Back in January, the Toronto Star broke the story on Corin Raymond’s Canadian Tire money campaign. At that point, Corin had about $140 of “funny money”. Four months later, the Star checks back in with Corin on his progress:
TORONTO MUSICIAN RAISES ENOUGH MONEY TO RECORD LIVE ALBUM
By Leanne Delap
Standing under the handscrawl above the beer fridge at the Done Right Inn on Queen St. W., bartender Heather Dalgleish hefts a fat wad of funny money out of a Tupperware tub. “Canadian Tire money accepted here,” the sign reads, and Dalgleish flips through the five and 10 cent notes to get to the brownish $2 bills.
“We take in about $100 a month these days,” she says, of the play dough that has been accepted at par here since the place opened in 1999. That is double the bar’s customary take: it enjoyed a spike since the Star put Toronto singer-songwriter Corin Raymond’s Canadian Tire fundraising drive quest on the cover of the newspaper in January.
“C’mon, this is an old-school bar, with a row of elbows propped along it. There is nothing we don’t chew over, and that moment of fame played big here. We’re a local, and this made us a destination.”
Indeed, Raymond’s quest has helped him raise more than $3,000 of the funny money (enough to pay for the recording of his new live album; he had just $140 in hand when the publicity swelled). Just back from his tour, he has had patrons tossing Canadian Tire bills at him as if he were a spangled showgirl onstage from Yukon to Kamloops to Prince Edward County when he plays his song “Don’t Spend it Honey,” about how long it takes to save up the stuff.
In British Columbia on the last leg of a cross-country tour, Raymond reveals his tally is “$3,297.10, and I’m bringing a half a knapsack worth of the stuff back. It looks like I robbed a bank.”
Raymond waxes romantic: “It is like little pieces of our history.”
James Paul, who owns The Rogue Studios, on Adelaide St.W., where Raymond records, has been accepting the coupons in exchange for record production services for some 20 years, for more practical reasons.
“I started doing it because I realized we will always need coffee, or toilet paper, or light bulbs.” “It used to be commonplace,” he says of the low-slung, dim dive bars of Kensington, where students would top up their beer money with the coupons.
So what happened to the bars that used to take them?
Doug Adams, who lives in London, Ont., is the vice-president of the Canadian Tire Coupon Collectors Club. In his 20 years with the organization (which has nearly 1,000 members cross-country, who regularly gather regionally to trade, auction and kibbutz), our collective relationship with the coupons has changed. “You just don’t get as much at one time,” Adams says. “Students, especially outside the downtown core, would get a couple of dollars at a time filling up at the gas bars. It just takes much longer to collect now.”
Collectors have full catalogues and framed collections of rare vintage lots of the loot, part of a rewards program first offered in 1958 at the company’s gas bars, then at its main tills in 1961.
It’s still offered to customers who pay for their purchases in cash. In the early days, they received 5 per cent of their purchase in the coupons; today the reward is 0.4 per cent of the bill.
“That is why the switch has been to community collections,” says Adams, about charities that collect the coupons.
“Now no one person can collect enough to make it worthwhile. But banded together, everyone can give a little Canadian Tire money painlessly.”
And what of the much publicized rumours on the program’s 40th birthday last year about the big switch to plastic? “That is a trial program on the east coast,” says Adrienne Alexander, spokeswoman for Canadian Tire in Toronto, “and there are no plans to scrap the currency.”
The Done Right may be the last bar in Toronto that accepts the money at par. There’s a $30 limit per customer but Dalgleish has never seen anyone come close. The bar and The Rogue Studios both collect taxes on the Canadian Tire money transactions.
“You always need something from Canadian Tire,” says Dalgleish. “And now that the yellow garbage bags every commercial business has to use are only available there — they are $3.10 each — we use it up quite quickly. Of course, I try to take the bigger denominations when I go, or you end up ticking off the rest of the line.”
Corin plans to shoot his “Don’t Spend It Honey” video at the Done Right, and hopes to stock it with the real patrons from the bar who gave his movement its start.