Cashiers Refuse To Let Broke Woman Buy Groceries With Loose Change
When you are making a sizable purchase and only have coins in your wallet, it can be irritating for the cashier. But how does that irritation compare to the tears of a woman struggling to feed her family?
A Portland woman recently scraped together $32 in quarters to buy groceries at the local Save-a-Lot. "We had nothing to feed our children with," she told KATU News. "So we broke out change."
She waited for the check-out to clear, and apologized to the cashier for the 124 coins she had in her hands. "Sorry, it's hard times right now," she told him.
Save-a-Lot can only accept $5 of change, the clerk informed her.
"Money's money," she said. He refused. "I was mortified. Mortified."
The woman then went to the one-stop shop Fred Meyer, but the store manager insisted that she use the change machine to convert her coin to paper. The woman could not afford, however, the 10 percent cut that the machine would take.
She started to cry.
Spokesmen from both Save-a-Lot and Fred Meyer have publicly apologized for the incident, and emphasized that they do in fact accept change as payment, and have no cash maximum.
Private businesses, in fact, are not legally required to accept coins as payment. It's not uncommon, however, for stores to set their own rules when it comes to purchases, even in violation of the law. Before the Wall Street reform law of 2010, it was illegal for businesses to the have credit card minimums. But stores frequently required customers to spend at least $5 or $10 when using a card.
Clearly, stores appear inconsistent on their cash policies. When KATU News called up numerous grocery stores and asked their store managers if loose change was accepted without a limit, they all said yes. When the reporters called back as customers, however, almost all the stores, including QFC and Safeway, had slightly different answers.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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