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Store refuses payment in quarters

An Oregon woman was denied groceries when she tried to pay with $32 in change.

By Giselle Smith Nov 4, 2011 5:55PM

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:

Nov 4, 2011 7:12PM
What She should have done is buy $5  worth and then go back, pick out $5 more go thru the line again.  Its a bother but make the store look bad.  The clerk could have had her step aside until the line(if there was one) was gone and then counted it.  In these times, a little help from our neighbors is always a good thing.  How hard is to count by 4's anyway?  But then again, the people they hire for clerks have a hard time counting change when the register tells them how much to dispense.
Nov 4, 2011 7:54PM


This country is losing all it's compassion

God Help Us All

Nov 4, 2011 9:00PM
That's BS. If it's legal tender in the US, it should be accepted. Period. What a bunch of jerks!.Let them be down and out and needing to feed their families and see how it feels! The lack of compassion and the amount of greed in this country today disgust me!
Nov 4, 2011 9:00PM
Money is money. Shame on the store and the people who got upset.
Nov 4, 2011 8:53PM
Nov 4, 2011 8:52PM



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

Nov 4, 2011 7:52PM

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!



Nov 4, 2011 8:05PM
Nov 4, 2011 8:53PM

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.

Nov 4, 2011 9:04PM

Boycott that Sav-A-Lot chain and soon they'll be begging for people to pay with change!

Nov 4, 2011 8:08PM
Nowhere on a coin does it say Legal Tender. Crappy situation but they really don't have to take large amounts of change. That being said, if they don't, they should be boycotted for being selfish greedy subhumans. Poor lady was just trying to feed her family.
Nov 5, 2011 6:52PM
Excuse me to the idiot that wrote that said this "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. It isn't about you idiot or how long you have to stand there and wait in line. How many times has someone had to wait on you? I have worked in retail for many years, and I have never denied anyone to pay in change. Also, I use to work for the tax collector's office, and had someone pay their entire tax bill of over a thousand dollars in coins. It is dam money no matter what the denomination is. You know what the problem is? The store is too dam lazy to count the change. Yes it is a pain in the rear but it is your dam job to satisfy the customer or get out of the business. People make me sick with their dam whining about waiting for such trivial stuff. Where is your compassion that people are struggling to support their family.
Nov 4, 2011 7:27PM
U.S. currency is king. These stores can eat S*it, they decline taking coins particularly if they have a CoinStar machine because they get a piece of the action from CoinStar. Each store gets a percentage from CoinStar from how much each stores counter brings in, therefore it is in the stores interest to decline taking coins as a form of payment. Its complete F***ing Greed. My suggestion to ALL readers is to ONLY use Coinstar machines to count your pennies. They can kiss my A$$ if they think that I am going to give them 9.5 cents on a dollar to count four quarters, ten dimes or twenty nickels. Load every and all your local CoinStar machines with as many pennies as possible, let these merchants and the people who have to haul these coins to the main counting facility work REAL HARD for their 9.5 cents.
Nov 5, 2011 10:03AM
i sell cars for a living(different business, but still retail). If you want to pay with a combination of gold, guns, pennies, scrap metal, an old TV, and canned food, I'm gonna find a way to make it happen. No customer with a way to pay will ever be turned away.   
Nov 4, 2011 7:37PM
Legal tender of the United States of America.  We should not do buisness with ANY place that does not accept it, in Any denomination.
Nov 5, 2011 12:17AM
Some in gov. want to do away with the dollar bill and use a dollar coin. Will retailers balk when you try to pay a $25.00 bill with 25 $1.00 coins.
Nov 5, 2011 11:53AM
This story is so sad and it is absolutely rediculous that they would humiliate a customer that way.  Something is seriously wrong here.  Customer service needs some serious revamping when it is all about store policy and has nothing to do with the customer and their needs.  Without the customer a store wouldn't be in business.
Nov 4, 2011 7:41PM
This has to be the stupidest thing I've read in a long time. If this is the case it should be CLEARLY posted at all their cash registers. Otherwise coins are legal tender and acceptable as payment for goods.
Nov 4, 2011 7:52PM
Drafter in ohio, it's still American currency, Too bad, you lose, LEGAL TENDER for ALL DEBTS public and private!!!! That's the law of the land, not the "POLICY" of some corporate crap, which by the way, Is Not The Law Of The Land!!!!! WTFU!!
Nov 6, 2011 10:58AM
To the woman that said,  "I just wonder how all you people who are supporters of this woman would feel if you were stuck behind her in line", and anyone else that feels that way, you're not STUCK behind her, you're free to go to another line, or just leave altogether.  You'd better hope you don't find yourself in this situation one day, cause then you'll see how it feels. What goes around, come around. 
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