Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Importance of Change

This is not a philosophical treatise on the nature of change.  This is about change -- coins, to be exact.

Coins are important here.  The clerks in the stores always ask for exact change or as close as possible.  The other day, I was shopping at Gran Aki (part of the SuperMaxi family of stores) and spent $11.86.  I had a $20 bill and a lot of change -- I automatically gave the clerk $21.86.  The first or second time I shopped there, the customer ahead of me paid with $10 worth of dimes -- not in coin rolls, either.  The clerk thanked the customer profusely. Can you imagine what would happen in a checkout line in the US if that were to happen?  Actually, I've seen what happened in one case in a store in Springfield, Missouri: The clerk sent the customer to one of those coin machines at the front of the store.  The man wasn't happy about it; he had just enough to pay for his purchase and if he had gone to the coin machine he wouldn't have had enough.  Another customer stepped up and paid for the man's groceries (under $5, as I recall).

The buses in Cuenca cost 25 cents a ride.  You can use a quarter, two dimes and a nickel . . . I've seen people hand the driver 25 pennies.

At our local bakery, rolls are 12 cents each.  When I buy two, or four, and pay with a quarter or a half dollar (when was the last time you saw a half dollar in the US?), I tell the clerk to keep the change because I know that she will probably be short on pennies.

The owners of the little stores around here are always in need of change. 

Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency.  If you want to know where the $1 Sacajawea coins are, they are here.  Although there are dollar bills around, they are dirty and torn, often, and there have been times when a cab driver or store clerk refuses to take them.  I have learned to appreciate the dollar coin.  In fact, I wouldn't be averse to having all bills converted to coins.

For denominations of a dollar or more, US coins and bills are used exclusively.  For half-dollars and less, US coins are used, but Ecuador mints its own versions of them. They are interchangeable. Here is a picture of the Ecuadoran versions of the coins:

They are the same size as our coins but the metal composition is different.

So, when shopping in Ecuador, use cash, and make sure you have plenty of change. 

Por favor, tenga un  año nuevo feliz, saludable, y próspero.
Please, have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.



  1. Hi Barb, Great info in your post. I visited Ecuador last March for a month and was totally unprepared for the "change" situation. It took me about a week to realize I needed to keep pockets full of change to accomodate the vendors. Suspenders might be in my carry-on next trip.

  2. Mike: I think the change situation might be why Ray wears suspenders! Good to hear from you.

  3. By the way, Mike, Ray wants to know when you're coming back.

  4. Great information! We are moving to Ecuador in July. I was going to cash in some of those dollar coins I have since I never use them... but now, I think I'll pocket them for our trip. :)

  5. If you use change, in the U.S., they look at you like you are crazy.