Small change causes big hassles in Argentina By Katie Paul
Tue Nov 6, 8:56 AM ET
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - "We have no
coins," read posters hung all over Marcelo Bostos' small
convenience store in downtown Buenos Aires. The same signs
are at the post office, the bakery, and the train ticket office.
food prices top Argentine financial worries, it is the
coin shortage that really makes people steam and has even
generated a black market in coins.
Paying for candy, train fare or a spool
of thread with a 20-peso ($6.25) bill in Buenos Aires
is asking for a temper tantrum from the clerk. A quick
stop for a snack during your commute is bound to lock
you into a battle of wills with the vendor. Which one
will admit to having coins to pay or make change?
Who has all the coins? Well, bus companies collect fares
in coins only and have begun selling change back to
business owners like Bostos for a fee
Reuters Photo: Passengers try to pay
for tickets at a train station box office with a sign...
"For every 100 pesos that you give the bus companies,
they give you back only 97," said Bostos, 38. "The
reality is, there aren't any coins because it's a business
in Argentina. There are bills, but no coins. It's a serious
"It's no way to run a business, having to tell customers
that I can't make change," he said.
Authorities say there are 4.5 billion coins in circulation,
enough for Argentina's 40 million people and $210 billion
The central bank says it put about 250 million new coins
of all denominations into circulation this year through deliveries
to big consumers like supermarkets and toll collectors. The
bank says each coin-using Argentine should have between 115
and 250 coins at his or her disposal, in line with other countries
in the region.
No way say Argentines, who have stories about creative ways
they gather enough coins for 80 centavo ($0.25) bus fare or
to buy a soda.
Some people give small bills to beggars or buskers and ask
for a smaller-denomination coin in return.
Taxi driver Leonel Ferrer, 31, entrusts a 20-peso bill every
morning to porters at a taxi stand who receive coins as tips.
"Later in the day, I come by and pick up coins. It requires
trust, but, this way, I always have change in the taxi,"
An official at the central bank told Reuters the problem
comes from people hoarding coins in their ashtrays and pocketbooks.
"Influencing the issue is a cultural factor ... which
is that people tend to hang onto coins in their homes and,
as a result, keep them from recirculating as they ought to,"
said the official, who asked not to be named.