Small change

TOKYO (February 24): THE Japanese one yen coin is about to make a comeback - and just about everyone is outraged about it.

The little aluminium coin, which costs more to mint than it is actually worth, has been on the retreat for years with most shops rounding off prices.

But a three per cent sales tax to be imposed from April 1 will change all that, ushering in cash register confusion as shop assistants and customers fiddle with handfuls of coins.

Fast-food shops, which compete frantically to get customers in and out as quickly as possible, are glumly facing the challenge of an extra 10 to 15 second time lag as people juggle with change.

'We have to provide our part-time workers with special training to handle one yen coins as fast as possible,' said a spokesman of McDonald's Japan, one of the largest fast food firms in the country. Most Japanese department stores, very image-conscious, have a complete ban on one yen coins and price everything in multiples of at least 10 yen.

'Giving change including one yen coins does not fit our exclusive image,' said a spokeswoman at the Wako department store in central Tokyo. 'It would put us on the same level as a supermarket.'