Man pays installation charge with $2 bills and ends up being arrested for it.

Mike Bolesta was a little pissed with the folks at his local Best Buy store when they threatened him with calling the police if he didn’t immediately pay an installation charge that he had been told the store had waived due to a screwup on their part so he went in and paid the bill using $2 bills as a form of protest:

“When I bought the stereo player,” Bolesta explains, “the technician said it’d fit perfectly into my son’s dashboard. But it didn’t. So they called back and said they had another model that would fit perfectly, and it was cheaper. We got a $67 refund, which was fine. As long as it fit, that’s all.

“So we go back and pay for it, and they tell us to go around front with our receipt and pick up the difference in the cost. I ask about installation charges. They said, ‘No installation charge, because of the mix-up. Our mistake, no charge.’ Swell.

“But then, the next day, I get a call at home. They’re telling me, ‘If you don’t come in and pay the installation fee, we’re calling the police.’ Jeez, where did we go from them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police? So I say, ‘Fine, I’ll be in tomorrow.’ But, overnight, I’m starting to steam a little. It’s not the money—it’s the threat. So I thought, I’ll count out a few $2 bills.”

The folks at Best Buy were not amused and he ended up being arrested for it.

“I’m just here to pay the bill,” Bolesta says he told a cashier. “She looked at the $2 bills and told me, ‘I don’t have to take these if I don’t want to.’ I said, ‘If you don’t, I’m leaving. I’ve tried to pay my bill twice. You don’t want these bills, you can sue me.’ So she took the money. Like she’s doing me a favor.”

He remembers the cashier marking each bill with a pen. Then other store personnel began to gather, a few of them asking, “Are these real?”

“Of course they are,” Bolesta said. “They’re legal tender.”

A Best Buy manager refused comment last week. But, according to a Baltimore County police arrest report, suspicions were roused when an employee noticed some smearing of ink. So the cops were called in. One officer noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

“I told them, ‘I’m a tour operator. I’ve got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank,’” Bolesta says. “I’m sitting there in a chair. The store’s full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he’s standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, ‘We have to do this until we get it straightened out.’

“Meanwhile, everybody’s looking at me. I’ve lived here 18 years. I’m hoping my kids don’t walk in and see this. And I’m saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this. I’m paying with legal American money.’”

Taken down to the local lockup, Bolesta sat handcuffed to a pole in leg irons until the Secret Service showed up. The agent confirmed that the bills were legit and pointed out that ink sometimes smears on money.

Welcome to life after 9/11.

Best Buy are free to refuse to accept any currency they don’t want to, but going so far as to have someone arrested such like this isn’t a very good PR move. It doesn’t take much research to verify that the $2 bill is legit if somewhat rare and they’d probably do better to figure out why you’ve got a pissed off customer in the first place. At the very least the police should have known that these bills were legit and have had enough common sense to realize that if someone intended to counterfeit currency they wouldn’t waste their time on such a low denomination that is also rare enough to immediately stir suspicion.

Unless, of course, that counterfeiter is as stupid as the police and people working at this particular Best Buy…

19 thoughts on “Man pays installation charge with $2 bills and ends up being arrested for it.

  1. How is Best Buy free to refuse any currency it does not wish to take?  If all Federal Reserve notes are “Legal Tender for all debts public and private,” how can they legally refuse it?  Now, I can see them refusing to take, say, Canadian Dollars, Mexican Pesos, Euros or Yen, but I’d bet that there is no legal precedent for refusing US currency.

    Pretty shirty way of them to act, too.  And is anyone else sick of “after 9/11” being used as an excuse for jack-ass behavior?

  2. A little common sense would have helped, too.  Who would bother counterfeiting $2 bills?  High risk, very noticeable, not much return…

    So hard to get good help these days. wink

  3. Im not aware of any law where a store can refuse “Legal Tender” in payment (Unless this is store policy such as some gas stations not accepting bills larger than $20, buses not accepting large bills or stacks of pennies for fares etc., BUT these are POSTED as store policy) then turn around and arrest you for it. I have yet to see a store policy saying it refuses to accept $2 bills.
    Technically if the store refuses legal tender then they are refusing payment, I would have had them sign a receipt saying they are refusing payment if they didn’t accept it.

    I would also being suing the fuck out of them once arrested, both Best Buy AND the Police dept. for being ignorant assholes.

  4. I think the only law bent here was that the teller “marked each bill with a pen”. Defacing currency is illegal (although to be an offence it needs to render the money unusable).

    Get used to it, though. Best Buy is just using the same book as Walmart: “Assume all your customers are criminals and treat them as such”.

  5. The only stupids in the whole story are Best Buy’s employees and management. To allow something like that to happen, with customers watching is absolutely ridiculous. Do they not worry about “bad publicity”?

    One bit of advice when dealing with the Best Buys and Wal*Marts of today: Get everything in writing.

  6. Best Buy are free to refuse to accept any currency they don’t want to

    I think they’d have to post it, like with large bills or massive small change.  But then, that has to do more with the business not being able to handle mass coinage or make change for lots of large bills.

    I don’t have time right now to look for it, but when I was in college 12 years ago, there was a news story about a student (not at my school), fed up with the high cost, who pulled his cash for tuition out of a pig’s heart as protest.  The cashier refused to take it, but since it was legal tender, it was determined they could not refuse it.

    Pretty shitty move on BestBuy’s behalf.

  7. I personally hate Best Buy and refuse to purchase anything over $100 dollars from them.  I bought a stereo from them once and after heavy use for 2 years, the thing died on me.  I brought it in for a simple repair that should have taken, at most, two weeks (replacement of the laser and realignment).  Well, they returned it to me after 2 weeks without any repair but charged me $75 for diagnostics after i had OK’d them to make any repair necessary.  I told them to send it back and repair it.  They sent it down to Chicago and sent it back 2 MONTHS later unrepaired.  They told me i didn’t approve the repair on my Philips stereo—-i had sent them a Sony stereo.  I was like “WTF?”  My Sony was sitting right in front of their faces and they just told me it was a Philips.  Fucking idiots.  I took it to a private repairman who got the job done in TWO FUCKING DAYS!  FUCK YOU, BEST BUY.

  8. There’s a part of me that wonders if stores – and some part of the government – aren’t working at discouraging people from making cash transactions at all. After all, it’s easier to track people if all of their spending is done electronically…

    They’re also easier to control, as well. Cut off their access to that money (a la Handmaid’s Tale), and suddenly you’ve created a subclass that’s utterly dependent on whomever’s in power for any of the basics of living.

    (…wow, I’m Miss Cynical In The Morning today…)

  9. Off subject a little but in my town…
    The local titty bar no longer gives you singles when you ask for change or buy a drink. Instead they give you $2 bills. Thats because the girls no longer want to be tipped a buck, they want 2!
    Maybe I should warn them not to be shopping at Best Buy grin

  10. Check the second link I put in my entry. It’s to the U.S. Treasury page on currency and the $2 bill. The government cannot refuse any legal tender, but private companies can do just that if they wish. Here’s the relevant text:

    The key for successfully circulating the two-dollar bill is for retailers to use them just like any other denomination in their daily operations. In addition, most commercial banks will readily supply their retail customers with these bills if their customers request them in sufficient volume to justify stocking them in their vaults. However, neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve System can force the distribution or use of any denomination of currency on banks, businesses or individuals.

    Additionally there’s this FAQ that addresses that very issue:

    Question: I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn’t this illegal?

    Answer: The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 102. This is now found in section 392 of Title 31 of the United States Code. The law says that: “All coins and currencies of the United States, regardless of when coined or issued, shall be legal-tender for all debts, public and private, public charges, taxes, duties and dues.”

    This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.

    So there you go.

    I can’t believe you folks think I wouldn’t have checked into that before making such a statement! wink

  11. I own a computer repair shop and I love BB and Future Shop. I get so many customers that used to get their work done there but got tired of being lied to and treated like crap.

    I would sue the mothers. There is no excuse for treating a customer that way. It it not hard to figure out why so many companies go bankrupt.

    I had a person pay a $186 repair bill in loonies and quarters. It was a slight inconvenience but that is part of running a business. I would rather have them pay me in change then to be paying one of my competitors.

    I refuse to shop at the big multinational stores when possible.  I spend a bit more at a local store but get far superior service and no one tries to arrest me.

  12. This is really an impressive story.

    I’d have happily told them to stuff it in the first place, and let them sue me if they were so inclined.

    And I truly hope that the guy gets a nice vicious attorney would will sue the snot out of both companies for false arrest, embarassment, loss of time, etc for that unbelievable screw up. Preferably for a few hundred times the installation fee.

    Another “I hate Best Buy” citizen, here—if I’m going to be treated like a non-entity, I’ll get stuff online for a lot less. Or I’ll pay more to get human treatment..but not the Best Buy hybrid of both.

  13. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been put out by the incompetence of the staff at these big stores, had to go back several times, only to leave short changed, with either time, inferior product, or loss of money. Mom and Pop shops are gone, small chains owned by families have to charge high prices to keep the doors open. It’s a shame.

    Retail is changing
    UPS loves it, the credit card companies love it, the online “we sell everything you can think of” sites love it.

  14. How goddam, fucking stupid are these ignorant, ill-educated pinheads? Not a single Best Buy employee who was standing around that register recognized a $2 bill? Just in case ya’ll were wondering the last time the government produced $2 bills was 2000! Duh… is it real? Duh color on it with a pen… yeah look the ink smeared… shit he’s a counterfieter! Let’s call the police and get our names in the paper….Duhhhhh…
    As a afterthought I don’t believe that the police will arrest you for a debt they would have probably referred the matter to the civil courts.

  15. i am shocked and horrified at everyone’s response!

    this person obviously had a specific intention to cause undue emotional harm to one of our valued employees.

    he obviously got what he deserved!

  16. Just in case ya’ll were wondering the last time the government produced $2 bills was 2000!

    There is a 2003 series…

  17. Wow…what is this country coming to! You can’t pay your bills with legal tender, but you can float in on an inner tube from cuba. If you run to the shore and make it…your declared a legal citizen! I’m contemplating moving to Canada!

  18. Not sure what the original entry and people migrating from Cuba have to do with each other, but have a nice time in Canada. It’s a lovely country.

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