Tuesday, June 21, 2011...9:00 am

Modern linguistic madness #1: Coinstar counting machines

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Evidence that modern life is rubbish, linguistically at least: spotted in the local Morrisons, a handy Coinstar coin exchange machine.

Unlike most other commentators, I’m not taking issue with the ridiculous idea of paying a machine for the privilege of counting my money.

But I believe we must stand up against the incoherence of its selling message: “Turn your change into cash! – it’s as easy as 1-2-3”

Why this is utter nonsense:

Change is cash. Last time I looked. You’re suggesting our change – made up of coins –  is something else. Get a dictionary.

Oh, I see – small coins are fiddly and inconvenient. So – exchange your fiddly shrapnel for a handy £10 note. Well, that’s OK.

No! Here’s the 1-2-3 bit:

  1. To start, touch the green button on the screen or on the keypad below
  2. Put coins in tray
  3. Redeem voucher at this location today

So – what we’re doing is taking cash, putting in into the Coinstar machine, getting in exchange not cash, but a voucher, then standing in a queue to exchange it for other cash (or paying towards your shopping maybe). And paying 5-10% in commission for the privilege.

That doesn’t sound easy to me. Especially given Morrisons’ under-staffed checkouts. It sounds like a palaver. What sounds easy is spending the coins themselves – as, you know, cash.

The worst thing is that many people will read this and think it makes sense. And does anyone know why this business model actually works? Baffling…


  • It’s not careless use of language, it’s careful and cynical use of it and the fact that these machines seem to be proliferating is proof that the business model works: persuade the hard-of-understanding that their change isn’t cash and relieve them of some of it…

  • Yes – you’re quite right. It is cynical, and I despise it…

  • This is Freelance Unbound isn’t it? Or have I stumbled on CashMyCoins.com?
    I can’t say I’ve noticed the imprecision of Coinstar’s instructions. I was too busy trying to make all the shrapnel disappear down the chute and feeding the rejected coins back in – feeling like a panhandler cashing his takings while doing it. They don’t half make a racket.
    Although I’m largely in favour of the Coinstar service, I would point out to future Coinstar customers that they are a bit sly in that you have to redeem the voucher in store on that day. So you should cash your coins first or you may have to go back in store and spend your voucher on something that you didn’t really want, rather than getting money off your shop.

  • I can’t believe you would fall for such blatant shenanigans! Is it that the entertainment value for the little ones, coupled with the convenience of not having to go to the bank overrides the sheer profiteering?

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