Can you spare a five?
Kivalliq hamlets adjust to paper money shortage

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (May 01/00) - People in Rankin Inlet were gaining a little weight earlier this month.

A shortage of $5 bills had banks and retail stores using more loonies and toonies than normal in making change for their customers.

Donna Bruce is a customer service officer for the Rankin Inlet branch of the Royal Bank.

She says an increased demand for $5 bills during the early part of the month led to the shortage.

"We try to order based on what our past experience is so we have enough on hand," says Bruce.

"Because we can't get them from another source quickly, we have to make do with what we have."

Bruce says income tax refunds have the bank going through a lot of cash and people in Rankin tend to deal more with cash in everyday transactions.

"Our automatic teller doesn't dispense $5 bills any more and we're still adjusting to meet our counter demand.

"It takes awhile to establish a pattern and decide what you need."

Rankin residents are understanding when shortages hit, part of the cost of doing business in the North.

Bruce says it's common for banks and stores to phone each other when low on a particular denomination.

"Everyone's willing to lend each other a hand," says Bruce.

"We may even contact clients who deal with the bank on a regular basis and deposit a substantial amount of cash to ask if they can bring in their deposit a little earlier.

"A lot of people here still don't have bank accounts, so a cash shortage could create more of a problem for the retail sector than the bank."

Murray Mahon manages the local Northern Store and says bill shortages just put more of an emphasis on coins.

He says it's rare for fives to run out, but pennies can be a problem because of freighting issues.

"When it's pennies, we have our staff bring in all their pennies from home and we're off and running again," says Mahon.

"Penny shortages are by far a worse problem for us than $5 bills, which are an inconvenience more than an anything else."

Mahon says Kivalliq currency definitely qualifies for the moniker 'old money'.

"I'll tell you, the oldest, most brutalized money I've ever seen in my life is in Rankin.

"The fives and 10s especially seem to keep in circulation a long time because not a lot of new bills come into isolated towns."