Friday, March 6, 2009

$100 ain't a $100

In front of me at the Andretti Speed Mart, a clean cut Asian guy held out a 100 dollar bill to the clerk. I noticed it, I always notice when somebody tries to pay for something with a $100 dollar bill.

“$40 on number three,” he said.

The clerk paused, held the bill to the sky, examining it for irregularities.

“I’m sorry, we don’t accept $100 dollar bills.” Holding the bill to the light was just dance, an attempt to deflect the expected anger of not accepting the bill.

“How about if I put $80 in the tank? He pleaded, stepping back from the counter where the clerk couldn’t give back the bill.

Looking outside, expecting to see a Hummer - something large enough to warrant $80 dollars worth of gas. What I saw was a mid-size sedan. At today’s prices - $2.15 a gl. – he was lucky to pay $40 bucks. I found this suspicious but not odd.

The clerk reexamined the bill, once again holding it to the light. He squinted his eyes, brought it down and then back up to the light. The guard, flanking his right side, said, “Do you want to see if Burger King will change it?”

The clerk gave him to the bill and he walked over to Burger King, which shared the same space, along with Starbucks. I’m sure Starbucks wasn’t too excited to be partnered with Burger King.

In his absence, I paid for my soda and left. While walking to the car I thought about how the $100 dollar bill has changed. It used to be a sign of wealth, a status symbol to flash around. It still is (a $100 dollars is, well, $100 dollars!) but it now comes with suspicion. It’s generally assumed that if you have a wad of bills, with a few hundreds on top, they’re either counterfeit or you’re a drug dealer. Even if you’re straight looking.

In today’s credit economy, where paper money is near obsolete, and $100 dollars is comprised of 5 twenty dollars bills because of ATMs, you have to assume the beholder of high currency bills is one of the following:

• Drug Dealer
• Rich Guy
• Being paid back from a debt or paid out for a bet
• Doesn’t have a bank account and cashes his payroll check every 2 weeks
• Counterfeiter or runs in counterfeit circles (if there is such)

I think this guy didn’t have a bank account. I still didn’t trust him.

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