Monday, June 29, 2009

Cash Not Accepted

On the plane back from Raleigh last week, the flight attendant announced that alcoholic beverages could be purchased by passengers - but not with cash. "No cash?" I thought. "Does Uncle Sam know about this?" Is it legal to refuse legal tender?

It seems to the average consumer that the answer is printed right on the money. For instance, right above Georgie's head on the mighty uno, it says: "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private." But, as with everything, there is a catch. At this point, I am a (mostly) sober passenger on a plane and I have paid for my ticket. I have no debt. Apparently, it is perfectly legal for a business to refuse cash (or other means of payment) for services not yet rendered. So, they cannot serve me a gin and tonic and then tell me I need to pay with a credit card. But the pre-gin announcement is perfectly legal.

Poo. I totally thought I was going to bring down the congomeration of corporates, trying to track each and every purchase. I thought my blog would rise to Pulitzer caliber.

I did find some interesting conversations while researching this post. The most informative (yet worded for us laypersons) was Legal Lad. He had court case precedents and other impressive stuff that did not sound made up. "Democratic Diva" posted a blog entry about how she tried to pay a $4.50 parking fee on the way out of a garage with a $50, and the attendant told her they would not accept bills greater than $20. She didn't have a smaller bill, they wouldn't take credit cards, and they wouldn't let her leave without paying. The post elicited lots of comments both for and mostly against her. I personally agree with her to some extent - because (she claims) they didn't post the policy on her ticket or at the front of the garage, they should have taken her money. But, she also implied (it never got that far) that they should give her change for the $50, and I do not think they are legally required to do so if they don't have the change.

I also found Ron Paul's blog, which posted an annoucement titled "Cash not longer accepted for tolls in Montgomery county, Maryland!" Not to say that I am not guilty of a typo here and there...but further reading of random gibberish leads me to believe it was just par for the course. My favorite comment: "This is definitely ashamed." The guy is a Republican, but even I was unwilling to accept that this is a presidential candidate's official site. Turns out it isn't. Phew.


Danielle Mari said...

Money has turned more and more into a wobbly abstract concept, hasn't it? Once we lost the gold standard, US money really lost its meaning, I think. And now, as fewer and fewer people deal in cash, it's really just binary code in most cases. Weird. I fantasize writing a play/screen play where the villain (or anti-hero, depending on your POV) creates a computer virus that eats all the electronic money... essentially hitting "reset." I suppose that's only a sort of fun concept to ponder for those of us who don't have a lot of ones and zeroes in their bank accounts, eh?

Jessica said...

You were in Raleigh and you didn't tell me?! I'm not too terribly far... I would have driven to see a friend since I'm stuck down here all summer.

Liz Baer said...

A similar anecdote: Me and mom went to Horning's the other day and we were getting in line. At the cash registers, they have a sign at the end of each one saying what forms of payment are accepted at that register. None of them accepted cash and checks! And this is a Mennonite store! I thought they believed in simplifying things...