D.L. Stewart: Usefulness of a dollar bill is sinking

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Due to a mix up at the store, the bill spit out by the credit card reader charged me four more dollars than it should have. When I pointed out the error, the clerk apologized and said she’d correct it, which I assumed meant she would credit the money to my card. Instead, she gave me four one dollar bills and I thanked her.


Because a dollar bill is the new penny. Legally tender, but practically useless.

With pennies, at least, there’s talk of discontinuing their production, especially from people who realize that the cost of minting every one cent coin is 2.7 cents. But as worthless as they are becoming, the Treasury Department keeps printing dollar bills.

I used to carry around a few singles for tipping car washers, hotel bellmen and restaurant servers. But in just about any restaurant, tipping a buck these days probably is a good way to wind up with spit in your soup. Besides, as we all know from tapping, swiping or sliding our plastic into restaurant card readers, the “suggested” tip now is 20, 25 or 30 percent. So a $1 tip would only be suitable after a $5 meal.

Some places still welcome them. Such as restaurants in Vietnam where a US dollar equals 24,635 VND dongs, enough to buy four glasses of Vietnamese beer. And you could pay for a steak dinner at an American restaurant with one dollar bills if you have enough of them. And a suitcase to carry them in.

There are a few voices questioning the value of one-dollar bills.

“We haven’t modernized or changed our currency. That’s probably a mistake,” Aaron Klein, senior fellow of economic studies at Brookings Institute, declared on CNBC last year. “We should have dollar coins instead of paper notes.” I’m not sure how practical that would be. Instead of a bunch of bills making your wallet bulge, a pocketful of one dollar coins would have your pants sliding down around your hips.

Others advocate replacing $1 bills with $2 bills, which have been in limited use as far back as the 19th century when political candidates frequently used them to bribe voters. In the early 20th century they were associated with gamblers and prostitution. In the mid 20th century my grandmother used to reward me with them. I’m assuming she got them by gambling.

Meanwhile, the usefulness of a dollar bill keeps sinking and now there actually are more $100 bills than $1 bills in American pockets, wallets and purses.

In other words, $100 may be the new $1.

Contact this columnist at dlstew_2000@yahoo.com.

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