Store refuses payment in quarters
An Oregon woman was denied groceries when she tried to pay with $32 in change.
When a Portland, Ore., woman tried to pay for her family's groceries with $32 in quarters -- the only money they had left in the house -- a Save-A-Lot cashier told her the store would not accept more than $5 in coins.
"We had nothing to feed our children with, so we broke out the change," the woman told KATU News, explaining that she had waited until there wasn't a long line at the checkout. "I told them, 'I have change. I'm sorry -- it's hard times right now.'"
Then she went to a nearby Fred Meyer, where a clerk told her to use the Coinstar machine, which charges a fee of almost 10% -- more than she could afford. She would have taken the coins to her bank, but that would have required spending money on gas. "I was trying to save every little cent," she told KATU News.
After another customer offered to take the woman's change, the store manager agreed to cover the counting-machine fee, but the woman said she was mortified by the experience. So she took her story to the TV station.
"Money's money," the woman said she told the clerk at Save-A-Lot. But it turns out that's not strictly true.
Stores within the law
Retailers don't have to take your change, and they can opt not to do so. No law requires merchants to accept coins as payment.
The KATU Problem Solvers team contacted the stores and received statements from both Save-A-Lot and Fred Meyer saying they do accept loose change as payment, and apologizing for the incident. But when KATU staffers called a lot of different Portland stores and didn't identify themselves, most of the stores said they would take no more than $5 or $6, the station reported.
The KATU story elicited a flood of response from readers -- more than 300 comments -- many of whom agreed that in these tough times, stores should handle events like this on a case-by-case basis.
"In this economic climate, not accepting change feels too much like kicking someone when they're down on the ground," one reader wrote. "Cash should be cash … especially nowadays where 'change' is all we have left," another said.
"As an employee for one of these retailers, I can tell you I've NEVER been told we can't accept loose change as payment," another wrote.
And another mentioned standing in line at a Fred Meyer and watching the cashier patiently help a developmentally disabled customer count out the correct change, while other frustrated customers left to find quicker lines. "I was humbled by the customer negotiating real life activities (without the EBT card) and the patience of the cashier. Policies … blah, blah, blah. It's about customer service, it's about being human," the reader wrote.
Some readers lamented the inconvenience to other shoppers when someone tries to pay an entire bill with loose change. "I just wonder how all you people who are supporters of this woman would feel if you were stuck behind her in line," one reader said. Post continues below.
Change your change
If your cash flow is tight right now and you're eyeing the piggy bank, do a little research before you head out the door with large amounts of change.
- If you plan to take it to a bank, call first to find out whether they have a coin-counting machine (not all branches have them), and what their policies are. Some banks take coins at their teller counters, but may require that you submit them in wrappers (which are free at most bank branches), according to Wise Bread. Some banks provide coin counting to customers free of charge, but charge a fee for noncustomers.
- Coinstar machines, which can be found in many high-volume retail and grocery stores, charge a 9.8% fee in the U.S. (11.9% in Canada) -- unless you opt to get your money as an e-certificate or gift card to a specific retailer.
- Call the grocery store to find out its policy. Our partner blogger Len Penzo once stood behind a lady who successfully paid for $43.32 in groceries with mostly quarters at his neighborhood Albertsons.
- Some readers at KATU suggested using the self-checkout.
Did the stores provide the woman, who spoke anonymously, with an acceptable level of customer service?
More on MSN Money:
Regarding clerks not being able to make change without the computer at check out; I recently was at a large retail store and had a total of $9.38 (for example, I don't remember exactly). I gave the clerk $10.00 and told her I had the $0.38 in coins. To which she replied "Oh, I can't do that because it will mess up the computer. She had already entered the $10.00 in the register and apparently could not calculate beyond what the computer said. I did not argue with her. This was not the first time I've seen clerks struggle when I offer to give them the fraction of a dollar in coins. I have since learned to give a clerk the coins first and then the dollars
Is there a way we can help get this lady some groceries? If someone would e-mail me the name or contact number of a competitive supermarket in the area, let's skip SAV A LOT, we'd arrange to get this lady some groceries. KATU you help me out!
If quarters aren't legal tender in our government, then try to stamp out a copy of a quarter and see how long it'll take before they arrest you for counterfeiting.
The cashier was wrong. At a time when business's are begging for business its not the time to be picky. Theres always another game in town.
Boycott that Sav-A-Lot chain and soon they'll be begging for people to pay with change!
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