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Small, marked bills
June 9, 2008 10:06 AM   Subscribe

I keep seeing store clerks drawing marks on $20 and $50 bills before closing the cash register. Why are they doing it?
posted by tizzie to Work & Money (15 answers total)
 
It is a special marker that shows fake currency.
posted by Gungho at 10:08 AM on June 9, 2008


They are probably trying to test if it's counterfeit.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2008


Yep. More info here.
posted by chrisroberts at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2008


Additionally, they're not reliable.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


What happens if a bill is fake? Most passers of such bills would not be the counterfeiters. Can the merchant confiscate the bill? Are you obliged to stay for the police? Anyone have experience with this?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:36 AM on June 9, 2008


What happens if a bill is fake?

They refuse to accept it. The fact that the person trying to use the bill is not necessarily responsible for the creation of the bill is not relevant - if the merchant attempts to bank the bill, it will (most likely) be rejected, and so they only accept genuine currency for their services or goods.
posted by Brockles at 10:44 AM on June 9, 2008


Additionally, they're not reliable.

However, most retail clerks don't give two flips if it is a fake. It's an easy way for the higher-ups to say they're trying to stop counterfeiting.
posted by jmd82 at 11:05 AM on June 9, 2008


When I worked a counter I've never had someone supply me with fake money, but I had case where a woman paid with a roll of dimes that was actually 2 dimes surrounded by pennies. I just pretended like it could have been someone else gave her the money and she was duped herself and asked for more money to cover her bill. I think if I found counterfeit money I'd behave similarly and go "oh looks like someone gave you some fake money, that sucks because I can't accept it" and just leave the ball in their court so to speak.
posted by Green With You at 11:06 AM on June 9, 2008


I used to work as a book-keeper and my company was paid with a fake $100 bill once. A sharp-eyed teller caught it at the bank, and wouldn't take it. We were just out the money. The bank said I could leave it with them and they would report it to the FBI, but I just took it and showed it to my boss.

What was really strange is it was a washed $5 bill, so the counterfeit pen didn't catch it. There were several pen marks on it. You could still see the $5 strip inside and the Lincoln watermark. The teller noticed that the ink seemed kind of strange, but other than that it looked like a real $100 bill.
posted by apricot at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2008


The bank said I could leave it with them and they would report it to the FBI, but I just took it and showed it to my boss.

Wow, I wonder how long ago that took place. The bank was violating federal law in releasing the bill back to you (and potentially back into circulation). Bank personnel are obligated to confiscate the bill and send it to the local branch of the FBI with the bill and a report detailing where they recieved it.
posted by Asherah at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2008


Here in BC we can't "refuse to accept it". Our cashiers have to confiscate the bill and ask for alternate payment. We then send the counterfeits to the bank who, in turn, send them on to the police.

Those counterfeit pens suck. It's usually only the cash office clerk who figures out the bills are fake at the end of the night. The retailer is the only one who loses in this situation.
posted by rhinny at 1:01 PM on June 9, 2008


I don't really know why they even use the counterfeit pens, considering every retail place I've worked that has them tells you to mark the bills but doesn't tell you what signs to look for to tell if it's counterfeit...
posted by joshrholloway at 1:44 PM on June 9, 2008


The retailer is the only one who loses in this situation

What about the customer that had to pay double?
posted by InsanePenguin at 1:59 PM on June 9, 2008


Most of those counterfeit detecting pens use a Iodine-Starch reaction. If you add iodine to starch (you can try the stuff you have in your medicine cabinet, a few drops on a cracker or half a fresh potato) you get a dark blue-black color. The pens work on the principle that most common paper (printer, copier, writing, ect.) is starched and will react with the iodine in the pen turning the mark blue-black. What they use for paper money is less paper per-say and more a cotton-linen blend (along with denim fibers a few "secret" ingredients). The iodine pen shouldn't react with it and just leave a yellow-brown mark on the bill.

The unreliable part comes if 1. someone uses bleached "real" bills to print higher denominations on, or 2. can give a false positive if you were to get starch of some sort on your money, by say leaving it in your pocket when laundering.
posted by Captain_Science at 2:09 PM on June 9, 2008


Interesting - thanks, everyone. Yes, some of the pens look like the counterfeit detecting pens in your links. I'll have to pay closer attention to see if they all do - my memory recalls some that were just plain old ink pens.
posted by tizzie at 2:57 PM on June 9, 2008


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