Bad Jokes Have A Cost

, , , , | Right | June 15, 2017

(I’m in line behind a customer who’s purchasing around $50 worth of stuff. He hands over a $50 bill to the cashier.)

Customer: “It’s all right; I just printed it this morning.”

(The cashier pauses as the customer smirks. She then picks up her counterfeit pen, and the smirk vanishes from the customer’s face as she draws a line across the bill which promptly turns black. There is a moment of silence as both of them stare at it.)

Cashier: “Yes, sir, it appears you did. Or someone did, at least. Do you possibly have another form of payment?”

(The customer started stammering excuses that he got the bill from another store, he had no idea it was fake, this was an outrage, etc. as he hands over his card and completes the transaction. Afterwards the cashier sends the now red-faced customer to the service desk to see if they can help him out in some manner. Probably not the most exciting story, but it’s the first time I’ve seen that old joke end with a new twist.)

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  • Katherine Alice Thompson

    It really *is* an old joke. I do hope the guy himself didn’t actually counterfeit the bill, that would be exceptionally stupid.

    • Lou Miller

      This story is just as old as the joke.

    • Roq

      Reverse psychology sometimes works.

    • Chris Hubbard

      Meh, old jokes are old, but an unavoidable part of customer service jobs of any sort. A janitor will constantly hear the hilarious “missed a spot” joke, anyone handling money gets the “made this today” or “that was a good year” type of joke. Oh, and everyone gets the “working hard? Or hardly working?” style of joke. You learn to fake smile and purge the annoyance you feel or you eventually snap and rage quit your job. Bit of a coin flip really.

      • Kitty

        Don’t forget, “No pricetag? Must be free!”. I tend to give them a smile that makes it clear that, “You are not funny. That joke was never funny and never will be again. I’m only smiling cause grinning suppresses the gag-reflex.”

        • Jill Lybarger

          My standard response to “No pricetag? Must be free!” is “Nope. It means I get to make up the price.”
          That always seems to make them nervous.

        • NessaTameamea

          I caught myself actually making the joke and then thinking to myself “did you really just say that? You’re an idiot. Shame on you.”

  • Stacy

    Customer: “It’s all right; I just printed it this morning.”
    Me: “Since you admitted it is counterfeit, I cannot accept this as a form of payment.”

    • Carrie C

      I’ve done that to a customer before at my previous job. It was an overnight at McD’s, and he was severely drunk and did the whole “printed it this morning” gag thinking it was the best joke ever. I handed it back to him, straight faced, and said “I am sorry, but I cannot take this, since you admitted that you made this. Do you have any other money?” He was not happy after that, and I was not budging. I hope he learned his lesson that day (doubt it, as he probably doesn’t even remember the night)

    • Matt Westwood

      “Since you admitted it is counterfeit, and that you minted it yourself, I have called the police. They will arrive shortly. Please do not attempt to leave the building, our security guards are larger than you and haven’t been fed today.”

    • Dawn Singleton

      Seriously??? It’s a joke. How many people, truthfully, have the plates make counterfeit money and if they did, they sure as heck wouldn’t admit it….

      • Stacy

        It’s called sarcasm. Calm down.

      • AsaeAmpan

        If you can’t take the joke being THROWN back in your face by someone who normally is forced to suffer through that bullshit day after day, you don’t belong in public.

      • Difdi

        Well, given that the only fake money that those pens can detect are the kind made on a color photocopier, you really don’t need printing plates to get caught that way.

  • BamaDan

    What happens in that case if you know where it came from? If I have a $50 bill there’s a 99.9 percent chance I got it from the bank. Not too many places give $50 bills back for change.

    • minipopcorn

      You take it back and explain what happened to the bank. Happened to my grandma many years ago when they changed the $20. We went to the movies and the bills tested as counterfeit. She went back and they exchanged them. Turns out the pens didn’t work with the new 20’s yet.

      • Hahn Ackles

        You’ll have a problem with that in many cases; when a store discovers a counterfeit bill they are required to retain the bill and pass it on to the Secret Service. It is not supposed to be returned to the customer under any circumstances; we can get in big trouble for that.

        Sucks for the people who end up with a counterfeit without realizing it, but the logic goes that it’s better than returning a bad bill to someone who was trying to pass it intentionally.

        • JorTanos

          ^ Hahn’s quite correct. It’s actually a crime to hand a counterfeit back.

        • IHadAMew

          I’m not sure if it’s the same in the UK, but I’ve discovered two £50 notes from a customer before and he pulled a knife on me. He was most definitely getting those notes back. Not worth it in the slightest.

          • Hahn Ackles

            Jeez. That would be my reaction, too.

            … ‘Course, we also have fancy hi def cameras and are not shy about calling the police, so said knife-puller would shortly be having a bad day.

        • Novelista

          I didn’t know the Secret Service started out as being part of the Treasury until I saw it on a short-lived crime show.

      • Rob Tonka

        ANd exactly how can one prove to the bank that they got the bad bill at the bank? Its not like the bank records the serial numbers before handing them out.

        • ShadeTail

          Actually, they frequently do precisely that, at least with the cash they load up teller stations with. And of course, every bank in existence has an extensive collection of security cameras which can be used to prove whether or not you were there and obtained the bill from them.

          • Rob Tonka

            I’ve got no evidence to dispute your claim, but you have none to support it either.

            I’m not buying the idea that the banks are keeping serial # records of each bill they hand out. As far as the video camera, sure, it proves you were there, but does not prove that the bill you are handing them is one they handed you.

        • Anne

          Banks may or may not be able to see that it was YOU who got the bill, but they do tend to keep a record of what serial numbers they have on hand during a particular day. Helps with robberies, if they can prove that a certain serial number came from a robbery.

          • Kelly Luper

            Banks do not record every serial number of every bill. Money that a business accepts one week and deposits at a local branch gets handed back to account holders the next week.

            There is no way to record each and every bill that passes through a bank.

          • Random832

            It probably isn’t actually done, but “there is no way” is probably overstating it. Computers and scanners have existed for decades, and there are cash counting machines that do scan serial numbers. There would be a cost to ensuring that every bill that goes through the bank goes through one of those machines, but probably not impossible.

          • Kelly Luper

            I’ve worked for four banks in five different states. The only way this would be possible is if there was an optical scanner capable of scanning every bill no matter the quality quickly. Even the automated counters can’t count the money without multiple inputs from the tellers at this point in time. The check scanner, which many banks use to scan checks as they come in (or throughout the day) frequently needs cleaned and calibrated – And checks are a lot cleaner than bills. It would take a separate teller JUST scanning the bills for every three or four tellers based on the average branches I worked in, IF there was a magic scanner that required you to only put each bill through once.
            The only benefit to this would be to see of the branches passed counterfeit bills. There are plenty of measures in place to stop these bills being passed currently. They aren’t perfect, but they stop a lot of bills. The cost benefit analysis of the idea makes it so ridiculously expensive for a very small benefit (since of the bank DID pass a counterfeit bill it wouldn’t actually help then to have a record of it) that it may as well be impossible.

    • Kitty

      I did some work for my mom and she paid me with money she got from a lawyer, for some other work. When I put that money into the ATM, it took it and put it onto my account but said that it may have a chance of have been counterfeit.

  • Ross Thompson

    Maybe it’s counterfeit, or maybe it’s been through the laundry. Those pens are really bad at telling the difference between real and fake bills.

    • Katrina Swales

      All they are are iodine pens, that react to starch in the paper … and what do you use in Lauundry?

      • Cave Johnson

        It’s not really popular anymore but people would use starch in the laundry to stiffen up their clothes.

        • Dan

          But you generally applied starch at the ironing stage, not while you were washing.

        • Ross Thompson

          Running bills through the wash reduces the amount of starch on their surface, and means that the iodine pens don’t have anything to react with, and makes them look like fake bills.

          Spraying a counterfeit bill with laundry starch will make an iodine pen react to it as if it were genuine.

      • Rob Tonka


    • Flami

      I wonder how the bill would still be intact after it’s gone through the laundry.

      • Bonnie L

        They go thru the laundry quite nicely. That knowledge is from personal experience. 🙂

        • Flami

          Ah, thanks!

      • Yaezakura

        Because US money isn’t made of traditional wood pulp paper. It’s made of a cotton and linen blend, I believe. The ink is also pretty stubborn. Bleach may get rid of it, but then, one doesn’t generally bleach their pants.

        US currency holds up surprisingly well through the laundry, really. They engineered it specifically to be rather hard to destroy on accident.

        • Flami

          Thanks for the answer! I’m looking at my Canadian bills here, and I wouldn’t dare try that just to test!

          • Anne

            IIRC, Canadian bills are even better at being washed because they’re made of Tyvek. Wouldn’t want to put them through the dryer, though. They’ll melt.

          • Flami

            Some bills are certainly made of polymer, which I looked up thanks to your comment. Thank you!

            I wouldn’t want to put them in the dryer, either.

          • Lauren York

            Definitely keep them out of the dryer, haha. I used to work at a bank and we had some people totally melt their money that way (one lady also melted one just by leaving in on her bedside table under her lamp??).

          • Flami

            What?! I guess all that heat from the lamp melted the dollar bill… I wouldn’t think of that before now, though.

          • Jhinnua

            I’d be looking for a new lamp after that.

          • Kathryn Baggs

            Yup, cash or plastic doesn’t work so well here. :p

          • Rebecca Charlton

            yep, we had big problems with people melting them in the dryer when they were first introduced.

        • The Vicar

          Wood pulp paper isn’t “traditional”. It didn’t even exist until 1830 or so, and paper wasn’t made of 100% wood pulp until around 1860. Before that, *all* paper was either cotton and linen (which is still used for high-quality paper), or reeds like papyrus. (And, incidentally, paper made from wood pulp is subject to a phenomenon called acidification, which means that books made before 1830 are still fine but books made as recently as 1960 are already crumbling, because wood fiber is actually a really lousy choice for paper material.)

          • Yaezakura

            While you are correct, I used “traditional” simply to mean “the kind of paper that composes the vast majority of the paper every person alive in the first world has likely dealt with for the entirety of their lives”. Paper itself is able to be made of just about any kind of fibrous plant material, though some hold up over time better than others.

            And let’s not even talk about paper alternatives, like vellum.

          • Donnell Hanog

            To be fair, having existed and been in use for nearly 200 years DOES make it ‘traditional’. It may be a relatively new tradition, but it is a tradition.

        • Leah

          Australian notes aren’t paper either and haven’t been for years. They’ve been polymer since the 80s/early 90s and can go through the wash no worries.

        • Don Roles

          Made entirely of cotton and linen – 75% cotton, 25% linen.

      • SylviasDaddy

        Many a time I have neglected to check my pockets thoroughly when I put my duds in the hamper and money has gone through the wash.
        That gives a n entirely new meaning to “money laundering.”

        • Flami

          Ha, it definitely does!

    • Heather Dacey

      That’s why I learned a long time ago to look at the bills through the light to find the strip inside of the bill. I have yet to see someone counterfeit the strip.

      • Gnoman

        For US bills, at least, there is a far, far better method. Real US currency is not smooth due to the production method. This means that you can run your fingers over a prominent location and FEEL the letters. On a counterfeit bill, either the letters will feel identical to the paper (if it was printed on normal paper and then crumpled up a lot to hide the texture difference) or the letters won’t line up with what you’re feeling (if they bleached a bill and printed a higher denomination on it).

        That’s how you can drop a couple of grand on a blackjack table and have the dealer verify it in minutes – this test is nearly infallible.

        • Heather Dacey

          For me, there is no better method than looking for the strip in the bills. They don’t lie and neither do my eyes. 😀

      • Novelista

        I use it. Half the time, it’s easier than finding the danged pen, anyway!

      • I was gonna say “fortunately there are more accurate ways to check a bill, and you can do them at home!”

  • Marion Scheffels

    Yeah, I also hear that joke from time to time. After I am working in a bank, I feed the bill(s) into the cash recycler (whih checks them) and comment cheerfully, how well done they were…

  • Asiyd

    You do know those pens aren’t always accurate, right?

    I’m a little irritated that people have started to take these kinds of jokes and throw them in the people’s faces. My father is the kind of dude that makes these jokes, but yanno what? He’s a damn good customer… he’s always polite, respectful, treats the cashiers like human beings, was an excellent employer that did not allow his employees to be abused by customers, gave MASSIVE bonuses for no reason or actually pulled money out of his own wallet when his employees or his brother’s employees were on hard times… Gave one employee $2,000 because they had a wreck and couldn’t afford to fix their car. He is essentially the antithesis of this website. He’s always made me proud to be his daughter, because he is genuinely a great guy. He simply likes corny, cheesy jokes. So tell me, is he a horrible monster customer because he tells a dang joke you guys have heard a million times? No.

    Just stop it. These jokes are not an example of a bad customer… they are simply an example of customers who have a bad sense of humor or like cheesy jokes. Quit making their lives harder, because I guarantee… they have no idea you’ve heard that joke 50 times today.

    • Elle Wayne

      No need to take it personally. And this site doesn’t automatically portray all customers as bad or stupid. It’s to share amusing stories, some of which involve mean customers, and to provide a space for retail employees to vent, which apparently offends you. Don’t read the site, then. No one is demonizing a customer who makes these stupid jokes just by laughing about it.

      Edit: And also…. “making their lives harder”? Wow, so you care more about the potentially wounded ego from someone’s silly joke not being uproariously laughed at than about the woeful abuses that people in the service industry take? Get over yourself.

      • Rob Tonka

        “No one is demonizing a customer who makes these stupid jokes just by laughing about it.”

        Maybe you have not read enough of the comments on stories like this one. There’s always a bunch of people who do exactly that. There’s one person commenting on this very story that refused to take some dude’s bill after he used that joke. She did not check it, just decided that since “he said it was counterfeit” she would not accept it and simply refused him service out of spite.

        I 100% get where Asiyd is coming from.

        • Asiyd

          Thank you, it’s completely baffling how this person thinks that being told a joke is the same as being abused. Just wow.

          • Rob Tonka

            Until I came to this site(which I still do enjoy), I’d never encountered so many people who so easily take offense to jokes.

          • Asiyd

            Right? Sadly it’s been this way for a while. God forbid you tell a joke these days, you’re abusing someone if you do. XD

          • Donnell Hanog

            I joke all the time. The difference is, I’m funny, relatable, and mostly either original or referential (though, occasionally, I’m originally referential.). I also tend to save joking about crimes to people who know me. Being intelligent enough to realise what jokes are likely overused and avoid those also helps.

          • Amalauren

            I STILL tell those corny jokes to my favorite cashiers. 🙂 It’s almost become a game. When something doesn’t scan at a store I frequent, the cashiers tend to smile and shake their head, knowing what I’m about to say. It even “worked” onc with a soda. I asked a few of them if it bugged them, and said I would stop if it did. The response was an overwhelming agreement that it was not a big deal at all. They would take my corny, repetitive jokes over being screamed at. BUT, I guess I just encounter people that aren’t miserable to the point of being turned nasty by a joke, simply because they hear it a lot.

      • Asiyd

        “Woeful abuses” … YES. Because being told a joke is totally abuse.

        You should get over -yourself-.

    • Donnell Hanog

      If they had two brain cells to rub together, they would. All it takes is a moment of thought to realize that the first joke that occurred to you is probably the first one that occurred to everyone else.

      I tend to make jokes at the register, too, but I tend to make ones that the cashier can relate to, or off the wall but still appropriate humor. I have a handful of canned jokes, but I tend to use those sparingly (or they became canned jokes because I almost never fail to get a laugh, a smile, and an, “Aren’t we all?” as a response.). I never use ones I’ve heard other use, because, if I’ve heard them once, they’ve heard them a hundred times that day.

      • Asiyd

        “If they had two brain cells to rub together they would”

        If you had two brain cells to rub together you’d realize how rude that comment is. I’m blocking you. Bye.

        • Donnell Hanog

          Oh, no. Please don’t block me. I’ll be good. I promise. Crying noises. Begging.

      • Random832

        But how is being told an unoriginal joke such an imposition of suffering that it justifies refusing someone’s transaction?

        • Donnell Hanog

          Taking all admissions of crimes seriously, even if the admission is a joke. You never know when someone might actually try passing a counterfeit by making it seem like a joke (in fact, it’s happened at least once on this site).

  • Idolchu

    Ahaha he just played himself. I hope he learned his lesson.

  • John Smith

    Iodine pens aren’t very reliable. They only detect the presence of starch. The bill can fail the test by simply being passed through the laundry, depending on the laundry soap. They also fail to detect counterfeit bills that are printed on starch-free paper. One wonders why they are used at all.

    • Jennifer Johnson

      Right. More likely you’ll get a real bill that’s been bleached and reprinted with a larger denomination. The pens are useless for detecting something like that.

    • MrowrKittyKitty

      There’s a new type of pen out there that tests the ink, not the paper. This is so much more effective, but nothing beats holding the bills up to the light to check the security features.

      • JorTanos

        Unless it’s a pre-1990 bill.

  • Cody Ranney

    Maybe I’m just lucky, but the only time I’ve ever heard that joke was when my dad would say to entertain me as a young child. He also used to draw pictures on the signature thing because no one checked it and it made me giggle, fun times.

  • Ophelia

    I guess that means he won’t be telling that joke again. Or he gets himself something to detect counterfeit bills with and makes sure they’re all legit before he tries the joke again.

    Do these people say it again and again? I must admit I have never heard it myself in person, but I wouldn’t have found it funny.

    • Julie Kochel

      I hear it all the time and have for years and yes a lot of the time the “just printed it this morning” and also the “it won’t scan it must be free” jokers are usually the same people who say it over and over. Maybe they forget who they have said it to or they just think its that funny to say every time but we have many regulars at my store who always use these same jokes.

      • Ophelia

        Oh yeah, and you’re not allowed to say, “You’ve told me that already,” because then they’ll get mad and say your service was bad.

  • Mushroom

    But not the first time we’ve seen that happen on NAR. Last I recall was the customer who was outraged that the clerk would bother testing the bill and said it impuned she was dishonest, only to discover that the bill was indeed bogus.

  • Klaus Hellnick

    Iodine pens do not prove a bill is fake. They simply show that the paper of the bill has traces of starch, and can not be used as the sole reason to reject legal tender.

    • Amalauren

      Interesting! I never knew how the pen “checked.”

    • Xodiac

      It wasn’t the sole reason. The customer also had admitted to making the bill themself.

  • Kitty

    *point* Ha! Ha!

  • Adrian Mckeehan

    I once got a fake 100 when i cashed my paycheck at a liquor store once. needless to say i no longer cash my checks at liquor stores

  • roselover58

    Great karma~

  • Jukka-Pekka Tuominen

    I have never seen a counterfreit pen, but for some reason if I’d ever use one I would be worried about false positives.
    Usually all stores use some kind of money checking machine (I think the most usual is called Phillips Money Check). Also I do know that the US currency has some of the worst and most obsolete secutiry features on it so I don’t know if the money check machine would be much better than that weird pen.

  • Martin

    In my country counterfeit notes are legal tender, as it’s impossible to know whether or not the individual actually made it or accidentally acquired it.

    You may have essentially just robbed that guy of $50 of currency.

    It is not the consumer’s responsibility, but the business’s to deal with counterfeit money by exchanging it at the bank.

    • Patrick Keith Hardin

      In America, it is usually the recipent’s (customer or business), responibility to validate the bill authenticity. The Secret Service will not reimburse anyone who accepted fake money because, as they put it, reimbursement would simply encourage more counterfeiting. If you take a fake $100 bill and it’s discovered to be fake, then you are out $100, no ifs, ands, or butts.

  • Ben Willems

    At my local supermarket, they feed bills through a machine that checks.
    Counterfeit means they always call the cops to sort it out

  • grmrsan

    Happened at the store where I worked, except it was a fake check. And he had passed them a couple times already at different registers and stores.

  • Blake Barrett

    I doubt the bill is the only counterfeit in this story.

  • Allan K Preston

    I wish store workers would learn that those pens are an indicator, and not a final arbiter. They detect starch, thats all. Anyone who works in a laundry, or with vegetables will find 90% of their money reacting.

    • Antonio Tejada

      Never worked retail, have you? You’re not looking for the failures as such, you’re looking for the successes. We know a legit bill can fail. So then you look for other things, and if you really suspect it’s fake, then you call law enforcement to check it out. In the United States, it’s neither the shopkeeper nor the police who makes the final determination of authenticity, but the Secret Service.

  • Sara van der Merwe

    Why do people do this? “I printed this today” only makes me more suspicious. It certainly won’t work as a ploy to ensure I won’t check.

  • I am Jenn

    A customer literally just came in and interrupted my perusal of this comment page to pay his bill. With two $100 polymer Canadian bills. And he said “Don’t worry, they’re real, I printed them this morning in my basement.”

    I couldn’t tell him why that made me laugh as hard as it did.