Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Penalties for Pennies?

It's always interesting to see what local news becomes national, and this story totally caught my eye in the Yahoo! news feed:

Penny offense: Man fined for paying fee in pennies

By Claudine Zap

No lucky pennies here: Police have charged Jason West, an aggrieved medical patient in Vernal, Utah, withdisorderly conduct. His alleged crime? Attempting to pay a disputed medical bill of $25 entirely in pennies.

The story, reported in the Salt Lake City Deseret News, describes the "penny offense" this way: West, 38, did not believe he owed the medical clinic $25 but came in to pay the fee in person. He first asked the clinic staff if the facility accepted cash payments, and then dumped 2,500 pennies onto the counter and demanded that they be counted.

But West apparently hadn't counted on the clinic calling the police; the arresting officer contended that West's protest served "no legitimate purpose." The charge carries a fine that can go as high as $140--and there's no word as yet on what currency West will use to pay it.

West isn't alone in the ranks of penny protesters. A wise guy in Frederick, Maryland, showed up at the county clerk's office last summer with bags of cash to pay off his tax bill with $966.86 in change.

And a New Jersey school district a few years back punished 29 students who paid for their $2 school lunches in pennies--possibly as a prank--with two-day detentions. After parents protested, the students were pardoned. The school explained that the use of the small change slowed down the lunch line.

Thoughts? Raise your hand if you would call the police if a customer paid in pennies.


  1. I don't live there, but I like Utah, so I have to believe deep down in my heart that there is more to the story. I HAVE TO.

  2. That's funny. But if I was on the receiving end, I'd probably be pretty annoyed. Still, it is legal tender, right? Shouldn't be arrested for it!

  3. Oh, there'a always more to the story. I think it goes unsaid that this guy was irked. You don't count out 2,500 pennies for funsies.

    Although I would smile if he stuck to his guns and paid the penalty in pennies, too :) Like Angie says, totally legal tender!

  4. I paid a $1 church dance fee in pennies. They were annoyed about that, too.

  5. What I want to know is, did the guy actually come in and make a disturbance, or was he respectfully trying to make a point? I think people have every right to express to a business that they feel they are being nickeled-and-dimed--and to turn the tables on who's feeling that sentiment. :) It is, as you say, legal tender.

  6. Agreed. The news story is quite lacking when it comes to why the police were called...