Give a Penny, Take a Penny…or Two…or Ten?

The "give a penny, take a penny" jar at your local grocery store is a convenience. So why do some people treat it like a freebie buffet? Not cool. Check out Modern Manners Guy's "take a penny" etiquette tips.

Richie Frieman
2-minute read


A couple of weeks ago I witnessed someone take nine pennies from a “give a penny, take a penny” jar at my local deli. I posted this on my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page and was happy with the response I received. But I figured further discussion was needed. Maybe I’m off but this shocked me. The give a penny, take a penny concept is a convenience factor, not a freebie system. Nine pennies? That seems high. And from the look of the cashier, he was surprised when the customer said, “Ah, I’m short a bit. Let me see what you have in the change jar.” This was a clear cut case of improper give a penny, take a penny etiquette.

For starters, the jar or can with stray pennies that you may find at your local store is a luxury based off the generosity of strangers. It’s probably one of the surest signs of mannerly behavior in modern society to offer up spare change for someone else to use when they need exact change, rather than breaking a bill. I mean, we all hate having to get $0.97 in change back, right? I’d much rather take $0.03 from the give a penny, take a penny can.

But that’s around the limit. I recommend the max for the give a penny, take a penny jar to be set at $0.05. I believe in karma and something tells me that karma is watching when you take all the pennies in the jar, leaving none for your fellow customers.

The next time you are handed a few pennies in change, don't forget to pay it forward. Karma is watching. 

What do you think about the $0.05 rule for the penny jar? Reasonable or too strict? Post your thoughts in the comments section below or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back soon for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a polite life.

Image courtesy of Getty Images