Legal Tender Is Not Illegal To Refuse

, , , , | Right | September 16, 2020

I volunteer in a charity shop. My supervisor is going out back to wash her hands after dealing with a donation.

Supervisor: “Can you man the till for a little while until I get back?

I said sure, why not? The till is super easy to operate at the moment, because we’re only accepting card payments due to COVID. I step out, and after a few minutes, a middle-aged lady comes up to the counter. She’s wearing her mask below her nose, but there’s a perspex screen up so I don’t comment on it.

I’ve just finished scanning up her items, asked if she wanted a bag, etc., and give her the total, £12.50. She begins counting out pound coins on the counter.

Me: *Politely* “We can only take card payments at the moment, madam.”

I refer her to the huge sign on the screen saying as much. She pauses, and glares up at me.

Customer: “That’s illegal.”

I’m taken aback. I haven’t had any problems with customers before, but I don’t want an argument with this lady.

Me: *Calmly* “Oh. I’m very sorry, but I haven’t been made aware of that. Due to current health guidelines, we cannot accept cash. It’s for our employees’ safety, and these are our store guidelines.”

Customer: *She snaps* “Oh, I know why you’re doing it, but it is illegal. Loads of shops around here don’t seem to know that either, but this is legal tender, so you can’t refuse it without breaking the law.”

I shift where I’m standing. Other customers have glanced over, but I really don’t have time for this lady’s bull-s***.

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but these are the store guidelines. I can’t change them.”

Customer: “Oh, I’ll comply, but it’s illegal. You need to tell that to your manager, because you’re all breaking the law.”

She gets out a credit card (if she had it the whole time, why not just pay with it?) and glares at me.

Me: “The machine is ready, ma’am, if you want to use contactle-”

Customer: “I can’t use it.”

I look at the machine, working perfectly and well within reach. I have no idea what to say. She had just said she’d comply, right? I look at her with what I hope was a tired, but confused expression.

Customer: “My amount. You haven’t told me the total.”

Now, if you remember, I had told her the total. I repeat it: £12.50.

Customer: “I can’t see my total. I can’t use this.”

I’m flummoxed. The total is displayed clearly on the card machine, as well as my computer. Thankfully, my supervisor (not the manager) comes out onto the floor.

Customer: “Excuse me, excuse me, you are aware that your store is exercising illegal practices?”

She squawks, pointing at me. I look desperately to my supervisor for help.

Supervisor: “I’m sorry ma’am, we can only accept card. The governme—”

Customer: *Shouts* “I AM COMPLYING! But it’s illegal!”

She turns back to me.

Supervisor: “Hold it up.”

I freeze. Hold what up? The hideous dress she wants to buy? The ‘pay with card’ sign? My freaking hands? As it turns out, she means the card machine. I have no idea why she can’t use it when it was on the table, but hey, Karen’s gotta Karen. I hold it up, clearly showing the screen, and she puts her card in.

Customer: “I still don’t know my total.”

Me: “It’s £12.50. You can see it on the machine screen.”

She glares back up at me, before demanding I put the machine back down, and then finally types in her pin and pays.

With one last “That was an illegal service and you need to inform your manager,” she leaves.

The other customers look startled, and I give a ‘WTF was wrong with that’ look at my supervisor.

She googled the guidance on this after, and no, refusing cash payment for retail purchases is definitely not illegal in the UK. Yes, cash is legal tender, but the only time you can’t refuse it is if the person is paying a debt. We were completely within our rights.

I’m just annoyed at the fact that she had a card, that took less time to get out than all her coins, very obviously saw the sign, but decided to make a point about it anyway. Look, I’m just a teenage volunteer, people, I don’t make the rules.

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