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April 3, 2006 10:38 PM   Subscribe

No bills larger than...?

I manage a box office at a theatre. Occasionally, people will try to pay with a large bill ($50 or $100). Unless they're buying more than five tickets, this is not reasonable, and it has the added effect of wiping out my ability to make change very quickly (sometimes instantly). I want to develop a consistent policy to avoid this. Currently what I'm thinking is that I won't accept a $50 for a purchase of less than $25 or a $100 for a purchase of less than $50.

Does this seem reasonable? There's no legitimate reason to try to pay for $20 worth of tickets with a $100, especially since no ATM I've ever been to actually dispenses bills that large; you've got to be trying to impress someone by carrying around huge denominations like that.

(The only other thing I've thought of is to keep a wad of $2s stashed in the safe, and then to give change for large bills entirely in $2s if possible. Because nobody but me likes them.)
posted by oaf to Grab Bag (91 answers total)
 
Do you accept plastic? Personally, I carry around a single $100 bill for the rare occasion I can't use my debit card, so you would be turning me away.
posted by Manjusri at 10:43 PM on April 3, 2006


Why not make the policy something along the lines of "maximum change given: $X"? This way, you retain the flexibility of accepting large bills, but only for large purchases, and the policy directly addresses your problem.
posted by aberrant at 10:46 PM on April 3, 2006


Some people carry around $100 bills for other reasons than "to impress someone." I went a long time with no bank account; I cashed my paychecks at the issuing bank every two weeks and carried all my money in cash in my wallet. Large bills were much less cumbersome. OTOH, anyone doing this sort of thing expects that many places won't take large bills and I wouldn't consider your policy unreasonable.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:48 PM on April 3, 2006


Depends on how large your business is. From a consumer's point of view, I understand if the small ice cream stand at the end of the block won't take my $100 bill for $5 of ice cream, but I'm less likely to accept that, say, the grocery store mega-mart won't.

I don't know if these are reasonable expectations (I've never owned any sort of a business), but I'd hazard a guess that this is what most people will feel.
posted by rossination at 10:48 PM on April 3, 2006


The problem with the "half or more" theory is that you require patrons to carry around at least one of each denomination. What if I only have two 20s and a 100? Am I SOL?

I think two denominations down is reasonable. You can buy $20 worth of tickets with a $100, but not $10. You can buy $10 worth of tickets with a $50, but not $5.

Besides, change for $20 out of $100 is only three bills: 50, 20, 10. Change for 10 out of 50 is even less: two 20s. Is it really that big a deal?

And while automatic teller machines don't often give out 100s, manual teller humans very often do. And people who don't use ATMs often get enough cash for a week or more each time they go to the teller, in order to minimize the amount of times they have to go, and obviously getting it all in $20s is unreasonable.

Were it me, I'd say: suck it up and accomodate your customers.
posted by ChasFile at 10:49 PM on April 3, 2006


There's no legitimate reason to try to pay for $20 worth of tickets with a $100, especially since no ATM I've ever been to actually dispenses bills that large; you've got to be trying to impress someone by carrying around huge denominations like that.

May I suggest you're thinking with default assumptions here. Some people dont use ATMs. In fact, they dont have a bank account. I have a cousin who carries $100's - he works on cars and only does cash transactions. So the $100 bills become an efficient means to pay over, say $2k or $3k, as part of that cash transaction.
posted by vacapinta at 10:49 PM on April 3, 2006


We do accept plastic, but we're on a university campus, and as such have many, many people show up with exactly one form of payment. Sometimes it's not one we accept (for instance, the vouchers handed out to students by the university's administration, of which there are three types, and of which we take only one).

And I don't have any $2 bills—this would require me to go to the bank and get some.
posted by oaf at 10:49 PM on April 3, 2006


I'm going to have to say that if it's that big of a problem that you're actually posting to AskMe about it, then you shouldn't be putting up a sign about it.

Most large businesses get a large assortment of bills with which to make change for such occasions from a bank. I would suggest looking into that, because if you're really getting that many people paying with $100 and $50 bills that it bugs you enough to post here, all you're going to do is hurt your own business because that must be a lot of customers.
posted by twiggy at 10:55 PM on April 3, 2006


Some people carry around $100 bills for other reasons than "to impress someone."

Here, they usually don't. A friend of mine once said that people here (not the students, but in some cases, they qualify too) tend to have more money than common sense, and it seems to be true for a lot of them.

Were it me, I'd say: suck it up and accomodate your customers.

I used to start each day with $150 in the cash drawer. I once had two consecutive parties show up toward the beginning and try to each pay for $24 worth of tickets (that's two of our undiscounted seats) with a $100 bill. After the first, I had $76 in what used to be small bills tied up in that hundred-dollar bill. I could not accommodate the second—that would have required me to have $152 in cash in the drawer to begin with.

I now start with $200, but if I get a large number of people showing up early and paying with large bills, I'll still have a problem.
posted by oaf at 10:59 PM on April 3, 2006


if you're really getting that many people paying with $100 and $50 bills that it bugs you enough to post here, all you're going to do is hurt your own business because that must be a lot of customers.

There aren't that many of them, but about half of the cases where someone pays with, say, a $50 for a $6 ticket, I can see them reaching through their wallet, and passing $10s or $20s. People shouldn't be using us as a change machine, especially when we need the change for other patrons.
posted by oaf at 11:02 PM on April 3, 2006


In the case where they obviously have smaller bills, you're perfectly within reason to ask (indeed, insist) that they pay with them instead of the larger ones.
posted by odinsdream at 11:07 PM on April 3, 2006


Am I within reason to insist on it even if they don't have smaller bills, to avoid inconveniencing the next five people in line?
posted by oaf at 11:13 PM on April 3, 2006


I've got a few $100's left over from my last visit to Vegas.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:14 PM on April 3, 2006


I don't see any problem with putting up a sign that says "No $100 Bills Accepted".

And, if someone makes a big stink about it, then deal with it.
posted by fenriq at 11:17 PM on April 3, 2006


I can't help but think you're making the problem out to be larger than it really is.

I mean, somebody who buys $15 of tickets with a hundred is taking 4 $20s away from you... but you've implied that most people pay with cash from an ATM, so you should have lots of $20s, since that's what almost all non-casino ATMs dispense.

Speaking as somebody who routinely carries hundreds, I find no hundred policies annoying. The way I see it, I'm trying to give you money. If you don't want to take my money, well that's your problem.

And for what it's worth, your location is in a wealthy town. I doubt anybody near Princeton is impressed by $100 bills. It's far more likely that they have them because they're space-efficient, or because they went to Atlantic City.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:39 PM on April 3, 2006


You're in the right. If you lose the business of someone who only uses 100s, screw them. Most people will understand. Most people understand that paying for 15 bucks with a 100 is silly. The ones who make a big deal about it will be a very low number. The fact that you can give change will be appreciated by many.

Some people dont use ATMs. In fact, they dont have a bank account. I have a cousin who carries $100's - he works on cars and only does cash transactions.

Then that's your cousins problem. He can ignore banks and keep his money under his mattress if he wants. But the problems he's going to face are entirely his own. It's not the job of the business to do anything special for him.
posted by justgary at 11:42 PM on April 3, 2006


(for what it's worth, while I do carry $100s, I try not to use them on tiny purchases... but occasionally I find myself buying a cup of coffee, and realizing I have nothing but $100s. I'm grateful that the places I frequent accept them without giving me any shit.)
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:42 PM on April 3, 2006


Just a note, if my options are "pay for $15 item with $100 bill" or "pay for $15 item with a credit card", the former is usally the faster transaction.

In that case, it's me trying to be polite to the rest of your line, so I don't have to fill out paperwork, to buy a damned movie ticket.

If you want to force me to use credit, I'll do so without complaint, but it's slower.

If you want me to go use an ATM, then you just lost a customer.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:45 PM on April 3, 2006


We do accept plastic, but we're on a university campus, and as such have many, many people show up with exactly one form of payment. Sometimes it's not one we accept

Accept more.

I now start with $200, but if I get a large number of people showing up early and paying with large bills, I'll still have a problem.

Start with more.

There aren't that many of them, but about half of the cases where someone pays with, say, a $50 for a $6 ticket, I can see them reaching through their wallet, and passing $10s or $20s. People shouldn't be using us as a change machine, especially when we need the change for other patrons.

Fair enough, but that's not really something you can control, now is it? And shouting at the AskMe rain certainly isn't going to help.

Am I within reason to insist on it even if they don't have smaller bills, to avoid inconveniencing the next five people in line?

Quit threadmodding and listen: the consensus here seems to be against you. Rather than responding to each comment, maybe take in the gestault and adjust your policies. Are you really looking for help, or just someone to tell you "yes, that's ok, and F those lousy students," so you can post it by the window next to your 'no $100s' sign?
posted by ChasFile at 11:51 PM on April 3, 2006


Personally, i wouldn't hang out any signs warning about the situation, since that pre-emptively restricts the customer's options, which some people may not like. Besides, it sounds like not all high-bill-payers are problematic, just the combination of them. I'd try to accomodate as many of your customers as you can. If you start getting low on change, ask them if they can pay with smaller bills. If you start getting lower on change, refuse high bills and recommend somewhere nearby where they can change their money if necessary.

Also, your two-dollar bill idea
might not be legal. The linked wikipedia article points out that many places have regulations against giving small-denomination change. It doesn't go into much detail about the US though, which i'm guessing is the jurisdiction in question.
posted by nml at 11:54 PM on April 3, 2006


Maybe this is just too obvious, but
  • $200 isn't enough of a float, quite obviously, because you're here asking this question -- start with more! or
  • you can always make the $100-bill people wait on one side until you've completed enough small-bill transactions to give them their change and still have a workable amount of cash on hand
That's what most people in your situation do in my experience -- they just say "I can't change a hundred right now. Please stand over there" and serve five or six more customers.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:58 PM on April 3, 2006


Legally, you can do whatever you want with regard to the policies you have for accepting certain kinds of bills. In terms of what's actually good for business? Well, remember that what's good for your customers is better for your business than what's good for you personally.

If I were in your position, I'd just get more types of bills to stock my change drawer with before I open, and I'd work out a way to make change faster. That might mean hiring a second set of hands, or just being more careful with how I organize the change drawer.

Ultimately, framing this as your customers' problem isn't going to win you any business. It's your problem - and finding a solution that doesn't bug even a single customer will make your business run better.
posted by odinsdream at 11:58 PM on April 3, 2006


"I mean, somebody who buys $15 of tickets with a hundred is taking 4 $20s away from you... but you've implied that most people pay with cash from an ATM, so you should have lots of $20s, since that's what almost all non-casino ATMs dispense."

Once the register has been open for a few hours, that is certainly true. I have been in the same position, however, back when I managed a counter service restaurant in a shopping mall food court. At the start of the day you only have two tills, each stocked with maybe a twenty, some tens, more fives, and a bunch of ones. There is no other cash in the safe, everything beyond the starting tills is deposited in the bank at the end of the night. All it takes, as oaf pointed out, is two customers with large bills early in the day to completely wipe out your ability to make change.

One morning my first two customers were obviously less interested in food and more interested in using me as a bank. The first person bough a slice of pepperoni and a drink, and handed me a $100 bill for the under $10 tab. I grudgingly made change (after checking for any signs of forgery), figuring I knew I still had that second till to draw from if necessary.

Then the second customer, who was obviously friends with the first, also tried to pay me with a $100 bill for a similar order. I calmly said to her, "I can't make change for this."

She looked mortally offended, and condescendingly pointed out that I had just made change for her friend. "Exactly," I replied, "and now I don't have any change left to give you. I am not a bank, but there happens to be one just outside the mall on the far side of the parking lot. I suggest you borrow ten dollars from your friend to pay me, and then go to the bank to break you large bill and repay your friend."

Oaf, my advice is that you don't need to make any kind of hard and fast policy. Just be very clear, polite, and firm with your customers. If you don't have enough change in the till to make change without leaving yourself short for the next customer, just say so. Either the person will be a decent, understanding human being who will comprehend the situation, or they are knowingly being a jerk because they are too lazy to go to the bank. In the former case you probably won't lose the customer in the long run. In the latter case, they're not a customer you want to keep anyway.
posted by Lokheed at 12:00 AM on April 4, 2006


keep a wad of $2s stashed in the safe

Right, I forgot about that, and there is therefore no excuse. If you can keep a wad of $2s, you can certainly keep a wad of $10s and $20s. Then every time you drop the cash off at the bank, get another. I'm more convinced than ever that this is just a whine-fest - which you're doing alot of - and not an actual request for constructive suggestions - which you're listening to none of.
posted by ChasFile at 12:01 AM on April 4, 2006


* rereading, you're starting with only $200? That's way, way too low.
posted by odinsdream at 12:01 AM on April 4, 2006


Y'know... I really agree with Chasfile.

You have a place to put plenty of change if you wanted. But instead of doing that, you want to complain, and make strange (and inaccurate) accusations that people carry $100s to impress.

You're willing to consider some minor extra work to be an obnoxious twat (the $2 bill change thing), but not to do your job well (the same thing, except with $5s, $10s and $20s).

Meh to you. (and you really think students on princeton's campus carry $100s to impress? I'd guess they have $100s because their dad gave them a few $100s out of their pocket, during the last visit.)
posted by I Love Tacos at 12:10 AM on April 4, 2006


I mean, somebody who buys $15 of tickets with a hundred is taking 4 $20s away from you... but you've implied that most people pay with cash from an ATM, so you should have lots of $20s, since that's what almost all non-casino ATMs dispense.

Really? That's certainly not the case in other countries. ATMs in Ireland, for example, usually run out of smaller denominations when it's close to pay day, especially in the city centre, and only give out 50-euro notes. Get five people in a row with fiftys at your register, and your change will be wiped out in five minutes. It's a problem compunded by the weird insurance policies in some stores that require low till floats. (I should know, it happened to me regularly on a Thursday night working at a large music store on a famous street in the Fair City.)

[As an aside, someone at my register once tried to buy a CD that cost less than €20 with a €500 note, and gave me a dirty look when I told him I couldn't possibly make change for it. That really brings out the misanthrope in me, so it does.]

Anyway, as for answering the question, I've thought about this before and if it really is a problem then I think it's just common-sensical to have some sort of a suggestion policy for your customers in place. If they take it as an insult, well then they obviously don't have any common sense.

You can do either that, or demand better handling of the money at the cash office (if your theatre operates a separate cash office, that is).

However if, as others here suggest, ATMs really don't dispense anything larger than a 20, then I don't think you're really going to have any solution to the problem you see.
posted by macdara at 12:29 AM on April 4, 2006


First off, make sure you have a sign that says 'We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.' As $50's and $100's are 'Legal Tender', you are stuck taking them. If you have that sign up, you can fall back on that.

Second, as a manager, you really need to decide how much you want to put up with this. If you are willing to walk out from behind the window and talk to an angry customer face to face because you won't accept his $100 bill for his $12 purchase, and you don't care about the bad customer service that is for that person, then go for it. Also remember you'll be creating a bad experince for everyone else in line that gets to listen to it.

It WILL happen. If you're just going to cave when someone complains, then don't bother putting a sign up. You'll just waste your time.

On a personal level, I probably wouldn't even notice the sign, and if I used a $100 bill for a $24 purchase, it would be because I don't have a $50, a $20 and a $10, or whatever combo was needed to make that. So if you refused me, I'd put my $100 back in my wallet, and walk away. I don't like confrontation, but I might ask for a manager, and kindly let them know that I won't be coming to the movies again for some time. If there was competition in town, I'd let them know I'd be going there for now on. If they told me they'd make an exception for me, I'd say no, until that sign comes down and the policy changes, this is how I'm protesting my displeasure for that policy. By Boycotting.

People want to watch the movie then. Nobody wants to go home, or drive to their Bank's ATM that doesn't charge them $2 for a $40 transaction. Remember that movies are going to DVD and Pay Per View much faster these days. You need to keep your customer service up to be competitive.

Why not just increase your starting drawer amount? When it gets over $1k just pull the cash back into the safe. Or be available for the first 20 minutes the box office is open so you can access the safe for change if needed. Keep a drawer in there for swapping out large bills or something.

This is a long post for an easy answer. You need to adjust, not them. The customer isn't always right, but you need to help them feel comfortable and welcome, or they'll take their business elsewhere. Stop making excuses for why they are doing this, and solve the problem without losing customers.
posted by Phynix at 12:32 AM on April 4, 2006


Accept more [forms of payment].

That's not possible, and we already take cash, checks, those vouchers, and Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. We already accept enough forms of payment.

Start with more [cash].

I start with about as many $1s as will fit in the drawer. This is necessary when most of the tickets you sell are $6.

Quit threadmodding and listen: the consensus here seems to be against you.

And that's not a helpful answer either. No one's actually answering the first half of the question, which is, essentially: how much is a reasonable minimum for each type of bill?

$200 isn't enough of a float

It actually is, when people don't pay in bills that take up half of it. We rarely take in more than $400 in cash in a night, and about the only thing that depletes my supply of change is a huge bill for a small transaction. Seriously. Unless that happens, I run out of change about every fifteen shows.
There are very good reasons for keeping a small amount of cash outside the safe; before I started, we had nearly a thousand dollars in revenue stolen. Now, everything except for $200 gets put into the safe nightly.

I'm more convinced than ever that this is just a whine-fest - which you're doing alot of - and not an actual request for constructive suggestions - which you're listening to none of.

Well, perhaps it is a whine-fest—if you call complaining about non-answers "whining." The proper response to "these are my restrictions" is not "your restrictions are silly; change them." I can't change them; I didn't make them.
posted by oaf at 12:33 AM on April 4, 2006


You could make a sign saying small denominations ($1's, $5's, $10's) appreciated rather then not accepting $50's and $100's. It might stop people from reaching past the $5's and $10's in their wallet.
posted by kechi at 12:41 AM on April 4, 2006


As $50's and $100's are 'Legal Tender', you are stuck taking them.

I know I don't have to take large bills. I'm starting to think it's better to tell everyone else working at the box office that (and go by the policy that) they don't have to (and should not if at all possible) take anything that will seriously deplete the change in the drawer.
posted by oaf at 12:42 AM on April 4, 2006


All you really have to do is put up a sign which states, "We cannot always change large bills." As for the idea of giving change in $2 bills, I say if you're going to be an ass, go for the full-ass and not the half-ass: Sakakawea dollars.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:49 AM on April 4, 2006


I actually like dollar coins (the golde ones) because they've got to win out at some point—Canada replaced its $1 bills with loonies when C$1 was worth significantly more in terms of purchasing power than US$1 is worth today.
</derail>

posted by oaf at 12:53 AM on April 4, 2006


On preview, I'd be very understanding if the cashier told me they simply didn't have the ability to make the necessary change for me, as the last few people used large bills. If the movie didn't start for 10 minutes plus, I'd let them know I'd wait for a few more customers to come in, and come back.

Make you could take that into consideration when making a policy. ;)
posted by Phynix at 12:55 AM on April 4, 2006


Just to clarify: this is a live theatre, run by students. And my worst customers are not the ones who pay with large bills, but I figured it was something I could try to fix.

The thing I can't fix is the group of people who come to the last performance of a given show, five minutes late, when the performance sold out 36 hours beforehand, and expect to be able to get the best seats in the house just by walking up. And they want to pay in euros. (OK, I made the euros part up.)
posted by oaf at 1:00 AM on April 4, 2006


oaf, as far as I can tell, there was no reason whatsoever for you to even post this question. You marked the two answers as 'best' that matched what you'd already decided, and appear to have ignored all the others, many of which were very reasonable and intelligent.

You had already made the decision, and you were just looking for validation. You probably feel like you got it here, but you really didn't... most folks are telling you that your stance is ill-considered.
posted by Malor at 1:18 AM on April 4, 2006


On a personal level, I probably wouldn't even notice the sign, and if I used a $100 bill for a $24 purchase, it would be because I don't have a $50, a $20 and a $10, or whatever combo was needed to make that. So if you refused me, I'd put my $100 back in my wallet, and walk away.

I should hope you would differentiate between a large business that has access to plenty change in the safe, and a small business that simply doesn't keep that kind of cash on hand. I expect a bank to have change, because that's what they exist for. The original poster could have been more clear about the size of the business (being a small live theatre and not just your average multiplex movie theater), but I took his meaning right away having been in the same position. Paying for a small transaction with a large bill is no different than paying with a pocket full of small change; it may be legal tender, but it is still rude.
posted by Lokheed at 1:24 AM on April 4, 2006


You marked the two answers as 'best' that matched what you'd already decided

If you look back, you'll find that you aren't correct.

What I wanted to do was flat-out not accept large bills for small purchases. What I think I'm going to do is accept them if I can do it without depleting my ability to make change afterward.

I'm sorry, but there's really no justification for paying with a purchase under $20 with a $100 bill.

And "most folks" aren't answering the question: I want to develop a consistent policy to avoid [losing the ability to make change because of people paying with large bills].
posted by oaf at 1:27 AM on April 4, 2006


I'm sorry, but there's really no justification for paying with a purchase under $20 with a $100 bill.

There were numerous reasons given in thread. Your decision to ignore them is based on prejudice.

You've decided that anybody who has $100s is trying to impress somebody. People have noted numerous reasons (cash businesses, parents gave them money, casino money, etc.) and you've ignored them all.

The dumbest part of your argument is the idea that $100s could impress anybody in a high income neighborhood. It's not like your theater is located in Sri Lanka, y'know.
posted by I Love Tacos at 1:36 AM on April 4, 2006


I'm not going to read any of the arguing in the thread, but count me as someone else who lives on cash.

I would probably try to remember ot have change if I was going to a theater, but if I were a theater owner or manager I'd think more than twice about turning away customers considering the continual decline of attendance and profits.

Keeping more change on hand would be wise as others have noted.

But I'd also consider developing a written or an unwritten policy to let those difficult big-bill customers in in time to make their desired showing, and then catching up with them after or even during the show to settle the bill after you've made change - either keeping their $100 and giving them some kind of document as proof of debt, or - for extra customer service - let them in and let them keep their $100 until you have change and have a runner or whatever. You could even ask for their license or something. Or have an usher stay for a moment. Whatever.

That'd make me think real highly of a theater and want to come back.

Don't treat your customers like cattle. Give them the pickle, it works.
posted by loquacious at 2:18 AM on April 4, 2006


I'm sorry, but there's really no justification for paying with a purchase under $20 with a $100 bill.

Is this a joke? Why are you so grouchy? If I want or need to buy something that costs three dollars and I happen only to have a one-hundred dollar bill, I'm supposed to either go to a bank for change or just forget about it all and go home? That's idiotic. You're within your rights to post a "no 100$ or 50$ bill" signs. Unless you're doing it for safety reasons (for example, at a gas station late at night in a bad neighborhood where it's important to keep the cash in the till to a minimum), it's kind of lame, but whatever. And, even with the sign, if you refuse to bend the rules to break a large bill for someone when you have plenty of change, then you're just being a jerk. People don't carry 100 dollar bills to impress anyone, unless there are about 50 of them in a diamond-studded dollar-sign money clip.
posted by cilantro at 2:20 AM on April 4, 2006


Sorry, I hadn't caught that it wasn't a movie theater. Ignore most of my above answer, but some of the advice stands.

You could still do the trust or token thing with a live, small theater. Even easier, possibly.

Accomodate your guests. Maybe they had a crappy day and everything didn't goes as planned despite best efforts, and a night out of some sort is exactly what they really need. Maybe the ones you turn away need the message or entertainment of your theater the most.
posted by loquacious at 2:25 AM on April 4, 2006


A different angle would be to ask for an item as collateral that is worth more than the ticket price and likely would not be forgotten. (I suggest cellphone batteries, they won't be forgotten and it will help to silence at least one or two phones.) They can then stop by and pay with the large bill after the show when your drawer can better handle it. You are then responsible for the item but you're a manager and ought to be able to handle it on a case by case basis.

On preview, loquacious nailed it.
posted by geekyguy at 2:52 AM on April 4, 2006


You could accept $100s for purchases over $35 (roughly). but always accept $50s and $20s.

but

i think a sign saying "We may not be able to accept $100s" is probably your best option, and just politely ask the bearer of the $100 bill:

a) if they have smaller denomination notes

or

b) tell them you have insufficient change at the minute, could they either wait a while for the change situation to recover or try somewhere nearby to break it into smaller denominations.
posted by knapah at 3:34 AM on April 4, 2006


I Love Tacos, why are you telling me to "Acceft Ioos"?

oaf, I think the idea of "No hundreds/fifties unless purchase >= $X" is a bit strange. I certainly have been to places that do not accept large bills, but I've never seen your theory in practice. I think, as many have already said, that the best approach is to make change for large bills whenever possible, keeping in mind that for early patrons, you may not be able to, even though you technically have enough change to do it. I realize that this makes things more complicated for you and your employees, but that's my advice.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:44 AM on April 4, 2006


Many people carry and use large bils for many different reasons. Most of them are aware that not everyone can easily make change for them (I'll always ask before I offer to pay for something with a $100).

I run a small theatre box office and my cash drawer is only $100 total ($50 in ones, $50 in fives). If someone offers me a large bill early in the evening, I just ask if they have something smaller. Usually they do. If not, I sell a few more tickets till I can make change.

For my money, twiggy's is the best answer here. If you have so many customers with big bills that you have to ask about it here, you need to find a way to accomodate them, not drive them away.

Bonus advice: good customer service begins with making the buying experience better for your customer, even if it's less convenient for you (that's why they're customers, not business partners - they're paying you for your inconvenience). Sometimes it just doesn't make economic sense to accomdate your customers in certain ways. Fine. But don't inconvenience them just because they irk you.
posted by zanni at 4:20 AM on April 4, 2006


ATMs do too give out $100s. At least the one in the McDonalds near me. I wish I had more ability to get $100s from it.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:12 AM on April 4, 2006


When my fiancee was in the restaurant business, the float was at least $2,000 even for a small mom-and-pop diner on the weekends.

Track your cash transactions by tender received and change given for a few weeks. You will know fairly quickly what your float needs to be and in what denominations in order to consistently accomodate your customers. As for being willing to do that or not, I think you have to decide whether you want your customers to feel like they are visiting a convenience store at night, or make their change for them....assuming you aren't prone to getting hit with counterfeit bills or armed assailants.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:45 AM on April 4, 2006


Why not keep a few $50s on hand in the till? What is the point of screwing any customers? I see you are in Princeton, so I would understand where things like this happen, especially nowadays when $100 really isn't that much money. I can easily blow $100 in a night without even going anywhere expensive.
posted by JJ86 at 5:58 AM on April 4, 2006


Well, perhaps it is a whine-fest—if you call complaining about non-answers "whining." The proper response to "these are my restrictions" is not "your restrictions are silly; change them." I can't change them; I didn't make them.

So, uh, you can change the cash handling policy, apparently, because you asked how you should change it, but you're not allowed to change the policy because you didn't make it.

If you legitimately have a problem making change on a regular basis, then you need to go back to whoever is in charge and talk to them about how float is handled. When I worked in a store, we started with fairly significant float, and then were required to make periodic drops of some of that money into a drawer so that we kept the total level of stealable money to a manageable level. You might find that a more workable solution, and sell it to whoever made the half of the policy you're not allowed to change. If you started with $400 (or even $300 where the extra change was a couple of $50s), you could break those large bills easily. As soon as you'd taken in $100 or so, put some cash in an envelope and lock it in a drawer or drop it in the safe.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:19 AM on April 4, 2006


I can easily blow $100 in a night without even going anywhere expensive.

Unless you take up eight seats, it's not likely to happen. Even then, you're presumably going to be eating your dinner before 10:00.

I were a theater owner or manager I'd think more than twice about turning away customers considering the continual decline of attendance and profits.

In the past six weeks, we've had (by my count) two people pay (successfully, because they weren't first) with $50s and two (one successfully, one unsuccessfully, because they were early and one was right after the other) with $100s. The first $100 bill took basically all of my change, and I had to ask the next dozen or so people for exact change if they had it. It's pretty difficult to find a bank that's open at 7:30 pm on a Saturday.

The dumbest part of your argument is the idea that $100s could impress anybody in a high income neighborhood.

I'm guessing that you missed the part where I explained that basically everyone there is a student.
posted by oaf at 6:21 AM on April 4, 2006


So, uh, you can change the cash handling policy, apparently, because you asked how you should change it, but you're not allowed to change the policy because you didn't make it.

I was referring specifically to the suggestions that I change the amount of float and change the types of payment I accept, neither of which I can do.

We drop each day's revenue into the safe at the end of the night. This is to prevent what happened earlier, when someone stole an entire weekend's worth of cash.
posted by oaf at 6:25 AM on April 4, 2006


[a few comments removed, take it to metatalk or email if you want to bitch]
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 AM on April 4, 2006


On a related note- here are two wikipedia articles that seem to discuss the concepts involved in turning down people with large denomination bills... Legal Tender and Invitation to Treat.
posted by mhaw at 6:51 AM on April 4, 2006


I don't see what the problem is with, say, a $300 till as opposed to $200.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:14 AM on April 4, 2006


In the UK, it's almost a given that small shops won't accept anything larger than a £20 (probably about $35). The bars at my University's campus wouldn't accept 50's either.
I can't say I've ever heard any small business holder complain that they lost custom because they wouldn't take very large notes.

Cultural caveats
+ ATMs and bank accounts may be more available/accessible in the UK
+ there may be more of a "plastic" culture here
+ it may be less of a social norm to pay with large denominations here.

None of this I can discount, but the small business standard here seems to be a medium bill cut-off.
posted by NinjaPirate at 7:27 AM on April 4, 2006


The wikipedia links explain the legality of a coice to not accept large denominations. (First linked, strangely, to suggest that $2 bills were not legal tender? Did I read that right? What a thread!)

I would add that an early arrival with a $100 bill be asked to wait for additional transactions to make change -- three? -- if they have no smaller note. I am always making accomodations for a local coffee shop for problems in change making. Too many tourists arrive having just visited the ATM. If all else fails, I use a $20 to open a line of credit. Sounds like you're a small operation. Be nice about things and your customers will help. Give a free popcorn for their trouble.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:32 AM on April 4, 2006


I submit that, unless you're willing to let go of your biases about whether your customers have "legitimate reasons to pay for $20 with a $100 bill" and "more money than common sense", you're not going to be able to evaluate your options (including the suggestions offered here) in an effective and impartial manner.

That said, IMO posting signs about which denominations are accepted at a particular business establishment is a fair practice. Assuming that the service being offered is non-essential, customers can decide whether they like this denominations policy by voting with their own cash.
posted by DaShiv at 7:43 AM on April 4, 2006


Nobody has mentioned something which, as a former register-jockey, is obvious to me: as you get closer to the close of business for the day, you want large bills. Great were those nights at the video store when closing time came around and there were few (or even zero!) fives or ones to count.

The store was in a high-income neighborhood. If someone tried to pay with a bill that was going to wipe out the register, I told them I couldn't take it. And for all the difficult people I dealt with and all the ridiculous arguments I had, I can't remember a single person insisting that I make change for their 50 or 100.

That said, your float is too small. If you aren't empowered to increase it, then you should approach the person who is and make a case.

All that being said, I regret that you're so stupid.
posted by bingo at 7:52 AM on April 4, 2006


If you legitimately have a problem making change on a regular basis, then you need to go back to whoever is in charge and talk to them about how float is handled.

This is exactly right. The problem isn't that your customers won't accomodate your system; the problem is that your system doesn't accomodate your customers. You're trying to fix the wrong part of the equation.
posted by jjg at 7:53 AM on April 4, 2006


Just like the UK mention above, this whole discussion is bizarre to this Canadian. Pretty much any place here that usually deals with $20 transactions won't take $100s anymore because there was so much counterfeitting going on, and pretty much any place with a vulnerable cash (like gas stations and corner stores) have a sign on the door noting that they only carry $50 float. The only thing people use $100s for here anymore is to make a big purchase in cash (my last one was a motorcycle).

If you're going to put up a sign, blaming not taking $100s on counterfeitting problems sounds like a good white lie to me.
posted by mendel at 8:00 AM on April 4, 2006


Yeah, I must have absent-mindedly pruned the mention of a sign from my answer - as DaShiv and mendel say: a notice informing customers about any limit is a good idea. I doubt it's a legal requirement, but it will certainly make it sound less like this limit is an abitrary personal level and more an establishment policy.
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:09 AM on April 4, 2006


If you must make a new change handling policy instead of increasing your float, there seems to be two ways to go about it. The first is to disallow bills over a certain amount. You can say 'We do not accept $100 bills' but then when someone comes and buys 10 tickets, that $100 bill seems reasonable. The other alternative is to put a maximum the change you'll offer - 'Cashier will not provide more than $50 change per transaction.' Now you can take the $100 bill if they've bought more than $50 worth of tickets, for example.

If you make these a policy, you'll alienate some people, who will read the signs and if they don't have the change, walk away. Some people may ask, anyway, in which case you can be flexible, if you actually have the change to spare, but then you'll run into them again the next week, and anger them when you can't break the policy for them again because this time you don't have change for them.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:30 AM on April 4, 2006


I'm kind of curious if the people telling you to accept hundreds has ever worked in retail. Contrary to what others have said, it will often take more work to pay with 100 than with a credit card, unless if you write incredibly slowly. Places were the average item costs $6 will often have to call the manager up to deal with the $100 as it's entirely possible they won't have enough in the drawer.

In the rare instance where I carry $100, I accept that there are places that won't accept. Usually I try to break it at someplace where they will have a large amount of cash in the drawer (say a large retail store like a Target). It's possible to decide not to frequent a place because they won't accept your hundred, just as it's a perfectly fine for a business to choose not to accept them.

For businesses, not accepting $100s can easily be a safety issue. In order to cover the change, you have to either have more money in the drawer which makes your site more attractive to robbers, or you have to have a manager handle the money which means it will take much longer to make change.

I would suggest a "No $100s" sign instead of a graduated system. Feel free to ignore it when someone is paying for a large group.
posted by drezdn at 8:33 AM on April 4, 2006


I've dealt with this problem at both a grocery store and a restaurant, and the amount of flack you're getting over it is pretty surprising.
There are two flavors of suggestion here— formal and informal policy. For formal policy, a sign that says "Cashier may not have change for large bills" is good enough. If you see someone flit past $20s in their pursuit of something bigger, just tell 'em that you can't make change for it. The downside is that this is the "impressive" effect they're looking for, but hey, if they give you any guff just tell 'em that you'll take whatever bill they've got but you won't give 'em more than, say, $25 dollars in change. If you can say that with a smile, people will get the picture and usually just deal.
If you can't make change and that's all that they have, the idea of collateral is a good one. Tell 'em to enjoy the show, but leave a license or something so that at the end, you can settle up. Boom. Done. You can move on to the next customer.
And, frankly, people behind them in line are going to be sympathetic, and that's an advantage that you have. No one wants to be behind the dipshit who's insisting on using a large bill even though they have something smaller. Sometimes, someone behind them will even volunteer to break the bill for 'em. Give that person a free soda or something.
It is a pain in the ass, and you can tell when people are doing it for attention and not because that's what they have. When someone is doing it for attention, pointing that out (subtly, with good humor) usually deflates them plenty.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 AM on April 4, 2006


I had to ask the next dozen or so people for exact change if they had it

See, that's what your sign should say. Not, "We won't take your money if it's bigger than we like," but, "Please help us out by paying with your smallest bills." People generally respond to requests for help, and generally resent having restrictions imposed on them.

I also wonder how you know what the motivations of large-bill carriers are. I sometimes carry a fifty or hundred as backup cash; when the rest of my cash is gone, I can still purchase.

Further:
THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE
Refusing to take a bill because its denomination is larger than your policy puts you in conflict with the Treasury. 99 times out of 100, that won't matter. Eventually, though, some troublemaker is going to make trouble. Your saying, "Sorry, I don't have enough change to break that bill" is not going to set that guy off, but having a sign such as you propose will.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:53 AM on April 4, 2006


I've never understood people who want to pay for small purchases with large bills. Sure, occasionally it may be all they have, but a lot of the time they're clearly assholes who just want to get a lot of change at the expense of whoever's running the register. Fuck 'em.

/used to run a register
posted by languagehat at 8:59 AM on April 4, 2006


Kirth, my understanding is that concept of legal tender does not apply in this case because this transaction isn't to resolve a debt- it is an exchange for a future service/good. Your statement about legal tender would be correct if the large bill was being used to pay for a meal that you just ate (because you owe the restaurant for costs you incurred on them).
posted by mhaw at 9:14 AM on April 4, 2006


THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE
Refusing to take a bill because its denomination is larger than your policy puts you in conflict with the Treasury.


Wikipedia: "legal tender"

It's a legal practice in the United States.
posted by DaShiv at 9:24 AM on April 4, 2006


THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE

This does not mean that you must accept a certain denomination, and it certainly does not "put you in conflict with the Treasury." Here's what the US Treasury FAQ has to say:

This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.

That seems to be pretty clear-you can refuse payment of any denomination or form (barring a specific state law stating otherwise).
posted by Chrysostom at 9:24 AM on April 4, 2006


Oaf, I am from a rather ritzy town and go to the "Harvard of the South" (really, the classes aren't that great, but the students are pretty snotty) and I think trying to pay with a $100 is ridiculous. The only times I have paid for anything with a $100 was with birthday money - and each time I spent almost that much.

I think that a good compromise is to have a sign up that asks people to pay with small bills or says that you might not be able to give change for large bills. If someone hands you a $100 but you can see that they have something smaller, nicely explain that you don't have a lot of change and could they help you out by paying with something smaller?

There is a local coffee shop here that has a sign saying "we need $1's and $5's." I feel bad if I have to pay with a $20. They would *laugh* if I tried to pay with a $100.
posted by radioamy at 9:44 AM on April 4, 2006


Kirth Gerson has it. Have your sign say, "We need change".

Oh, and carry more change.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:53 AM on April 4, 2006


Jesus, this isn't that hard. "Small bills preferred" would solve this for all but the most stubborn cases. If you still have an issue, talk to whomever you need to to increase your float, since it's clearly a demand from your customers. Why are you fighting with people who want to be your patrons?
posted by anildash at 10:07 AM on April 4, 2006


As a business, you are certainly within your rights to refuse 50's and 100's. That said, and considering what going to the movies costs these days, I would seriously question not accepting the 50's.
I also think that, as a business, you are seeing a trend develop (people paying with 50's) It would seem to me that you need to adjust the amounts in your till to reflect the new need.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:16 AM on April 4, 2006


OK - I was wrong to interpret the staement on the money the way I did. I still think that some troublemaker will eventually choose to use that same wrong interpretation, and that it's better to appeal to people's better nature than to post rules.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:35 AM on April 4, 2006


I like the idea of putting a sign politely asking for change or for smaller bills. It seems like subtle social engineering that just might work.
posted by drezdn at 11:01 AM on April 4, 2006


On the posting rules vs asking nicely for small bills issue: the existence of cranks and wags is why almost all signs read "no smoking" rather than "thank you for not smoking". I suppose which method is better depends on one's view of human nature.
posted by DaShiv at 11:20 AM on April 4, 2006


the existence of cranks and wags is why almost all signs read "no smoking" rather than "thank you for not smoking"

Not here. In the U.S., the signs read 'No Smoking' because it's the law. (The not smoking, I mean. I don't know if the law dictates what the signs say.) We're not talking about the collision between somebody's addiction and everybody else's air supply. Asking rather than dictating is always going to produce more happy cooperation.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:29 AM on April 4, 2006


FWIW, I apologize to cashiers if I have to pay with anything disproportionate to the purchase.
posted by grimmelm at 11:32 AM on April 4, 2006


Not here. In the U.S., the signs read 'No Smoking' because it's the law.

This is not a nation-wide standard. See also: Wikipedia: smoking bans and state tobacco laws. There are still many states where smoking at various establishments, especially bars, is still perfectly legal. Those who do want to run non-smoking establishments in those localities will post appropriate signage as they see fit, and the wording on these signs do run the gamut.

This is a digression from the OP, however; I'm only trying to clarify my earlier example of how the wording of "no smoking" signs will vary.

Asking rather than dictating is always going to produce more happy cooperation.

I don't think many would dispute the "happy" part, but you'll certainly find dissenting opinions regarding the efficacy of the "cooperation" part without an explicitly stated policy, and IMO it may save the OP some trouble down the line if he decides to take this into consideration beforehand. Or perhaps he'll disagree.
posted by DaShiv at 12:13 PM on April 4, 2006


Where I think that the no smoking bit is not relevant is here: oaf doesn't have to get 100% cooperation, the way a non-smoking establishment does. He just needs to get more cooperation. If he also gets some people to use small bills when they might otherwise use a 20, his problem mostly goes away. A sign asking for small bills would get both; a prohibition on 50s and 100s would get the first, but not the second.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:30 PM on April 4, 2006


"you've got to be trying to impress someone by carrying around huge denominations like that."

I doubt in most cases it's about trying to impress people, A wad of $20s bookcased with a couple $100s looks a lot more impressive but you wouldn't spend the $100s. If you've got a couple grand in cash on your person $100s are 5Xs easier to carry around than $20s.

aberrant writes "Why not make the policy something along the lines of 'maximum change given: $X'?"

This would seem to be the method that would alienate the least people.

odinsdream writes "In the case where they obviously have smaller bills, you're perfectly within reason to ask (indeed, insist) that they pay with them instead of the larger ones."

Mind your own bloody business and stop looking in people's wallets. If I had a cashier announce the contents of my wallet to everyone in ear shot they'd loose my business.

mendel writes "this whole discussion is bizarre to this Canadian. Pretty much any place here that usually deals with $20 transactions won't take $100s anymore because there was so much counterfeitting going on, and pretty much any place with a vulnerable cash (like gas stations and corner stores) have a sign on the door noting that they only carry $50 float. "

Only the old $100s, I have no problem spending new $100s (the ones with the holograms).
posted by Mitheral at 2:55 PM on April 4, 2006


Dick Paris: (First linked, strangely, to suggest that $2 bills were not legal tender? Did I read that right? What a thread!)

I wasn't suggesting that $2 bills weren't legal tender, but that some jurisdictions have laws against making change with excessively small denominations. The page i linked doesn't give detail for the US, but it covers similar laws in a number of places. For example, the section on Australia mentions that coins are only legal tender in limited quantities. The same page also covers the relevant principles around refusing large bills.

Sorry, i guess i should have been clearer about that. Actually, given the amount of subsequent discussion of legal tender and invitation to treat, i almost certainly should have given more detail :o(
posted by nml at 6:52 PM on April 4, 2006


All that being said, I regret that you're so stupid.

bingo, you don't know me, or you wouldn't say that. But that's what you get for being so...well, intelligent isn't exactly the word.
posted by oaf at 9:49 PM on April 4, 2006


In order to cover the change, you have to either have more money in the drawer which makes your site more attractive to robbers

This is exactly why I can't in good conscience increase the float. A significant number of people have access to the box office (I don't always sell the tickets), and before I started this job, someone (probably internal) stole an entire weekend's take. Adding $200 to that, should it happen again, just makes it worse. The point of keeping a low float is that the number of people who can steal more than $200 drops to three.
posted by oaf at 10:05 PM on April 4, 2006


Well, I guess you can turn away customers who want to give you money, or you can try not to hire people who will steal from you. It's your choice which group you want to focus on.
posted by jjg at 10:28 PM on April 4, 2006


We're all volunteers. I don't get paid, and neither does anyone else who mans the box office.
posted by oaf at 11:58 PM on April 4, 2006


"most folks" aren't answering the question: I want to develop a consistent policy to avoid [losing the ability to make change because of people paying with large bills].

I and at least one other person have posted what I think is the perfect answer.

When you don't have enough change, people with $100s will have to wait.

You seem to be ignoring this one.

You want a sign?

How about, uh "If we don't have change, people with $100s will have to wait"?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:42 AM on April 5, 2006


I feel Oaf's pain, especially since most people here seem to have never worked a register. A $200 float is actually really high. Oaf, just put up a simple sign and be polite. Don't increase your float. Feel fine about making people wait. If they're going to never come back because they can't get their change right then, they're fucktards anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 6:10 AM on April 5, 2006


just for the record, I think $50s are becoming more popular - I've gotten them from ATMs recently, and inflation decrees that eventually the $20 bill dominated american economy will shift...
re, the original question, if you're a small volunteer run organization, it's perfectly normal to just ask if the customer has anything smaller - even super-mart type places will sometimes ask that. I worked at a farmer's market for a while which was all cash, and small purchases for the most part - some days we'd have to ask for smaller denominations; other days we'd be overrun by singles - but it was never a big deal. Very occasionally I'd have to run off to get change or something, but generally if we were low on small change we'd just request that customers pay with smaller bills.
posted by mdn at 7:03 AM on April 5, 2006


To all the people who are pissed off at oaf: life at Princeton may be different from what you're used to. Paying with a $100 bill to try to impress someone is a very Princeton thing to do.

When I was a student at Princeton and worked the at the IT help center, students routinely treated me like I was their slave. Looking down on people you consider socioeconomically beneath you (like someone working the theater box office, even as a volunteer) is also a very Princeton thing to do. It may be that resentment at dealing with arrogant students is coloring oaf's attitude towards this.
posted by medusa at 9:18 PM on April 6, 2006


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