Last Saturday I had my first experience using the Coinstar coin counting machine. You know, the ones that sit in the grocery store behind the checkout aisles. So this month, Coinstar was having a promotion during which not only could you get your coins counted for free (if you redeem them as a gift card), but they would give you an additional $10 gift card as well. Since this basically entailed doing nothing except a trip to the grocery store, I figured it would be worth my time.
I went first to the in-store bank, where I exchanged some bills for coins, then went over to the coin counting machine. I had never used a Coinstar machine before (I typically take my coins to the bank, where I know the machine counts correctly, but more importantly counts for free), so I wanted to start off slow to ensure that it counted correctly. The first thing I noticed was how high the coin counting fee is – normally (when you’re not changing coins for a gift card) Coinstar charges 8 9/10 cents on the dollar for counting! That seems ridiculous to me. However, I was doing the free counting, so it was no big deal.
I started with a few loose coins I had grabbed out of my car, and before I had even put in $2, it had missed a quarter and a few pennies! I thought that was strange. I continued to feed coins in, eventually going through all the rolls I had gotten at the bank. By the time I was done, I had put in over $42, yet the Coinstar machine only showed me having put in barely over $40. Obviously I understand that sometimes it will not be able to identify a coin correctly, but in those cases it should return the bad coin to me (like it does at the bank), not simply take it from me. This, however, is Coinstar’s policy, and you have to agree to it in order to use their machine.
In the end I figured out I was shorted around $2.15. It wasn’t as big of a deal to me, since I knew I would be getting the extra $10 gift card, but it still really bothered me, since not only are the people who use the machine paying an exorbitant fee to do so, but they are also not even getting credited for all the coins that they put in! This seems like a huge ripoff to me. I still got about $8 free at Amazon by taking about 15 extra minutes at the grocery store, but I also found out that the Coinstar machines really are a ripoff.