Money & Banking

Coupon currency: how Hyderabad beats the coin shortage

GNAGA SRIDHAR MSOMASEKHAR Hyderabad | Updated on January 23, 2018


Coupons handed out by retailers can be redeemed against future buys

Faced with the dearth of small notes and coins, a number of shops and departmental stores in Hyderabad have come up their own solution – printing their own ‘currency’.

These shops have gone beyond the familiar practice of handing out éclairs, boiled sweets and shampoo sachets in lieu of change owed against purchases. They hand out coupons for denominations ranging from between ₹1 and ₹5, which can redeemed against future buys.

Some such as the proprietor of Shivam Wines – a liquor store in Ashok Nagar here – have taken the practice a few steps further. His coupons, the size of a visiting card, are bar-coded and signed.

“The bar-code is to prevent people from printing fakes and the signature is my undertaking to honour the coupon,” says CS Reddy.

At Satya Department store here, a customer who has been handed out a ₹5 coupon is concerned about its validity. “Don’t worry. I have signed on it,” assures the store owner.

Often, the only choice for a customer is either to accept these coupons or forego the change.

“I have not been given the exact change in any of my recent transactions. Very often, I get coupon currency,’’ says M Rama Rao, a customer at the store.

Are coupons preferred over chocolates? Customer opinion varies but for savvy shopkeepers, coupons are a hook to bring customers back to make more purchases.

The shortage of change has led stores to adopt different strategies. Some big players are going as far as trying to buy coins from customers. For, example Heritage Fresh has put up notices near its billing counters in some of its outlets promising ₹100 in exchange for coins worth ₹95.

Some kirana shops in the city have an informal understanding with beggars, offering them around 10 per cent more in notes in exchange for the coins they bring in.

The shortage of coins is a result of the Reserve Bank of India withdrawal from the retail distribution of coins, says an office bearer of RBI staff association.

The Bank’s latest annual report says it has shut down its coin counters in most locations and that it will continue to “gradually withdraw from retail distribution of currency.”

As a result there has been a steep decrease in the distribution of coins from its counters.

As of May 31, 2014, there was a decrease of 80 per cent and 77 per cent in the distribution of currency notes and coins respectively from RBI counters compared to January 1, 2013.

On the other hand, commercial and private banks are unable to meet the demand. “Banks cannot devote their staff entirely to coin distribution. We have core functions to undertake,” says the executive director of a public sector bank.

Published on May 07, 2015

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