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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 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 4:14PM
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?



You guys might this is funny, but it is symptomatic of a bigger issue.

It starts with pennies, then dimes, then quarters, then dollars, then paper money altogether. One has to look no further than the TED conferences and statements from the IMF to know, KNOW, that regional paper money is being phased out. The goal is one global currency, most likely on a credit system.

Issued by the govt.

Based on your habits.

Brush your teeth this morning? Good Citizen, have 1 credit!

Showed up for that Federal Reserve protest did ya? Bad citizen, removal of 100 credits!


This is the truth people. Not believing in it won't save you from it.

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 6, 2011 3:55PM

I applaud this man's ingenius way of protesting whatever his beef might be, but on the other side of the coin (no pun intended), I know what it's like with my job to have to count more than $100 in change at a time and it is no joke and very time consuming.  I cannot not complain because, as many have said already, it is legal tender and the people paying us are paying their debts the only way they can sometimes which is, literally, nickel and dimes at a time.

Jun 6, 2011 3:54PM
Here in Mississippi even the banks won't take pennies rolled due to people putting fake items in the rolls. When you take them to the bank to deposit into YOUR account they still refuse them rolled and say it will be up to 7 days before they get into your account because they have to be sent to the headquarter bank and counted!!!  U.S. Money is and always will be legal in this country no matter the denomination. They no matter who should not be allowed to reject it as form of payment.
Jun 6, 2011 3:52PM
old peole were are not in the 1900's!
Jun 6, 2011 3:37PM
The person was probably a veterian so he/she has the right to spend the money he/she defened this country to spend   i guess the old cleshea "The Bigger They Get The worst They Get"  (Businessess)
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 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 3:22PM
The copper in the pennies was probably worth more than the dollar value.
Jun 6, 2011 3:18PM
its legal tender,id think they would have to take it...

Legal tender = paying debts.  Personally, I'd argue that making a purchase is incurring then repaying a debt, and thus all US currency would have to be used, but thats a bit of a stretch...


As long as the fine is for the mess, then it looks OK.  Still, not shocked it was Utah that did this though...

Jun 6, 2011 3:18PM
in this day and age where the U.S. dollar is almost extinct...they should take any form of payment!!!
Jun 6, 2011 3:16PM
The medical community think they are so above everyone! Maybe that is all the money he had and it cost money to get it counted if you don't have a bank account He was disputing the charge and of course the clinic wouldn't work it out. So they should have taken the money and shut up!
Jun 6, 2011 3:09PM
no one shouldnt b allowed 2 refuse any currency no matter how small!how u know that's the only money that person has?now he/she gotta spend sum of it to get rollers n then they gonna make an excuse to refuse payment cuz its not full amount???wtf!if pennies is that big of a deal then they need 2 stop wasting tax dollars on making them...besides it costs 3.5 cents in energy to make 1 penny
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 6, 2011 2:54PM
Will he pay his fine with 14000 pennies? I hope so!
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