Last week, I read an interesting story about a hotel that started the practice of washing the coins it collects from its guests. Beginning in 1938, the hotel started cleaning all its coins full time as a courtesy to its guests after “hotelier Dan London noticed that coins dirtied a woman’s white gloves.” The cleaning served an instrumental purpose originally during a time when it was common to pay for things using coins rather than using bills.
“Since 1938, all the coins the St. Francis acquires through its cafe, restaurants and bars – all of it tarnished by the grime of the outside world – has made its way through the cleaning closet before it leaves the hotel bright and shiny.”
Now the tradition of coin washing, which only happens three times a week, serves a ceremonial purpose because paying with a credit card or debit card has become the norm. Additionally, “less pocket change enters the building” now that the St. Francis no longer has soda machines or pay phones. Rob Holsen, who took over the coin washing duties from Arnold Batliner, said the coin washing is “a connection to a more gentle time, when to go downtown was a big deal. Dress up, put on a hat and gloves, and go to Macy’s.”