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…