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Best Buy Has Man Arrested for Using $2 Bills 2088

Posted by Zonk
from the buyer-beware dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Mike Bolesta of Baltimore thought he would protest Best Buy's not-so-great customer service and pay his bill with 57 $2 bills. For his trouble he got to spend some time in the county lock-up." From the article: "..Bolesta was contacted by the store, and was threated with police action if he did not pay the [installation] fee he was told before did not exist. As a sign of protest, Bolesta decided to pay using only $2 bills, which he has an abundance of because he asks his bank for them specifically. Unfortunately for him, the cashier did not seem to understand that the $2 bill is indeed legal US tender, since the bill itself is not often used. After rudely refusing to take the money, the cashier accepted the bills, only to mark them as though they were conterfeit."
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Best Buy Has Man Arrested for Using $2 Bills

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  • by Grrr (16449) <cgrrr @ g r r r . n et> on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:29PM (#12182653) Homepage Journal
    From the Guerilla News Network, [www.gnn.tv] perhaps the original interview:

    "I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, [a Baltimore County cop is] standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.' Bolesta was then taken to the county police lockup in Cockeysville, where he sat handcuffed to a pole and in leg irons [for three hours] while the Secret Service was called in."

    Best Buy isn't the worst villain here. Beware Baltimore County...

    <grrr>
  • by MisterLawyer (770687) <mikelawyer.gmail@com> on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:31PM (#12182667)
    FTA, he ended up in a county jail, so at some point the county sheriffs must have played a role in this, so they are probably the ones who arrested him.

    Best Buy security guards (aka "rent-a-cops") do not have the authority to make an actual arrest, but in some states can have limited authority to temporarily detain someone while waiting for the real police to arrive. (btw, IAAL)

  • Re:Um dear /. crowd (Score:5, Informative)

    by happymedium (861907) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:35PM (#12182717)
    Uh...no. The $2 bill, like any other bill, is "legal tender for all debts, public and private." The government says YOU MUST ACCEPT IT. Unlike the various currencies of old, it's not an IOU note for gold or some such inherently valuable thing. It's called "fiat" money--worth $2 because the government says so. Good thing you're an AC, so we can't make fun of you for sleeping through high-school economics.
  • by Physician (861339) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:38PM (#12182745) Homepage
    Actually I know of a strip club that forces you to use $2 bills. My friend of a friend of a friend goes there on occasion.
  • In Good Company (Score:5, Informative)

    by markus (2264) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:38PM (#12182752) Homepage
    Wozniak got in trouble for paying with $2 bills, too. Although, his story is a little funnier: http://www.woz.org/letters/general/78.html [woz.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:41PM (#12182775)
    I was under the impression cops need evidence before arresting you.

    No. They only to believe they have probable cause. Which part of this magical experiment called freedom in American. And with one Judge's pen, it went poof!
  • by Mikito (833242) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:41PM (#12182793)
    I'm not a lawyer and I'm not a cashier, but isn't it illegal to accept currency that you think is counterfeit? In other words, why would the cashier accept the $2 bills then mark them as "counterfeit"?

    I would think that the cashier would either accept the money or reject it and call a supervisor/store security, no in-between. But then again, I'm not a cashier.

    As a side note, I think I've only seen a $2 bill a couple of times. It has my favorite reverse side of any U.S. paper money I've seen, a depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, if I remember correctly. I have a $2 bill stored somewhere around here...
  • by fm6 (162816) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:42PM (#12182798) Homepage Journal
    What scares me ... is that this guy made it all the way to the county lock-up on the suspicions of one cashier.
    That cashier didn't get him arrested all by himself. Somebody had to convince the cops that they guy was up to no good. I doubt if a single cashier can do that. So we have to spread the blame to the store manager and the cop making the arrest. Not to mention that nobody in the store or cop shop knew enough to point out that there are $2 bills!
  • by hvacigar (872871) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:42PM (#12182800)
    but during a radio program I was listening to, it was reported that the $2 bills were sequentially numbered and that the anti-counterfeit ink smeared on one of the bills. If this is true, then it may not be so far fetched that the police would have been contacted. Does this justify an immediate arrest in handcuffs? No, but if true, it does lend some light to why Best Buy would have acted the way they did, and it would give them one hell of a defense against a defimation suit.
  • Wrong (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:52PM (#12182902)
    I work at Best Buy. We do not track people who return defective items or mail off rebates (we especially could care less about rebates since we do not handle those, those are the responsibility of the manufacturer).

    If you make an excessive number of returns, yes, you will be flagged in the system. We know that things break and that sometimes that you may even just not like what you have bought and give you the courtesy of returning your item with not many questions asked. However, no normal person who returns items that are defective or occasionaly buys things they do not like and returns them (note on "occasionaly") will get flagged. We have tuned the system and looked at people we know who are trouble makers and worked the system around that.

    If you knew of a guy passing bad checks, wouldn't you want to inform others about that person? This is no different, we want to make sure that all our other stores know about people who are making excessive returns that look mighty suspicious.
  • Re:Um dear /. crowd (Score:5, Informative)

    by djmurdoch (306849) on Friday April 08, 2005 @08:55PM (#12182930)
    Not entirely true. You must accept it for DEBTS. You do not have to accept it for products and services yet to be rendered. In this case, they are not obligated to accept it.

    This was a case where the customer had something installed, and after the fact Best Buy decided to charge him for installation. It was a debt.

  • by wilbur62 (643507) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:00PM (#12182975) Homepage
    Actually, I've been to clubs that give you $2 bills as change for the cover charge.
  • by pavon (30274) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:02PM (#12182998)
    Yeah, you are only required to accept legal tender to pay off a preexisting debt. But this was a preexisting debt.

    He had bought the radio the day before, and the employee then told him that the installation fee was waived because of a mixup, so he went home thinking the transaction was complete. The next day Best Buy called him and told him that if he didn't come in and pay the installation fee they would call the police. So he came in and tried to pay off the pre-existing debt with legal tender. The cashier then called the police because she thought it was fake.

    So employees of this store broke the law at least once during the transaction. The manager should definitely be sued, and the staff sacked.
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:08PM (#12183040)


    It was not as simple as not recognising $2 bills.

    The cashier noticed smearing of the ink - which apparently was actually there. The $2 bills may have been the first thing that got her notice but the smeared ink on them is what she claims made her suspicious enough to call her manager.

    When the officer came, he noticed that the bills all had sequential serial numbers - apparently a common sign in counterfeit currency.

    At that point, given the smeared ink and the sequential serial numbers, the officer felt he had grounds to detain the man until the secret service could be called.

    Now it turns out that, according to the secret service officer, the ink on legitimate bills does smear from time to time. I'd not heard of that, I'm guessing most people hadn't.

    The fact that he gets them as a custom withdrawl from his bank - which probably has absolutely no other use for $2 bills - explains the sequential serial numbers. They likely get them relatively directly from the treasury in large batches and only issue from those large batches to him.

    None of this proves he was a criminal - it was all completely explainable.

    But it wasn't a simple case of not recognising $2 bills. The smeared ink and sequential serial numbers were enough for the officer to detain him until an explanation could be verified.

    It may suck but the officer had reasonable grounds to detain him until he could confirm the story. I would imagine, in the majority of cases where suspect money comes up, the person caught tries feeding a story. At the end of the day, the question is whether you believe it's right to occasionally wrongfully detain one person or regularly let go many. Rightly or wrongly, the concept of reasonable grounds enshrines the former.
  • by tsotha (720379) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:08PM (#12183044)
    Was it even fucking necessary to handcuff this guy? i thought cuffs were only for uncooperative people and maybe transporting?

    Nope. Cops can cuff you while they're trying to figure out what's going on, and that's what they get trained to do. Every once in awhile they get involved with some minor thing and get attacked because, unbeknownst to them, the guy they're dealing with has felony warrants.

    Not that I'm for it. It does make them a little safer in the same way they'd be safer cuffing everyone they talk to, or making all guns illegal. However, a certain amount of risk comes with the job, and law-abiding citizens don't appreciate being treated like criminals.

  • by Xoro (201854) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:09PM (#12183058)

    Let's clear this up:

    FAQs: Currency
    Legal Tender Status

    Question I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn't this illegal?

    Answer The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 102. This is now found in section 392 of Title 31 of the United States Code. The law says that: "All coins and currencies of the United States, regardless of when coined or issued, shall be legal-tender for all debts, public and private, public charges, taxes, duties and dues."

    This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.

    From the faq. [treas.gov]

  • by MrNonchalant (767683) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:12PM (#12183077)
    Pfft. No. Haven't you been reading the papers? They're full of protesters being arrested (but then let go after a day because they can't be legally charged with anything) and cities instituting youth curfews (as a "tool for law enforcement to arrest 'suspicious' looking youngsters"). We're moving to a state whereby they can (and do) harress or arrest you for anything they feel like.

    I'd vote for any party that promised to reverse this, but none of them that have a chance of winning care (read Democrat and Republican).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:12PM (#12183082)
    a store has the right to accept only $20 bills in payment if it notifies the customer beforehand. On the other hand, if the store does not specify anything specific, once they enter into the transaction, you are allowed to pay off the 'debt' with any legal tender you have.

    Just FYI
  • by laupsavid (466567) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:17PM (#12183123)
    ...and anyone with any sense at all would know that $2 bills would be more expensive to make than to just get at the bank.
  • by uits (792760) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:19PM (#12183136)

    Since there have so many commments claiming that you must accept currency, citing "Legal Tender for all debts..." here is a snippet from the treasury department FAQ

    Question:
    I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn't this illegal?

    Answer
    The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 102. This is now found in section 392 of Title 31 of the United States Code. The law says that: "All coins and currencies of the United States, regardless of when coined or issued, shall be legal-tender for all debts, public and private, public charges, taxes, duties and dues."

    This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.

  • by Morlark (814687) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:26PM (#12183199) Homepage
    'Try not to confuse the poor cashier' is a nice sentiment, and it's all well and good if you're a patient person. But some people are just stubborn, and if they know they're in the right then they won't alter their habits. People should not ever get chucked in a cell just because they're stubborn.
  • by jacksonj04 (800021) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:27PM (#12183215) Homepage
    After my recent trip to the US (I live in the UK), I was baffled to why on earth the lowest base denomination was a note (bill) instead of a coin, meaning that vending machines are forced to accept bills *and* coins, unlike in the UK where everything up to £2 (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence, then £1 and £2) are all in coins.
  • Status: Undetermined (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:36PM (#12183282)

    It's not known if this happened, but at least we have a first-hand if undomumented account. From Snopes:

    Did the infamous "$2 bill at Taco Bell" incident really happen as described in Captain Sarcastic's tale? He says it did. But whether it's real, a somewhat embellished account of an actual encounter, or purely the product of a fertile imagination, the story remains a favorite because it's all too plausible, something we can easily imagining happening -- indeed, many of us have already experienced something very much like it (from both sides of the retail counter). Who hasn't had to deal with the tandem of a less-than-brilliant sales associate and a dim-witted manager type whose reaction to actually having to think or acknowledge something beyond his limited experience is to retreat into an officious, unchallengable "I'm the boss, and whatever I say goes" mode?

  • by pete6677 (681676) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:37PM (#12183286)
    The US Postal Service is the only place where I've ever received a dollar coin for change. I don't think anybody else uses them. And yes, the postal clerks have to explain to about every other customer that they really did get a dollar in change, not a quarter.
  • Re:In Good Company (Score:3, Informative)

    by SendBot (29932) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:45PM (#12183330) Homepage Journal
    Holy crap that's a good story! Here's a choice paragraph:

    As I opened my wallet, I considered whether I should risk using this fake ID on the Secret Service. It probably amounted to a real crime. I had my driver's license as well. But you only live once and only a few of us even get a chance like this once in our lives. So I handed him the fake ID. He noted and returned it. The Secret Service took an ID that said "Laser Safety Officer" with a photo of myself wearing an eyepatch.
  • by EnsignExtra (667953) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:46PM (#12183348) Homepage
    If anyone else cares to to write or call them: Customer Service Inquiries Best Buy Corporate Customer Care P.O. Box 949 Minneapolis, MN 55440 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289) Corporate Headquarters Best Buy Co., Inc. Corporate Headquarters P.O. Box 9312 Minneapolis, MN 55440-9312 612-291-1000 Many companies still seem to ignore online feedback, I've found. A deluge of angry geeks would be rather just.
  • by drbill28 (748405) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:52PM (#12183393)
    Seems that people on here think they stopped producing $2 bills in the 1976 series. The policy on $2 bills is to produce them only when quantities are sufficiently low. They produced more in 1996 under the 1995 series. Also quantities are getting very low. Even after only 9 or so years. They believe they'll print mroe by 2006. They're very much alive. But as someone said, they mostly just take up space.
  • by drbill28 (748405) on Friday April 08, 2005 @09:56PM (#12183419)
    Correction those 2003 series $2 bills were actually printed.
  • by Leebert (1694) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:00PM (#12183439)
    What scares me (and surprises me a little, though less than it probably should) is that this guy made it all the way to the county lock-up on the suspicions of one cashier

    They interviewed this fellow on local radio last week. He said something to the effect of this:

    The police sympathized with him and pretty much knew he was innocent, but they still could not make that judgement call themselves and had to wait for the Secret Service to arrive and verify that they were in fact not counterfiet.
  • by SA Stevens (862201) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:18PM (#12183572)
    the bills all had sequential serial numbers - apparently a common sign in counterfeit currency.


    They're kidding, right? Any sane counterfeiter would either have non-sequential serial numbers, or if lazy, they'd all be the same serial number. There's no reason at all that they'd be sequential. Sequential numbers just means the purchaser got a whole pack of new bills direct from the bank.
  • by hankaholic (32239) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:30PM (#12183658)
    When the officer came, he noticed that the bills all had sequential serial numbers - apparently a common sign in counterfeit currency.
    Do you have any basis for the claim that sequential numbers are common on counterfeit bills?

    I worked for a couple of years as a bank teller. I've never seen counterfeit bills with sequential serial numbers. The most common gaffe I've seen counterfeiters make with respect to serial numbers is actually to duplicate them.

    For instance, the local courthouse, which was across the street from my branch, takes any cash in excess of $100 from those arrested and brought in to be held. One person had about $600 in counterfeit fifties on them when arrested -- the paper felt wrong and the watermark was missing. Upon further examination, I noticed that there were only two unique serial numbers across the bills. We notified the local Secret Service office, and they sent over a courier to take the bills.

    Sequential numbers wouldn't bother me, unless the bills were worn to a large extent. It's common for banks to receive shipments of new bills, especially twos and twenties, and it stands to reason that a teller with new bills (which are shipped in sequence) would give the customer the bills as they were pulled from the drawer.

    The smeared ink and sequential serial numbers were enough for the officer to detain him until an explanation could be verified.
    Bullshit. Again, what evidence do you have that sequential numbers are suspicious? How "smudged" was the ink? Did the cashier compare the appearance of the bills to other bills in his drawer? Did he look for the watermark present in new bills? How about the officer? This customer did nothing wrong, and the police had no justification other than some garbage about heightened homeland security.

    The question is not, as you claim, whether it's reasonable to hold someone given reasonable suspicion. The question is how much doubt must be present -- this man attempted to use legal tender to satisfy a debt, and given my cash-handling experience I don't see any reason to have doubted him.
  • by bluGill (862) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:37PM (#12183707)

    The US government is well known around the world for NOT changing their currency. Anything minted since the last 1800s is still legal. This is a good thing when your currency is a standard around the world, everyone recognizes it (well everyone where the black market is significant, I suspect western Europe doesn't care cause they have a useful currency). Of course the downside is those old bills are easy to counterfit. Still by not eliminating the old currency they do help the acceptance of the dollar around the world, which is a feature.

    There are not many different coins of the same denomination. The 50 cent piece hasn't been made in years, it has been phased out just like your currency, the only difference is we never quit accepting it, we just quit using it. Everything else has only seen minor changes since the late 1800s. (sometimes one face changes. the metal in some of them changed, but overall everything looks similar to what they made 100 years ago

  • by SuperHighImpact (463360) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:40PM (#12183729)
    I once went to a strip club that gave you all your change in 2 dollar bills... the thought was that you'd be forced to tip twice as much... turns out I did give bigger tips but I gave out half as many. Go figure.
  • by shimmin (469139) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:49PM (#12183786) Journal
    Thomas Jefferson. The signing of the Declaration of Independence is on the back. One of the more lucid bits of artwork from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.
  • by racermd (314140) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:55PM (#12183818)
    Pardon me for interjecting, but I did RTFA a day or two ago when this appeared elsewhere...

    The basic sequence of events were as follows:

    1: Disgruntled customer arrives at store intending to pay invoice with $2 bills.

    2: Employee isn't familiar with the $2 bill and refuses to accept as payment.

    3: Fast-forward - Police arrive to sort the matter out. Ink on the bills smears a bit. Suspicions of counterfit money result.

    4: Customer is handcuffed and brought to police station for further questioning/investigation.

    5: U.S. Secret Service agents (yes, the're the final authority on U.S. currency) arrive and release customer after bills are inspected and found to be completely legit.

    In this particular case, the local police probably knew about $2 as legitimate U.S. currency, but were suspicious when the ink on the bills smeared a bit. After the Secret Service inspected the bills, they informed the local police (paraphrasing), "They do that, sometimes."

    Under the circumstances, the whole situation could have been avoided by a little education on the part of the Best Buy cashier. I still think this needs to be done, and rather painfully. However, the local police seemed to follow proper protocol. Ink on U.S. currency doesn't usually smear or smudge because it's usually handled often enough for the excess to wear off quickly. The $2 is not generally handled as much and this seems to be a perfect example of why it isn't.
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Friday April 08, 2005 @10:57PM (#12183828) Journal
    Fool, since decimalisation occured, the 1/2 pence coin was withdrawn, the 5 pence and 10 pence coins have been changed (they're smaller now than they were in, say, the 1980s), the 20 pence, one pound and two pound coints have been introduced. Five pound coins also exist, but are very rare: they're predominantly minted to celebrate special anniversaries and events and are mostly of interest to coin collectors.

    The grandparent post wasn't referring to the change in coinage that took place when decimalisation took place, he was referring to the change in coinage (and notes - none of the existing note designs is more than about a decade old, and the three most common are all less than six years old) that has taken place since that time.
  • by Kinetix303 (471831) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:06PM (#12183890) Homepage
    Actually, it costs far more than than one cent to mint a penny, and the government doesn't exactly 'sell' their currency to banks, rather, the currency is introduced gradually into circulation via them. Large chartered banks have been given the ability to 'leverage' or 'create' debt, by the Bank of Canada and so the need to 'purchase' money from the government does not exist.

    I suggest you
    a) Visit the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa
    b) Take a high school economics course

    Oh, and BTW: The Bank of Canada is a crown corporation, and Ford is a public traded, limited liability corporation, and most decidedly not 'private' by any sense of the word or its use in economics.

    So, FunFactor, I, and other veterans of the Canadian Monetary Industry(tm, LLC, LLBO) thank you for your interest in Canadian economics but urge you to participate chiefly as an observer in the future.
  • by drooling-dog (189103) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:15PM (#12183959)
    At least they didn't beat a confession out of him...
  • There's no limit on coins, that's just an urban legend.

    Some stores don't allow purchases over a certain amount in coins, but they can also legally refuse to take five dollars bills or bills with an odd serial number for purchases. Stores can refuse to sell for any reason at all, barring some forms of discrimination against people forbidden by law. But there are no forms of payment you can't discriminate again.

    But, as you point out, they are required to take 'legal tender' in payments of debts, and coins are legal tender. Unless they specifically restrict forms of payment before you incur your debt. (For example, gas stations sometimes restrict you from paying with bills more than fifty over the amount. Although often that sign is in the store, which is idiotic as the debt will be incurred before you go in there, so they can't actually enforce that. Luckily, none of them do anyway.)

    And, yes, as far as I know, if you offer to pay in any legal tender, and it is refused, your debt is discharged. Be sure to get a witness.

  • by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:19PM (#12183982)
    Coins cost twice as much to mint (4 cents vs 8 cents for a dollar coin), sure, but that's only a minor part of the equation. Coins last in circulation for about thirty years, while a bill needs to be replaced after just twenty two months. The GAO estimates that it costs $522 million a year to keep printing dollar bills rather than mandating a switch to coins.
    That said, I hate dollar coins. I have enough change, I don't need more. Bills are easier to manage from a consumer standpoint.
  • by Salvo (8037) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:27PM (#12184042)
    Here in Australia, our Two Dollar Coins have a similar surface to 5 cent coins, and are about double the thickness. They have smooth edges while 5 cent coins have serrated edges.

    I constantly loose 2 dollar coins out of my wallet due to their smooth edges, I get left with a pile of 5 cent coins which don't slide around the inside of my wallet as much.

    We also have One Dollar Coins which are about the same size as a 10 cent coin. We don't have 1 or 2 dollar notes, only 5, 10 20, 50 and 100 (which are all colour coded). We also have 200 dollar coins which are as rare as your 2 dollar notes.
  • Legal Tender (Score:1, Informative)

    by Chris Snook (872473) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:39PM (#12184104)
    There's a very important distinction to be made here. Legal Tender is only guaranteed for debts. This means that if you walk into Best Buy with a fistful of $2 bills and walk up to the register with the bills and merchandise, they are perfectly free to refuse to do business with you.

    Legal Tender only comes into play when there is a debt. In this case, the man was being billed for a service that had already been voluntarily performed. This constitutes a debt, so unlike every other transaction this poorly trained cashier handles, the tender must be accepted. Refusal to accept the tender is equivalent to forgiving the debt under common law in many places. Really the man should have just walked out with his money the first time. That he offered to pay a second time shows his exceptional generosity. See here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_tender [wikipedia.org]

    Legal Tender issues aside, and the matter of stupid cashiers not recognizing $2 bills aside, there's another critical problem that everyone but our protagonist seemed to miss. It is impossible, by definition, to steal something you are permitted to enter into debt for. It can be fraud if you had no intent to pay, but bear in mind that most fraud is still a civil matter, not a criminal matter. It's not something you lock someone up for, unless they're in contempt of court for refusing to pay a judgement you have the means to pay.

    That Best Buy hasn't already fallen all over themselves trying to appease him and close up this PR nightmare is worrisome. Not only did they screw up big time, but they don't seem to see anything wrong with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:54PM (#12184212)
    There's no limit on coins, that's just an urban legend.

    There is a coin limit in Canada [justice.gc.ca]
  • Legal USA tender (Score:3, Informative)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) * on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:57PM (#12184230) Homepage Journal
    The United States Mint has a list [usmint.gov] of current legal tender [usmint.gov]. There may be some photos of them somewhere on the site, but I'll let someone else post the URL.

    There is also another link with information on the two dollar bill [answers.com].
  • by hyp3r (709167) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:06AM (#12184302)
    Here's that store's address and phone number if you'd like to tell them what you think of their "customer service". Towson MD (Store 149) 1717 York Road Timonium, MD 21093 Phone: 410-561-2260 Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00am-9:00pm Sun 11:00am-7:00pm
  • by operagost (62405) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:15AM (#12184355) Homepage Journal
    What are you talking about? They are still minting them.

    http://catalog.usmint.gov/webapp/wcs/stores/servle t/CategoryDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10001&catalogI d=10001&identifier=3000

  • by hunterx11 (778171) <hunterx11&gmail,com> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:49AM (#12184562) Homepage Journal
    Those pens just change color if there's starch in the bill. They're almost more for feeling safe [randi.org] than being safe.
  • Re:yes and no (Score:2, Informative)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:34AM (#12184785) Homepage
    Coins are not cast. I'm not certain if they're forged or stamped (that'd be hot or cold metal under a die applied at high pressure, respectively), but they're not cast (as in melted metal poured into a mold).
  • Re:Next Time... (Score:2, Informative)

    by GnarlyNome (660878) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:36AM (#12184793) Journal
    Won't work $50.00 is the legal maxium that they have to accept in pennies...of course 5000 pennies can ruin their day too
  • by gerardrj (207690) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:06AM (#12184935) Journal
    Theft of service is a crime in most states. If you use a service and don't pay for it you can be arrested by the police and charged with a crime. In Arizona it's a felony, even if the amount is only one cent.

    In this case he used the installation service and was being asked to pay for it.
  • by dmatos (232892) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:18AM (#12185002)
    Up here in Canada the smallest bill is a five. When you go to some strip joints, however, you can purchase $1 "coupons" in convenient paper, which tuck into g-strings quite nicely. Elegant solution to the problem, IMHO.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:23AM (#12185043) Journal
    You might want to use more then one sock. It doesn't takem much weight to tear out a sock when swinging and then the mugger has all your money and you are now defensless with a piss off criminal.

    I remeber stuffing rocks inot socks and taking beating things with it when i was younger (that and a mini baseball bat). After one or two swings with about a half pound of rocks, the end was gone and the rocks came out. Place 2 socks together and you could pound all day.
  • by gerardrj (207690) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:38AM (#12185142) Journal
    They are still available because they never make it to the Federal Reserve banks. The FR banks scan incoming currency for wear or age and remove offending bills from circulation, replacing the bills with newly printed bills to equal the quantity of removed currency.

    Banks, knowing the novelty value, ensure that the $2 bills are not sent to the FR and instead horde the bills for distribution to customers

    This is also true of the $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills. The $100,000 bill was never circulated to the public. If you had a $5,000 bill, you could still spend it today as legal tender.
  • by gerardrj (207690) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:45AM (#12185205) Journal
    What's ironic is that the money crime committed here was by the Best Buy employee. Title 18 Section 333 of the United States code makes it a crime to deface currency in any way so as to make the currency unfit to be re-issued. If this employee did in fact mark "counterfeit" on the bills, then those bills are ostensibly no longer able to be issued as currency.

    That employee could be looking at up to 6 months in prison!
  • by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xpticalNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @04:30AM (#12185673) Homepage
    In Japan, the cashieer has a magnet and a metal plate on the side of the register. Your money goes on the metal plate then is held by a magnet untill the transaction is complete.

    US stores could prevent a lot of stupid problems by doing this.
  • by Motherfucking Shit (636021) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @04:36AM (#12185695) Journal
    Here's something I'm wondering about - what does the Secret Service have to do with counterfeit bills, anyway?
    The initial charter of the USSS was to protect the nation's currency and put counterfeiters out of business, so to speak.

    The whole "protecting the president" assignment came decades later, and while it's the task they're currently best known for, a large part of their work still goes towards the original goal. The Secret Service has field offices in all major US cities and many locales overseas, and when you consider that the president can only be in one place at a time (and is not constantly being threatened in all the other places where USSS has a presence), it becomes evident that most of the manpower is spent doing other things.

    Among those other things, they assist with certain fraud investigations, especially mail fraud. When I worked in a retail postal facility, we'd get calls from USSS almost as often as USPIS. More recently, they've been called upon by various agencies to help investigate computer-related crimes, financial ones in particular. For example, they have an office specifically dedicated to investigating "419" scams (those emails you get from Prince Mambuto's widow in Nigeria who wants to transfer ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS to your bank account) - next time you get one, forward it to 419.fcd(at)usss.treas.gov with a quick note that you didn't lose any money.
  • by Triskele (711795) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @04:46AM (#12185736)
    This is why I'm glad I'm a Brit. Our cops aren't armed. They only usually handcuff you if you've been violent. Leg-irons and this other medieval shit is reserved for the real psychos. As are the orange suits and all the other forms of ritual humiliation your cops go in for. You're not even referred to as "the prisoner at the bar" in court any more, merely "the defendant" as that might prejudice a jury.

    Amazingly (despite much assault) we still believe in "innocent until proven guilty".

  • by Motherfucking Shit (636021) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @05:02AM (#12185790) Journal
    But, as you point out, they are required to take 'legal tender' in payments of debts, and coins are legal tender. Unless they specifically restrict forms of payment before you incur your debt.
    This is absolutely correct! Unfortunately, many people don't understand the idea of "debt" as it applies to one-off transactions. They see the word "debt" and think about a mortgage or a credit card, so they wrongfully assume that this law doesn't apply to everyday purchases.

    Let me add a couple of examples to further the point that you made.

    Scenario 1: You go to the corner store, grab a 6-pack of Heineken, and walk to the checkout counter. The cashier tells you that your total is $7.48. You put four $2 bills on the counter. The cashier says, "We don't take those." The cashier is not violating the law; you have no debt to the store, the beer is still technically theirs. The store is not required to accept any particular form of payment from you.

    Scenario 2: You go to the bar, grab a stool, and order a Heineken. The bartender brings it to you, and you drink it. You go to leave, and the bartender tells you that your total is $2.25. You put two $2 bills on the bar (and being a good patron, you tell the bartender to keep the change, of course!). The bartender says, "We don't take those." The bartender is violating the law. When you drank the beer, you incurred a debt to the bar; the bar is now obligated to accept any legal tender as payment.

    Re: "the law," it's 31 USC 5103 [cornell.edu].
  • by asystole (16251) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @05:47AM (#12185938) Homepage
    The UK did have the felony / misdemeanour disdinction until the Criminal Law Act 1967 which changed alot of things...
  • by rpjs (126615) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @06:17AM (#12186034)
    Um, no. "Dollar" comes from "thaler", short for "joachimsthaler", a valley in medieval Germany where cold was mined and high-quality coins were minted.
  • by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @07:03AM (#12186159) Homepage Journal
    Most shops won't accept [Euro] notes bigger than 50.

    There is a reason for that: forgery. The ECB went for the security-through-obscurity route when forgery-proofing their bills. There are over 20 characteristics that distinguish a real Euro note from a fake one, unfortunately the banks only saw fit to disclose half of them, leading to the situtation that currently only banks can distinguish fake from real.

    Of course, shopkeepers can't do so, but since the bank won't accept forged notes that businesses accepted in good faith, they end up being liable for the damage. Therefore shops decided en masse to no longer accept large denominations. The way things are going, the EUR 50 note will have to be redesigned, or it will end up being on the black list too.

    Of course, the ECB could just publish all anti-forgery characteristics. But then, the argument goes, the forgers have it easier. Funny that the Dutch didn't seem to have that problem. As far as I know the central bank always published all details, confident that the measures were good enough to stop forgeries, and making it easy on businesses to detect the occasional ones. This suggests strongly that the anti-forgery measures on the Euro bills are just plain not good enough.

    Mart
  • by Ogman (591131) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @08:07AM (#12186325)
    Here's the homepage for the moronic Baltimore County Government. Take the time to give them a call next week and express how proud they make you to be a "nervous" American! Baltimore County [ba.md.us]
  • by jonadab (583620) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @09:34AM (#12186693) Homepage Journal
    > wouldn't it make more sense to replace low-denomination bills with coins?

    There are good solid reasons why the $1 note is paper rather than coin. We actually have $1 coins, but they're only slightly more common in circulation than $2 bills. This is not because they don't mint enough of them -- they *do* mint them. But they don't circulate, because people treat them like collector's items. They sit in drawers. The average household probably has almost as many $1 coins as bills at any given time, but the bills are sitting in wallets and will be spent in a day or two; whereas, the $1 coins are stacked in cedar drawers next to the good silver, laying in the bottom of jewelry cabinets, and so forth. A lot of people try to collect a "silver dollar", as they are called, for every year since their birth (i.e., one minted in each of those years). I guess almost 10% of the population does that around here. (Other folks collect a penny for each year, but you can do that your whole life and it adds up to about a buck, so it doesn't take that much currency out of circulation -- and, there's no paper $0.01 note.)

    So, *why* do the $1 coins not circulate? Because, we have $1 bills, that's why. The paper notes are significantly preferable to Americans, because they weigh less and take up less space. Most men will tolerate carrying around about eight coins in a pocket before telling someone to keep the change. Women will tolerate significantly more coinage, because they have coin purses, but they don't like dealing with them either -- they don't, as a rule, get the coins out to pay for things -- they grab the bills, which are easier to deal with, and the coins accumulate until they fill up the coin purse, at which point they get emptied into a jar or dish at home. (A lot of men empty their coins into a dish at the end of each day, too.)

    When the jar or dish fills up, it goes to the bank to be counted by machine and turned into bills. There are people who pay with coins, but they are in the minority. Just about every retail establishment in the US gives out a *lot* more coins than they take in. When I worked at T. Bell, I typically broke open one extra roll of quarters per shift, plus usually an extra roll of dimes or nickels, and often an extra roll of pennies. (An "extra" roll, in this context, is one besides the full roll your drawer stared with.) This was in the evening, which is the slowest time for fast food, and Taco Bell operates with a lower overhead and significantly lower gross take than, say, McDonald's (although, their evenings aren't as much slower than their daytimes as is true at a burger joint).
  • by Math, The Ancient (209737) <rob_smithNO@SPAMsoftlyspeaking.com> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @10:21AM (#12186945) Homepage
    TFA included details that he was cuffed to a stationary object while onlookers and other customers passed by. Best Buy doesn't have an office? 6 figures at the very least, imo.
  • by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @11:39AM (#12187311) Homepage
    I don't have the time to say anything too rant-ish or wordy (An uncommon occurance for me) so I'll just say this: Japanese currency is cool. And I read a similar story about $2 bills here: http://www.digiserve.com/eescape/closet/silly/2-at -Taco-Bell.html

    True or not, it's still funny.

    As an aside, I spent some $2 bills when I was a kid, and no one thought anything of it. (I'm 24 now.) They really need to teach this generation of cashiers...SOMETHING. The people training them can't just ASSUME they know wtf a $2 bill is, or what any of those silver dollars and half dollars out there are. Anyway, busy busy. I'm off.
  • Re:"public charge" (Score:2, Informative)

    by DavidTC (10147) <[slas45dxsvadiv. ... ] [neverbox.com]> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:25PM (#12187553) Homepage
    Everything except 'debts' are government: Public charges, taxes, and dues. Which is why currency doesn't say anything except 'debts'...it's telling random people they have to accept this. The government presumably already knows what it will accept.

    Taxes are obvious.

    I honestly have no idea what 'dues' are. Anyone?

    Public charges are talked about here [cornell.edu] and seem to be things like the post office. Or toll roads, if the Feds operate any of those.

    So a charge is exactly what you pay at a store: Something in exchange for goods or services that you will trade at the same time, instead of covering an existing debt.

    Sadly, only public charges are required to accept payment in legal tender...the post office cannot demand you pay in goats, but everyone else can.

  • How to take action (Score:2, Informative)

    by geodescent (871514) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:06PM (#12187780)
    Wow. Several hundred comments on this and not ONE about how to take action and let your voice be heard at that specific best buy or police department. Unlike any other flame, I'll answer my own complaint. Here's hoping we can let our voice be heard. Keep in mind that all the news articles out there claim different things. They all say the Best Buy is in Lutherville, but a google map of lutherville is TOWSON or TIMONIUM. Makes no sense. Anyhow, I gathered up a bunch of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE data and here's the info.

    BEST BUY (from best buy's site)
    Towson MD (Store 149)
    1717 York Road
    Timonium, MD 21093
    Phone: 410-561-2260
    Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00am-9:00pm
    Sun 11:00am-7:00pm

    BEST BUY (from Google Maps)
    (410) 561-2261
    1717 York Rd
    Towson, MD 21204

    WHITEPAGES.com (possible match for Mike, based on closest distance from Best Buy according to MapQuest directions.)
    Michael Bolesta
    2 Airway Cir
    Towson, MD 21286-3460
    410-821-8623

    WHITEPAGES.com (alternate match 20 miles from same best buy)
    Michael C Bolesta
    3406 Fait Ave
    Baltimore, MD 21224-4309
    (410) 327-1164

    BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT
    http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/government/police/

    CAPITAL CITY STUDENT TOURS (with Mike's pic)
    http://www.capitalcitytours.com/
    capitalcitytourguide@comcast.net
  • by JockAMundo (783105) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:52PM (#12188032)
    Here in Canada I've seen a stripper sit on the stage with a drink coaster protectings her privates as everyone threw loonies and twonies.

    Necessity is the mother of invention!
  • by boodaman (791877) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @05:09PM (#12189000)
    It's been a long time since I was a manager at McDonald's so things might have changed since then, but I can tell you that when I was there, no such policy existed, in either franchised or corporate stores.

    At the time I worked there, the policy was pretty simple:

    - if someone complained about being shortchanged while they were at the register (or soon thereafter), the register was immediately closed, the drawer pulled, and a count done. If the customer was right, you gave them their money right then with an apology. No forms, nothing of the sort. If the customer was wrong, you went in the back, closed out the drawer in the computer, got a new one from the safe, and put the employee back on a register with the new drawer.

    - if no customer complained during a cashier's shift, the drawer was pulled at the end of the shift and counted. Any variance, positive or negative, was logged into the computer. $2 variance was a write-up. More than $2 and you were fired, or at least told not to come back until the GM talked to you. Anything under a $2 variance was tracked monthly, keeping a running total. If it ever got to $2, you wrote them up.

    As long as the cashier ran the month less than $2 off total either way, nothing happened. I used to have 16 year olds who kept their number in their head...if they got close to $2, their drawer would miraculously come up with a variance the other way to balance it out.

    The only forms were computer screens filled out after each drawer was counted. The system already knew what the drawer should have in it based on the sales on that register. The closing manager would balance everything, and make sure the overnight money was correct (it was called "counting the safe"). Each drawer had $50 in it, there were usually 10-15 drawers, plus $200-$300 in change, plus the day's sales receipts which were kept in the safe until the next business day, when they'd be deposited.

    Incidentally, a good manager could count a drawer in less than 5 minutes, never more than 10. Cash policy dictated that periodically during a rush you would skim the 20 dollar bills from all registers, and put them in the safe, so if you were on the ball, a cashier's drawer rarely had more than $200 or so in it at the end of a shift. Counting it took no time at all.

    Also, it was policy during a rush, especially in drive-thru, to simply take all change and dump it in the drawer without counting it. It was quicker to ask "is it all there?" or "is it exact?" and take them at their word then to sit there and count it. We never had a problem...the drawer might be off $0.25 or so either way after a rush, but that was nothing if you were doing several thousands of dollars per hour in sales.
  • Re:9/11?! (Score:2, Informative)

    by issachar (170323) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @09:59PM (#12190424) Homepage
    Of course the two events I brought up aren't directly related in law. I don't believe I ever claimed that they were. I brought them up as examples of events that cause some people to be suspicious when given assurances that their religious liberties would not be curtailed. They're obviously quite different. The fact that they're unrelated might well convince some people that they were not isolated events and were in fact examples of a wider trend.

    You are quite correct that the print shop case was based on the Ontario Human Rights Act and not the Charter [justice.gc.ca]. I shouldn't have glossed over that information. Again, my point was not to argue at this time that the decision was unlawful or even unjust, I'm simply trying to point out how many people just don't trust assurances of religious liberty. It isn't because they're paranoid nutjobs. The Ontario Human Rights Act and the Charter are quite distinct legally, but the issue is the same both in that section of the OHRA and the judicially inserted section of the Charter. As a result, it just doesn't wash with many people if you try and say "but that was a totally different law". They see that their concerns about religious freedom were poo-pood, and then it turns out that their concerns were at least partly justified.

    It's also of concern that the Charter specifically guarantees freedom of conscience and religion and that at the moment at least all law in Canada is subject to the Charter including the Ontario Human Rights Act. In theory at least the OHRA can say whatever it likes and if the Charter disagrees, the Charter trumps.

    Again, I am well aware that Professional Associations can set their own standards. However these standards are subject to the Charter. This was deemed a legitimate infringement of religious freedom by the courts and that is what makes people suspicious when they are assured that their religious freedoms will not be infringed. It's not as if professional associations can enforce any behaviour they want. The BC Medical Association cannot require that all doctors refrain from expressing pro-life views. They simply require that they provide information about abortion services to patients when they're working. They're punished for writing pro-life pieces in the newspaper.

    You seem to be stuck on defending the decisions that the courts came to. That was not the subject I was arguing. I'm simply suggesting that the lack of trust in government assurances has some basis in reality.

    I have a good knowledge of Canadian law, government and it's roots in English Common law and French Civil law in Quebec. I see no reason to descend to insults. I'm not advocating mob rule or the end of the rule of law. Court rulings are not as simple as Courts ruling on the basis of laws enacted by the legislature. How do you interpret the Charter? On the strict literal interpretation of the words? By basing your decisions on the framers intentions? Or by interpreting the charter on the basis of evolving standards in society? Depending on your answer court decisions will be hugely different? (We don't use the first option or the second option in Canada, although both are legitimate ways of doing it based on our legal history).

    The tyranny of the majority is a concern, but if you think about it how does our constitution protect us from it? The constitution was created by the majority. It can be changed to say absolutely anything by the majority. Doesn't the constitution just guarantee that laws aren't enacted in haste that compromise the principles that the majority agrees on?

  • Stupid Americans (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2005 @08:04AM (#12192566)
    Yet another example of how Stupid the American people are. They don't even know what their own currency is. HAHAHAHHAHA!!! Morons!!!! Get an education.
  • URBAN LEGEND (Score:2, Informative)

    by Donal Dubh (688401) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @12:01PM (#12193642) Homepage
    Folks, this is an Urban Legend! I am really surprised y'all were taken in by a submission pointing to a website that marked it as a USER SUBMITTED article with no newspaper reference! from http://www.snopes.com/business/money/tacobell.asp Mike Bolesta, a 57-year-old Baltimore County resident, stated that in February 2005 he purchased a radio/CD unit for his son's automobile at Best Buy (a chain of retail electronics stores). Bolestra said in order to rectify a mix-up they'd made in selling him the wrong unit, the store initially waived the installation charges for the stereo, then called him back the next day and threatened to report him to the police if he don't come in and pay the $114 installation fee. Irked that Best Buy had gone from "them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police," Bolestra decided to stage a mini-protest by paying the charge with fifty-seven $2 bills. He described to the Baltimore Sun what happened next: "I'm just here to pay the bill," Bolesta says he told a cashier. "She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money. Like she's doing me a favor." Nonetheless, police were summoned when a Best Buy employee noticed that the ink on some of the $2 bills was smeared, and after one officer noted that the serial numbers on the bills ran in sequential order, Bolesta was handcuffed and taken to the county police lockup. Police reportedly kept him handcuffed to a pole for three hours while they notified the Secret Service, but when an investigator from that agency (which is tasked with handling counterfeiting cases) determined that the currency was legitimate, Bolesta was finally released.
  • Re:URBAN LEGEND (Score:2, Informative)

    by mfnickster (182520) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @01:46PM (#12194369)
    > Folks, this is an Urban Legend! I am really surprised y'all were taken in by a submission
    > pointing to a website that marked it as a USER SUBMITTED article with no newspaper reference!

    Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but that Snopes article doesn't say anywhere that either of these stories has been determined to be false...?

    Not to mention that the Best Buy story includes a cite from the Baltimore Sun, and it was JUST published last month, so it wouldn't be surprising if few people were familiar with it.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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