Man cited for paying bill with 2,500 pennies

Settling a disputed bill with pennies or other small change is occasionally used as a form of protest. But is it smart or effective?

By Karen Datko Jun 6, 2011 2:30PM

What's one way to get your jollies while paying a disputed bill? Satisfy the debt with pennies -- lots of them.


Or maybe not. A Vernal, Utah, man faces a charge of disorderly conduct for paying a $25 medical bill with 2,500 pennies, according to police. "After asking if they accepted cash, (Jason) West dumped 2,500 pennies onto the counter and demanded that they count it," Vernal assistant police chief Keith Campbell told the Deseret News. "The pennies were strewn about the counter and the floor."


West left after staffers at the health clinic threatened to call the police, who later wrote a citation for disorderly conduct, police said. The maximum fine is $140.


Others have employed similar tactics without legal consequence.

  • The Long Island Press pointed out that a University of Colorado student paid a tuition bill with 14,000 $1 bills to protest the cost. Post continues after video about that payment.
  • Then there's the case of Thierry Cahez, a San Diego County man who after several tries was successful in paying a $6,500 credit card bill with 650,000 pennies in March. "Cahez said he decided to pay his credit card bill with pennies because he was upset with his bank over a refinance he couldn't get, and charges and fees on his card," an ABC station reported.
  • Last year, a University of Kansas student got the school's parking office to overturn its policy not to accept coins for payment of parking fines, after taking 1,000 pennies to pay a $10 fine.
  • In August, a Cle Elum, Wash., a businessman and City Council member tried unsuccessfully to pay a past-due personal property tax bill of $330 with pennies. Ron Spears said he was protesting the fact that the original $34 tax bill he hadn't paid had ballooned with penalties and interest.

It appears the citation in the Utah case was due to the mess that was made -- not the payment of the bill with very small change. However, merchants and others can decide NOT to accept pennies as payment, wrote while addressing this false claim: "U.S. law specifies that merchants do not have to accept more than 100 pennies as payment."


Pennies are legal tender, yes. But no law requires merchants to accept them. "Businesses are free to accept or reject pennies as they see fit," Snopes wrote.


Do you think paying with pennies or other small coins is an effective means of protest? Or are you just creating lots of additional work for bureaucrats and clerks who have to process the payment? (Suggestion: If you're compelled to do this, at least count and roll the coins first.)


We're siding with Adrian Chen at Gawker, who wrote about the tax bill incident: "In the end, Spears gave up the civil disobedience shtick and agreed to pay his property tax the normal big-boy way: With bills."


More on MSN Money:


Jun 6, 2011 3:34PM

Several years ago Sears demanded I pay a credit card off before it was due (no, I was not late in payments). I paid the $125 in pennies. They tried to reject them, but I reminded them pennies are legal tender.


Seems if businesses can reject payment with legal tender (such as pennies, nickels, dimes, etc.), then upon their refusal to accept payment the debt  should absolved.

Jun 6, 2011 2:54PM
Will he pay his fine with 14000 pennies? I hope so!
Jun 7, 2011 10:48AM
Our government over taxes us and then complains when we pay using the vehicle that they've provided us because it's not convenient for them to accept payment in that form.  That's just plain wrong.  I think paying a bill in pennies is a perfect form of civil protest to a bill that seems unfair (taxes or otherwise).  People need to stop whining about how we pay and be grateful that we pay outrageous taxes or any other form of monetary extortion for the sake of our credit rating at all. 
Jun 6, 2011 4:22PM
The direction in which this country is heading makes me sick to my stomach. We have stores here in Dallas that  take pesos, but they can refuse to take legal AMERICAN currency? WTH? I have had to count pennies for customers before and  I didn't like it, but I did it because it is legal tender (besides the fact that I was getting paid by the hour). Eventually we will be a cashless society...but only American cash... we'll take pesos
Jun 6, 2011 3:02PM
its legal tender,id think they would have to take IS money...the fact that there is a law stating that places dont have to accept certain kinds of legal money is wrong
Jun 7, 2011 10:58AM

BUT WHY is paying with pennies considered a form of protest?  Money is money. pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters, half dollar, coin dollar and paper dollar, etc.  The people paid, and its the clerk's job to count any amount of money given to them to pay a bill.  Not paying is wrong, but paying is the right thing to do. If a business does not want pennies, they need to post a sign for all to see that the business does not accept pennies or provide pennies. The disorderly charge is ridiculous and the police didn't see his conduct so how do they know he was disorderly?  He paid his bill and left when asked, so that is not disorderly. 

Jun 6, 2011 3:25PM
I hope he pays his fine in pennies too!!! 

We don't know the circumstances behind this guy's beef with the medical facility- but chances are he was not being heard.  Corporations only care about greed- screw everyone else!

Jun 6, 2011 4:18PM

Money is money BUT America is NO longer the America we thought we knew and loved. With everything going wrong in this country it as nice to get some good news in my e-mail where a couple "foreclosed" on Bank of America. The video made my day and I hope to see many more like them.

That was off topic but the Banking Cartel and others needs to understand that WE are all Americans and not just the few at the top. I wish the penny man well and the best of luck!!!

Jun 6, 2011 4:26PM
strange the government makes coins a legal tender but merchants dont have to accept the coin maybe the public wont want to accept paper or coin and demand GOLD and SILVER  you are a american you have NO rights so get with the program
Jun 6, 2011 7:29PM
went to pay a cell phone bill about 8 years ago, and wrote the check out in front of the sales rep for $140.86. Once I was finished filling out the check the rep says that they couldn't take temporary checks(which didn't go over well with me),(why watch me fill out the entire thing). I then tried to pay over the phone, (they said to go to the local business). Went back with 8 rolls of quarters, 8 rolls of dimes, 5 rolls of nickels, 10 rolls of pennies, and .86 cents loose. They turned me down, manager said he couldn't take it. I had him sign my bill saying that I had attempted to pay my bill twice. Still have that bill in my desk drawer.  
Jun 7, 2011 11:01AM

Money is money and pennies is money so why not.


Jun 6, 2011 5:39PM
Legal tender is legal tender.  I would have rolled it up, personally, but how hard is it for them to take it to a bank that has change counters?  So they have a little leg work to do... but in this economy, and with both adults in my home out of work, unable to secure positions despite our multiple job applications going out weekly, more and more people will be getting paid in change!  After all... CHANGE was the theme of the last election for the winner wasn't it?!
Jun 7, 2011 12:15PM
My ex paid a HOA fee with 2500 pennies ($25.00) because he was ticked over a late payment notice he received (which he was never late).  He poured the pennies with his payment slip in the drop slot at the office (they were closed at the time) and took pictures.  The next time he went to pay the bill, the drop slot had a sign saying "no coins accepted."   
Jun 6, 2011 9:00PM
Tha'd be hilarious if he paid the $140 fine with 14,000 pennies! :)
Jun 6, 2011 3:56PM
If this is disorderly conduct then what is next, demanding to use the restroom? Granted, he should have contained the pennies in a container of some sort, but this is a miscarriage of the justice system.
Jun 7, 2011 11:21AM
A bill is considered paid if the businesss refuses payment.  Wether it be 5.00 or 25000 pennies.  Alll he would need is to get the refusal in writing and when they go to court show thaqt he tried to pay and they refuesed to accept he form of payment.  Even though it is legal tender backed by the US government...
Jun 7, 2011 11:54AM

what about nickles?


can they refuse to take nickles as well?


what about dimes?


i would make a video of me trying to pay and them refusing the payment.


then when they came after me for non payment i would just tell them to suck it , i tried to pay and you refused.

Jun 6, 2011 4:14PM
Money is money.  If a place will not accept payment made with pennies that don't give pennies as change.  Make it where the penny is obsolete.  The way the payment was made could have been a little more civilized than just having pennies strewn all over the place.  But do not sit there and tell me that pennies are not acceptable for payment. 
Jun 6, 2011 4:13PM
If a business doesn't want to accept a certain form of currency for payment, that's their option. However, they do NOT have the option of declaring any form of United States legal tender worthless. If 100 pennies does not equal one dollar, do 20 nickles?


Jun 7, 2011 2:09AM

I have also had to pay with nothin but change before.  I do not like having to do it but if that is all a person has then so be it. Money is money, it all spends one way or another! The only reason they had a problem with him paying with pennies is because it was an inconvenience for them, boo hoo! It's just like at the store, they hack an attitude about it.  They should all just be happy the are getting their money.

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