Once upon a time, back in the olden days before debit cards and magnetic stripes, I worked in management in a movie theater. We had four big screens and a big lobby area with a somewhat large concession stand. All transactions, at both the candy counter and the box office, were done with cash only. We had very strict policies for counting and recounting, sorting and organizing cash deposits and everything was double checked and checked again for accuracy. There were very few problems but the possibility of a loss was always there.
For me, the worst part of the process was bringing the cash to the bank every night. Needless to say, on some busy weekends there was a lot of cash to be deposited at the end of the day and I would get really nervous when it was my turn. It was tempting to make several trips with smaller deposits rather than one big deposit at the end of the day but it was safer to only go to the bank one time. I would make someone follow me in a second car and actually watch me put the money bags into the night deposit box at the side of the bank. I’d seen other managers do this and figured there was no reason to not have a witness present for the transaction.
It never once occurred to me that any of the cash might be counterfeit.
Counterfeit money is illegal regardless of who is using it or why. Recently, William Hagman of Morris Plains, New Jersey, withdrew money from his bank only to learn from another bank that one of the $100 bills was counterfeit. Upon returning to the first bank in an attempt to get cash that was legal tender he was informed that it was against the bank’s policy to exchange legal cash for counterfeit cash. While this makes sense to me, Mr. Hagman has my sympathy. After all, shouldn’t customers assume that bills received in banks be valid legal tender?
Hagman quickly closed his account at the bank that gave him the counterfeit bill and deposited his savings into another bank that routinely uses automated counters that scan for counterfeit currency. People who receive counterfeit money and found out later that it’s counterfeit are generally stuck with it, even if it comes from a government-run office like the post office. If you receive a counterfeit bill and you are told that it’s counterfeit, do not try to pass it on to someone else, or you could end up in prison for up to twenty years!
Today, many establishments that do business with cash employ a policy of checking each bill, usually twenty-dollar denominations and higher, with a special pen before each transaction is completed. These pens are relatively reliable and deter thieves from passing phony bills. The U.S. Secret Services offers tips to determining the difference between genuine and counterfeit currency with which we all should become familiar.
I imagine the nightly deposits at the movie theater are now done, more or less, electronically, and that passwords and fingerprints are the norm when it comes to the large transactions that they must be making. After all, the price of an adult ticket is almost $15 more now than it was back then. And that adds up quickly!
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