Misc //

Dollars and Sense: Free Parking

Alexi Polden lands on free parking.

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Self check-out machines are great for a lot of things. Pretending four bags of groceries are just full of unwashed potatoes, or operating smoothly with five to twenty less workers a shift, or discreetly buying your first packet of condoms or adult nappies. They’re a 21st century marvel, and with the help of fruit, they can score you free parking.

Most supermarkets are pretty well located, and give free parking to customers. In a city where even the cheapest parking, like the Domain carpark, costs $9 an hour, Woolloomooloo Woolworths, a short walk away, gives you an hour free—the problem is, you have to buy something.

That’s where grapes come in; a small grape weighs only a couple of grams, which isn’t enough to tip a self checkout scale beyond about two cents. Retailers have to round down to the nearest ten cents for charges of one or two cents, in cash transactions, so, whatever money you put in to pay for that grape will be spat right out again, along with a receipt for your trouble.

And there you have it, you’re officially a customer and haven’t paid a thing. You could probably try this on at a staffed checkout too; your mileage may vary.

The dollar or two you’ll save not buying a chocolate bar or can of coke is just enough to lose down the side of your car seat and find next time you’re searching madly for coins to feed a parking meter.