Passing the Buck(s) Along . . .

Every once in a while, someone pays at the bookstore with a hundred dollar bill. It used to be kind of a thrill, but, you know, $100 is the new $20, so we don’t get worked up about it.


Ours is a small town. Several businesses don’t accept cards, because our daily volume makes the transaction fee unsustainable. Plus credit card companies “helping” businesses are nicer than bar girls when selling you something, about as friendly as bears on hiking trails in March when anything goes wrong. So a lot of us are based on cash, and that means we need healthy change drawers.

You’d be surprised how much time a small town merchant spends obsessing over quarters, singles and fives. A hundred dollar bill will suck your change drawer dry fast. You get down to the ones in no time flat, and next thing you know you’re handing a customer back three dollars in quarters. That kind of thing gets around in a small customer pool; folks pull out their phones and tweet “don’t come to the bookshop the rest of today; they’re out of change again!”

The other day a hundred nestled in the bottom of our otherwise quite light change drawer, and I was headed out to pick up some yarn at the nearby craft shop run by my friend Mendy. This presented an ethical dilemma; knowing what I wanted would be about $15, should I take the $100 and make her suck it up, or text her first to see if she had change. I messaged; she asked me to bring a check. Well,  it was 10 a.m. on a Saturday. Get hit with a hundred that early, and by 3 pm you’re shaking your kid’s piggy bank down and demanding that your friends drive by with change from their cup holders.

So I didn’t make Mendy break the hundred, but I did get a devious idea. I took the hundred, initialed it and wrote the date on the side. You’ve all seen the “where’s George” tracking stamp on dollar bills? Well, my theory was that this hundred was never making it out of Big Stone Gap. (Not that I ever have a hundred bucks around long enough to get intimately familiar with it, mind.) Trapped by the mountain bowl that surrounds us, it just keeps circling and circling, from florist to grocery to bookstore to craft shop to the bakery….

I took the hundred  to the furniture shop a couple of days later, when I bought some chair frames to cane. While paying, I told the owner what I’d done and she grinned. As I left, she was pulling out a pen.

About ten days later, the hundred came back to me, with three dates on it. I can’t read the initials next to the last one.

On the plus side, this game of hot potato money means that we’re all shopping local…..



Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, VA

5 responses to “Passing the Buck(s) Along . . .

  1. What a great idea Wendy! The ultimate ‘shop local’ idea.

  2. $100 dollar bills seem to float through here a lot. I certainly never thought to date and initial them. I will say though when the books are say $10 and they give you a $100 bill your like REALLY especially on a Saturday.

  3. jade

    i’d have to learn to use cash, if i lived or visited there. i charge my $2 bowl of oatmeal!

  4. A Real Estate sales lady surprised me the first sale of the day at a book signing at Senior Fest in Kingsport after I had already personally autographed my book. My eyes bulged as she handed me a $100 bill! I never see a $100 bill. In fact, it’s hard to see a $20 bill!!! She left the book, saying she needed to be at a meeting, had especially stopped by for the book, and would return later. What a day! When she returned, I handed her the autographed book. She put it down searching for her money and without my noticing she picked up another book instead. Fortunately, she had given me her card that morning. I called her and finally a few days later, after she called several times with options, I exchanged the books at her office. Jenny Stallard Boggs

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