Many of us have the experience of getting chocolates instead of coins be it in the makeshift shops or in big department stores. The shopkeepers or the sales persons offer chocolates as change-money irrespective of the buyers' age, taste and, more importantly, despite their unwillingness to receive such coins or small denomination notes at that moment.
But what causes the unavailability of coins and sustainability of this chocolate business in shops? While talking to some owners and managers of shops I asked them why chocolates in lieu of coins are given to the customers. The reply I got from them was that they did not get coins from the banks. I conducted a study to check to what extent their claim was valid. We paid visits to a number of banks to get coins in exchange for notes but not a single bank provided us with the coins we requested for. At the same time, coins were found available to the brokers selling coins beside the banks and in some other busy areas. Thus, I was quite convinced of the claim that coins are not readily available in some bank branches for the common people.
I also tried to find out if there were any other causes of keeping chocolates as substitutes for coins. And I discovered that such chocolate containers are also a source of income for some business owners, since many people are reluctant to take chocolates and they leave the shop without taking it. The shopkeepers also earn by offering the shoppers the chocolates of less value than the actual value of coins or notes that should be given to them. Once I saw a young lady submitted two hundred taka along with five chocolates to the cash counter of a shop to pay the bill of a cosmetic item of taka 210. The manager of the shop, being flabbergasted, said to the lady, "Thank you so much for the gifts." The lady replied hastily, "These are the chocolates I received from this shop as substitutes for coins and I have just returned those chocolates instead of coins here." Their conversation led to an altercation and I left the shop sensing its outcome.
If we think of the consequences of this chocolate business, we would easily realize that shoppers are deceived by not taking back the change from the shopkeepers. Our economy will also be affected badly if this huge amount of coins issued by Bangladesh Bank and our government is not properly circulated and utilized.
Definitely, some effective measures can be taken to increase the circulation coins in the market. A circular was issued by the Department of Currency Management of Bangladesh Bank on 4 June 2014. The circular says that while withdrawing cash from Bangladesh Bank, the scheduled bank should withdraw coins worth 0.10 per cent of their total withdrawn amount and there should be a separate counter at the bank to exchange coins with customers. Bangladesh Bank issued another circular on 12 November 2015 directing the scheduled banks to maintain a specific volume of coins at each branch. All the banks should adhere to this guideline meticulously. Bangladesh Bank can ask the banks for the submission of a periodic report evidencing the exchange of coins with customers and common people. If any scheduled bank fails to comply with the set guidelines of Bangladesh Bank, the central bank may impose penalty on them. The respective authority can also advise the shop owners to refrain from this heinous chocolate business and penalize them if the rules are violated. Besides, customers should not hesitate to receive metallic coins when they withdraw cash from the banks.
Finally, stringent regulations should be implemented and all common people should also be made cognizant of this chocolate business.
Pulok Debnath has done his MBA from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Dhaka University.
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