Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No-Fee Change Counting And Human Happiness

This may be the slightest tip I've ever offered. But if you, like me, are really into change counting machines, it's important stuff.

Since age six, I've kept my change in the same Goofy Grape "Funny Face" container (GGFFC) , and never felt a call to update that. Funny Face (holy crap, there's actually a web site) was the far better alternative to Kool-Aid which, like other superior technologies (ala Betamax), lost out to superior marketing. It's obviously been a while, gauging by the brand's proud tout of "Sugar Sweetened!" prominently atop the label.

But I digress. For years, I've sought out those big change counting machines when my GGFFC filled up, though I never saw the point of paying a fee for the service (they should pay you; everybody needs change!). There were a joyful few years when Waterhouse banks appeared everywhere with free change counting machines. Best of all, they offered prizes if you correctly guessed your total (a bank clerk, noticing my anxiety, once offered to give me the tiny plastic toy football even though I'd guessed wrong. I indignantly refused; as this would make a mockery of the spirit of the change counting game).

But the bank changed policy, allowing only customers to count for free. Feeling boxed in, with a badly overflowing GGFFC, I resorted to one of those supermarket Coinstar machines - the industrial green, fee-charging, non-guessing-game-playing, ubiquitous and unfun Walmartish alternative. But here's the thing: while they charge a fee for cash redemption, you can choose redemption via gift card for free (Coinstar's gift card "partners" pay the fee for you). And Amazon's a partner. And Amazon credit is like cash. Woo!

So this, people, is my tip: always opt for Amazon gift certificate when using Coin Star machines.

And, if you're like me, don't forget to bask in the paradox at the conclusion of the process, when the clerk hands you currency plus some change, and you mischievously contemplate running that change back through the machine. That sublime moment is what it's really all about for me (though dumping out all the clattering coins is also awfully great).

Another weird thing I'm into: I really like typing within excruciating interfaces. For example, searching for programs to DVR by selecting letters one at a time via my TV remote control. Or text messaging on dumb phones.

These things bring me inexplicable joy. Not sure why. But that's what made me realize how completely arbitrary preference always is...and, therefore, how easily preference can be "hacked" to produce happiness and eliminate stress.

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