect Master more space to elaborate that we have become used to a lengthy dissertation on the issues raised. Were the question re-posited at present, no doubt some more intricate calculations would be presented. :slight_smile:

One thing about picking up pennies: You are getting paid for doing something at a time you normally aren’t getting paid anything. Any money you pick up is pure profit.