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(Straight Dope)   Is it legal to pay a big debt in small change?   ( straightdope.com) divider line
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9262 clicks; posted to Main » on 15 Nov 2001 at 2:25 PM (16 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2001-11-15 02:26:44 PM  
I hope so, all I've got are pennies.
2001-11-15 02:28:21 PM  
Money is Money... no matter how annoying
2001-11-15 02:31:49 PM  
Can't pay a toll with pennies. Says so right on the box thingie.
2001-11-15 02:33:05 PM  
They finally got the vending machines at my local post office to take pennies...good...I was sick of those one-cent stamps.
2001-11-15 02:33:18 PM  
Well, THAT really clears things up.....
2001-11-15 02:33:39 PM  
so long as you don't try to pay the debt via an ATM..
2001-11-15 02:33:41 PM  
Just as perplexing, can you pay a small debt with big change? Like the giant penny in Batman's cave?
2001-11-15 02:35:05 PM  
Even more intresting, do I give a fark?
2001-11-15 02:42:53 PM  
Can you pay a big debt with a drunken midget?
2001-11-15 02:43:01 PM  
not the greatest triumph of the straight dope, though in this week's independent they tackle whether turtles can breath through their ass (apparently some can)....
2001-11-15 02:47:14 PM  
Lunatic Tassle

You can in Illinois! (A fact not gleaned from The West Wing, but rather from many years of driving on I-294.) It's kinda cool to listen to the machine chug away counting them all.

You can also pay in Necco wafers, but that's something else entirely.
2001-11-15 02:51:39 PM  
An important note that they missed is that US currency is legal tender for all DEBTS. That is, it can legally be rejected for purchases (by simply refusing to sell you the item). Plenty of stores that sell larger-ticket items in robbery-prone areas refuse to accept cash for purchases.
Once the item is in your posession (that is, a debt incurred), it would further depend on the terms of the debt contract (I believe, but am not absolutely certain, that the ability to pay a debt with cash, being a function of the cash and not a legal right of the individual, can be signed away in a contract).
2001-11-15 02:51:52 PM  
fb Yeah, I'm like you.

I SO don't care that I have to make sure I write to everyone to tell them that I don't care.
2001-11-15 02:55:06 PM  
I have every one of Cecil's books totally memorized. I am the ultimate Cecil fan.

Thank you.
2001-11-15 02:55:25 PM  
Nude bowling!? Hell yeah!

Oh wait, this is the thing with the change.

I used to work at a gas station, and I would only take large payments in change from the really poor looking people. How can you tell the poor bastard who rode his bike down to the gas station that he can't use his dirty nickels to buy cheap smokes? I just didn't have the heart.

I gotta say, the most fun (with coins) I ever had was when a stoned Jamican band rolled thru at about 2AM. They just came into the states from Canada, and they decided their Candian quarters were worthless. So, they left a big pile of them on the counter and jumped back into their Astrovan. Silly Jamicans, they should know that we Americans are too lazy to actually look at the money you give us. If it's round and silver, it must a quarter. I bought many a nacho, that night.
2001-11-15 02:55:42 PM  
I keep hearing rumor of the demise of the penny, yada yada... Who cares?

What I want to know is long until we can get rid of cash altogether? I mean seriously, what would it take at this point? Some interesting reading on the subject can be found Here and Here.

I could be wrong, but this is sure a lot more interesting than a unit of currency that almost all Americans agree is worth exactly NOTHING as change. If my bill at a store comes to $3.48, and I give them a dollar, I'm perfectly alright with getting a buck fifty back.


End the penny. End the dollar bill. End cash.

My (worthless) $0.02,

2001-11-15 02:57:42 PM  

Not in Canada, if it' costs more than 2 dollars than change need not be taken as legal currency. (Although that dates back to well before dollar coin).
And Batman didn't have a giant penny, it's a 1922 half buck that has two 'heads' on it one scratched up-I'm not sure if the actual coin exists) - Anyways it was a momento that TwoFace made. [Those curious might just as well know that it had Batman and Robin on opposite sides, which TwoFace wanted to flip to see which one would die. Predictably Batman used his bat-utility belt to use magetism to get the coin to stand on end. Too stupid for me to make it up.]
2001-11-15 03:05:31 PM  

You said:

"If my bill at a store comes to $3.48, and I give them a dollar, I'm perfectly alright with getting a buck fifty back."

2001-11-15 03:08:14 PM  
"Can you pay a big debt with a drunken midget?"

If both parties are agreeable. :)
2001-11-15 03:12:16 PM  
snopes2 has a much more informative explaination...
2001-11-15 03:12:41 PM  
One time when I was a poor college student I bought gas with 4-5 dollars in change. When I went in the gas station to pay, the beotch at the counter refused to take it. This was ALL the money i had on me, so I angrily declared that she had to take it because it was legal American money while the people behind me watched. She made me count it up and put it in baggies. if I had had car insurance I would have plopped the pile on the counter and left...but I didn't want to have a run in with the law just in case. Thank god those days are over. It sucks being poor. Counting out change in large amounts is humiliating.
On a side note, I did get my revenge.... Now I'm a college graduate with a kick ass paycheck, and she probably is still a Circle K employee, older, saggier, more emaciated, and hoarser from all the cigarettes and trail park hard livin'. And still with out a pot to piss in. Crack and Marlboro lights are expensive.
2001-11-15 03:15:37 PM  
OctorDoctopus: Damn. Got me! :)

Puts away dollar. Hands him a 5.
2001-11-15 03:16:16 PM  
I like cash.
I like to be able to buy at least low cost things anonymously. I walk into a store. I grab a coke and a magazine, throw a few bucks at the cashier, take my change and unless I'm either recognized by someone in the store or someone puts a heck of a lot of work into it, no one ever knows I was there.
Of course, some items require that you register with the State to buy them, and some cash purchases will cause the IRS or DEA (or both) to put the work into finding out who you are. But at least with cash we're still only partly living in _1984_.
2001-11-15 03:18:10 PM  
One of my econ professors in college said that if you try to purchase something with legal tender, and it is refused, the product is yours. He tried to pay for a newspaper with a $20 or a $50 or something, and the guy at the stand refused it. My prof walked away with the paper, but he said that you shouldn't try this often if you don't want your butt kicked.
2001-11-15 03:23:38 PM  

No cash society == prepare to be taxed to death
2001-11-15 03:26:53 PM  
You're Prof's goign to get himself arrested for theft someday. A person can refuse to sell to you for any reason or no reason, including not wanting to accept the form of currancy you have (or currancy at all). As long as the item is legally in their posession (that is, you haven't signed a promise to pay and you haven't exchanged anything they've accepted for it) they don't have to sell it to you, and if you leave with it, you've stolen it.
The only exception to this, in general, is if you can show that they refused to sell to you due to your race, creed, sex or any other protected status.
2001-11-15 03:31:36 PM  
There was once a federal law that stated that pennies were not legal tender in amounts over 25 cents. I don't know if it's a dead letter, or even still on the books. I comes from waaaaay back in the post revolutionary days.
2001-11-15 03:43:35 PM  
You can buy a newspaper with a Tootsie Roll if the other guy is agreeable. The main thing is that the medium of exchange be acceptable to both parties to the transaction.

So he could have paid in used condoms...as long as the office was in to that sort of thing.
2001-11-15 03:46:47 PM  
I had a friend who died in the hospital. He was brought to the hospital by a local ambulance service; however, the hospital was not equipped to handle the trauma that my friend was in, and arrangements had already been made at another hospital. The ambulance brought him to the crappy one instead.

So my friend's mom, after her son dies, gets a bill from the ambulance service for $500. She goes to their offices and drops a stack of pennies on the ground. They tell her that they aren't going to accept pennies, and that it's legal for them to turn her away based on the type of currency she uses as payment.

But of course, I live in Louisiana, so who knows. Can Texas or somebody come in and make us a part of your state?
2001-11-15 04:12:49 PM  
Think of it from the other side, paying a small debt with a big bill...

When I was a stock boy in a supermarket, I used to make a little over $200 every 2 weeks. When I mean a little over $200, I mean like $200.47. Invariably, the biatch bookkeeper would give me 2 $100 bills and 47 cents. What the hell am I going to do with 2 $100 bills at 16? After a few weeks of her giving me shiat about her having to break the big bills, she said whatever she gave me was just going to have to be good enough. So I started a new trend. I used to buy a 25 cent pack of gum and pay for it with a $100 bill. The cashier never had enough change, so the bookkeeper had to come out and make the change anyway. I love breaking balls!
2001-11-15 04:13:27 PM  
I once payed my rent in cash, but I had to argue with the leasing office for a good while. It says on the bills "this note is legal tender for all debts public and private".

By the way I am new here and it is my boobies,

2001-11-15 04:13:35 PM  
43%: I'll toss in the midget for free.
2001-11-15 04:15:40 PM  
I was not expecting that!

I hate when that happens


2001-11-15 04:29:12 PM  
Great story, Aorlando
2001-11-15 04:44:13 PM  
We reserves the right to refuse
service to anyone for any reason
2001-11-15 04:44:20 PM  
Why wouldn't it be? Money is money.
2001-11-15 04:56:10 PM  
if both parties are in agreement in exhanging...then why are prositutes illegal. I am happy giving money, she is happy giving sex. Hypocritical stuff.
2001-11-15 04:59:40 PM  
Carbon: "[W]hy are prositutes illegal[?]"

Its only illegal if you get caught...
2001-11-15 05:01:31 PM  
Stinkbug - i see what you are saying, but that is prior to a service being provided. if you are in a ambulance, because they came and got you, then they have already given you service, so you can not regect them now. it is like if i bought a car, and i payed the down payment in a check, and then after that paid in cash. you could argue the refuse to service, but the car saleman has already serviced you. ( no oil change jokes here ) so, it is a little more complicated then just that. to anyone one for any reason, but it does not say at any time.
2001-11-15 05:08:40 PM  
The other day our professor talked about how sex is technically a legitimate form of money...according to the definition in our text (money is ANYTHING that is used in the exchange of goods or services). Kind of gross listening to a 63 year old woman talk about the economics of sex
2001-11-15 05:09:20 PM  
[image from poisonclan.org too old to be available]
2001-11-15 05:10:24 PM  
Can you write a check on any old piece of paper?

----------------------------------------------------------------------​-------- --

Dear Cecil:

Today, again, I found myself out shopping without my checkbook. Only this time, I vaguely recalled once hearing that a person can write a check on any old piece of paper. Is or was this true, or is my memory failing? If true, what are the requirements as to what must be written, besides the amount and your signature--account number? Bank? Am I paying for blank checks I don't really need? --John G., Laurel, Maryland

Cecil replies:

Don't throw out those puppies yet, Jack. It's true you can write a "negotiable instrument," bank talk for a valid check, on just about anything. According to the Uniform Commercial Code, the body of law that governs these things, all you have to include are the name of the payee, the dollar amount, the name of your bank, your signature, the date, and some suitable words of conveyance, such as "pay to the order of." You don't need the account number or the bank ID number you find on preprinted checks.

The trick is that you have to find somebody willing to accept such a check. Merchants and the like are free to reject any sort of payment they don't cotton to, checks included. Needless to say, if you try to write a check on the back of an old grocery list, the average checkout clerk is going to tell you to take a hike. However, if the clerk does accept it, the bank will honor it.

Charlie Rice, a columnist for the old This Week Sunday newspaper supplement, once wrote about various goofy checks that he claimed had been successfully cashed over the years:

- Eben Grumpy of Iowa was a little slow in paying John Sputter $30 he owed him. Sputter threatened to sue, so Grumpy painted a check on a door and dropped it on him from a third-story window next time he came over. A court ruled the door was legal payment.

- Albert Haddock of England paid his taxes by whitewashing a check for 26 pounds, 10 shillings on the side of a cow. The check was ruled legal.

- A participant in an arc-welding contest in Cleveland won first prize for a steel check that he hand-lettered. The check was cashed by officials at a cooperative bank. "The canceling holes," Charlie says, "were applied by a bank guard with a submachine gun." Right.

Many nonstandard checks are publicity stunts, such as the 21-by-7-foot check cashed for a charity drive in Fort Worth. Most others are intended as nuisances. As a rule, I would venture to say, they get sent through the mail, for the obvious reason that they're a lot harder for the payee to reject. Just about any large company can tell you stories about comedians who send in checks written on underwear, bricks, and other inconvenient media. One common stunt is to write your annual tax check to the IRS on a shirt (the shirt off your back, get it?). Swiftian satire it ain't, but some find it amusing.


Dear Cecil:

This is 12 years too late, but better late than never. In your column on checks you describe a non-standard check whitewashed on the side of a cow by one Albert Haddock. I regret to inform you that someone has been funning you. It is contained in a book of legal spoofs entitled Uncommon Law by A.P. Herbert and is, of course, phony. --Matt McLauchlin, Montreal

Dear Matt:

Cecil knows this--knows it now, anyway--but may as well give credit where it's due. A.P. Herbert's spoofs, many of which originally appeared in the British humor magazine Punch, were written in such a dead-on parody of legal style that they were often taken as fact by unwary journalists. In the introduction to his book Herbert cites a case he'd written in which perennial defendant Haddock jumped into the Thames and was charged with an assortment of crimes by the police, who were certain he'd done something wrong but uncertain what it was. The judge in the case was made to say:

It is a principle of English law that a person who appears in court has done something undesirable, and citizens who take it upon themselves to do unusual actions which attract the attention of the police should be careful to bring those actions into one of the recognizable categories of crimes and offences, for it is intolerable that the police should be put to the pains of inventing reasons for finding them undesirable.

Herbert notes (with a certain pride, one feels) that this quote found its way into a solemn American legal tome, where it was cited as an example of the regrettable degree of latitude granted to British judges. So OK, I fell into the same hole as a bunch of other chumps. But you'll forgive me if I grin.

2001-11-15 05:11:14 PM  
<off topic>
Whoever farked my account, I got it back :)

Nice try though.

Oh gawd, I'm going to get really farked this time. I better change my one-letter password.

</off topic>
2001-11-15 05:29:35 PM  
I once paid a $43 traffic ticket in loose pennies but shipped them UPS in a box. Never heard a word other than I got a "paid" receipt.

I've alwasy heard that loose pennies have to be accepted up to $10 but can be refused for any amount over that unless rolled.
2001-11-15 05:49:12 PM  

prostitutes ARE legal
prostitution is not.....

stick with Crack Whores, you'll be safe.

2001-11-15 06:09:34 PM  
As a pizza dude I will reject bills I have to get back more then $20 in change! I don't have the change for that $50 so unless you want to give me a $10 on a $19.99 order don't try. I have also told a non-tipping custimer no-way will i accept the baggie of change. My standered line is If there is enough to wrap I need it wrapped with your name and # on it. If I am having a slow night might sit at there door and have them count it out making sure that a few is dropped now and then so that they come up short.
2001-11-15 06:15:04 PM  
To answer the question, yes. You can pay a large bill with small change...

You could also pay that bill with a small Guatemalan midget if the other party was agreeable...

or a school bus of Phillipino Catholic Schoolgirls...
2001-11-15 06:45:05 PM  
if both parties are in agreement in exhanging...then why are prositutes illegal. I am happy giving money, she is happy giving sex. Hypocritical stuff.

This has been an issue discussed since the time before the cavemen got rock hard. Prostitution isn't illegal everywhere. It is the oldest profession and people may often think well if it is one of the oldest then why is it illegal?
But once again the farkin government is behind all of this. There is no reason why prostitution should be illegal except for the fact that the government can't regulate the income brought by those who attend to this job and thus they can't tax anything on it.
The government is such a crooked thing that i can't possibly understand the logic behind it. I personally would never buy a prostitute because of the diseases.
On the flip side, prostitution is legal in Nevada. In Las Vegas there are "whorehouses" where you can pay for sex. But the government regulates this...so to them they can tax it and know how much income is being processed. Hence the legality of it.
The government makes prostitution illegal not only because they think it is morally wrong, but because they can't get "their fair share".

2001-11-15 07:02:05 PM  
Aorlando: YEAH! That's showing that damn pain in the ass.

2 $100 bills. Kcchh...you'd have to head to the bank to break that into something usable first.

I know there are a lot of places that have signs near the register, "We are unable to accept bills over $20". Sucks.

ah but, the modern world. Big companies only want to take cash, check or charge. Of course, nothing's stopping you from opening up your own store and accepting payments in drunk midgets, used condoms, Filipino schoolgirls, or other such unusual commodities...
2001-11-15 07:28:24 PM  
I Like the Idea of a bit of color...... as for this thread ......... who gives a shiat. Farken boooooooooooooooooooooring.

And just for the record - Christopher Walken has his head sooo far up his arse that his adams apple is actually his nose!

That should get a bite or 2.
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