February 15, 2002
Little signs have been popping up all over
town. Everywhere I go I see little cards, notes and stickers by cash
registers announcing: "This Store Does Not Accept $100
Bills". And I have to admit, it's starting to bother me.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I have a
big wad of hundred dollar bills burning a hole in my pocket like a
Vegas high roller or an Enron Vice President. In fact, I don't
recall the last time I even had one of the brown bills in my wallet.
It was probably after a graduation or wedding - and I haven't had
either one of those for a while.
What bothers me is that we essentially have
a useless bill in circulation. Right on the front of it is written:
"This note is legal tender", but try to get someone to
take it. Okay, don't expect someone at a convenience store to let
you use a C-note to buy a copy of this newspaper or a pack of gum,
but with everything getting so expensive it doesn't take much to hit
a hundred dollars anymore.
For example, today I bought four red peppers
at the local - and not very fancy - grocery store. The price was
$10.41. Or when I took my wife to the movies last week. The tickets,
plus four kernels of popcorn and a thimble of Coke was almost thirty
At the risk of sounding like one of those
tedious old codgers who remember when movies were a nickel, I
remember when the five dollar bill was the standard unit of
currency. For five dollars you could pick up a loaf of bread and a
jug of milk, or have a suit cleaned if it wasn't very dirty.
Pretty soon you needed a ten to get anything
done. And then the twenty dollar bill became the smallest
denomination you could do anything with. ATMs spit out twenties so
fast they have to be refilled several times a day. In fact, in the
United States twenties have become known as "yuppie food
Fifties are a great denomination, but have
never been that popular. Although they're very useful as currency,
they don't really say that much about the person using them. Someone
who puts down a salmon-coloured fifty is likely viewed as some who
is trying to show off - a little short of both flash and cash.
Which brings us back to the hundred dollar
bill. It's brown, ugly, and bears the picture of one of our least
exciting Prime Ministers, but at least you can have a night on the
town (or trip to Loblaws) with it.
If you can get anyone to accept it.
Even though they're legally obliged to,
store after store refuses to take them because they're a prime
target for counterfeiters. Offer one to a bank and they'll eye you
suspiciously while they're in the back subjecting your money to more
tests than an Olympic athlete.
What surprised me the most was when I saw a
sign at my local Post Office announcing that they too no longer
accepted hundred dollar bills. Of course the irony is that Canada
Post is an agency of the same Canadian Government that prints and
guarantees our right to use hundred dollar bills. I suppose if it's
not good enough for them, why should anyone else accept them?
Pretty soon all the only thing you'll be
able to do with a hundred dollar bill is use it to light your