Letter: Pennies fight fraud

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Mr Ashley (letter, 11 August) might reflect that the practice of pricing goods at pounds 19.99 or whatever is adopted by very many non-grocery retailers employing large numbers of staff.

It might seem irksome, but it saves more than pence by making cheques, credit card vouchers and the like far harder to alter or misrepresent, as well as by making more complex frauds more difficult to commit since round figures seldom appear in till rolls or in records derived from them.

Obviously a cheque for pounds x.99 in the possession of anyone but a shopkeeper would be hard to explain, and obviously it is very difficult to tinker with sets of figures that are built up of units of pounds x.99, yet their analysis is made easier if pence are only ever shown in multiples of 99, when an error is being sought. Since the costs of both fraud and book-keeping are passed on to shoppers anything that limits either must be of benefit.

Prices have in any case to be marked up by odd percentages to cover the costs incurred by those who use credit cards, so the round-pound prices in Mr Ashley's dream shop are likely to have been rounded up more than those in the shops he dislikes.