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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Have you ever run into a restaurant not accepting cash?

  Last weekend, I went with a group to the Trotwood McDonald's for lunch.  I was the first up to the cash register, and placed an order for just over $10.  I looked in my wallet, and all I had was a $50, a couple of $1's, and about a dollar in change.  I got out the $50, then fished around for exact change so they could just give me bills back.

No, the one I was trying to use didn't look like this.
There is an official proposal to replace the current
Grant $50 with something like this one, though.

  The cashier said "Sorry, we don't take that here."  I said what do you mean - you won't take cash as payment?  She suggested that I walk all the way over to Lowe's, get change, and then come back, or that I use a credit card. (we try not to use credit cards for restaurant spending - too easy to go over budget)  I was spending over 20% of the bill on their food - it's not like I was just buying a burger or two and trying to get the rest back as cash.  After a little bit of back and forth, they suggested I just get change elsewhere.  I told them that was exactly what we would do, and the group went across the street to Burger King, where I used the exact same 50 dollar bill and got change back for my purchase. (BTW, thanks guys, for being understanding when I wanted to stick to my principles, and not "go into debt" to pay for my meal)

  I was a bit annoyed at the time, even though I'll admit that the McDonald's does have a couple of signs posted saying they do not take 50's.  Evidently that location has either had trouble with counterfeits or robberies. (if they take larger bills, they have to keep more cash on hand to make change)  Anyway, I had to rethink the whole cash issue.

  I've always thought that places HAD to accept cash, since it essentially says right on the bills that they are "good for all debts, public and private".  However, if a place makes you pay BEFORE you get your goods, there is no debt, since you pay up front.  That means that they can legally refuse to accept certain bills if they want to.  Gas stations can be the same way if they want, since these days they tend to make you pay up front, instead of after pumping gas like they used to.  As far as restaurants go, the sit down ones that have you pay after eating must take any high denomination bill you offer as payment, whether they want to or not.  This is because you have a debt to them you are trying to pay, since you already consumed the goods, and now owe them.  Therefore, I guess I'll never have to worry about this at a sit down, slow food restaurant.  However, I may have to get used to it at fast food places.  I guess I learned something about cash this week.

  Looks like the cops nabbed somebody in the picture above, doesn't it?  Maybe the guy in the red and yellow was trying to pass a counterfeit $50 at the same Trotwood McDonald's, but it looks like he didn't get very far.

  In all seriousness, this is definitely not the first time that problems have arisen over the various cash policies in place at different McDonald's restaurants.  In fact, sometimes the disagreements can get quite ugly.  Take for instance this case of two drunk women trying to pass a fake $50 bill, then getting angry and slapping the cashier when he starts to check the bill for authenticity.  The women not only cuss him out, they go over and around the counter, pressing a physical attack when he retreats.  Things don't turn out the way they expect, though.  The cashier they are attacking is not some meek guy who will keep taking it.  He spent years in prison for assault and battery, and can only be pushed so far before defending himself.  (warning, rather violent youtube video with some cursing)

  If you think about it, $50 isn't a lot of money any more.  In fact, if you do a little math, you'll find out that a $50 bill today has the same buying power as 5 dollars and 23 cents did back in 1950.
(check out the CPI calculator below, to compare buying power through the ages)

   I can pretty much guarantee that none of the McDonalds restaurants back in 1950 would have rejected a $5 bill.  Since the $50 today has the same buying power, they shouldn't be rejecting it, either.  If they want extra assurance, perhaps the Trotwoods McDonald's should try what another restaurant in their chain did:

  I really wouldn't mind the quick hassle of flashing my wallet, and I'm guessing that anybody else paying with a genuine bill wouldn't mind that much, either.  It's a lot better than being told to walk over to Lowe's to get change, or being told you HAVE to use a credit card.  A sign like this would probably also get rid of a lot of the trouble with anyone thinking they could easily pass off a counterfeit bill, but doesn't restrict good citizens from using cash, either.  I think this would be a much better solution for everyone.


  1. Personally, I have never understood why people carry fifty or hundred dollar bills. I always only get twenties for exactly this reason.

  2. First of all, if you carry smaller denomination bills, you have to have lots more of them. I've actually had my wallet so thick that it was annoyingly uncomfortable. So yes, I prefer to have fewer, larger bills.
    Second, if a $50 or $100 bill seems like too high a denomination, consider the fact that much higher denomination bills were once in common circulation. These were the $500 $1,000 $5,000 and yes, even a $10,000 bill. The government took these out of circulation by around 1970 to hamper black markets such as the drug trade. Given the rate of inflation, however, they will probably need to reissue the $500 bill within another decade or two.