Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shops still not wanting to accept USD if soiled

SD if soiledAcceptance of dirty, worn, torn or mutilated foreign currency banknotes
Given that there is a shortage of foreign currency in the country, it does seem particularly short-sighted for shops to make it worse by rejecting banknotes that have, for example, a slight tear or a small corner missing. While we understand that no shop wants to risk being stuck with, say, 100 rand or $10 US that it cannot bank, and while in-store ‘cash officers’ may issue imperious directives to till operators not to accept damaged banknotes on the basis that ‘the bank’ will not accept them, the reality is rather different.

From personal experience on 17th March, when a national retailer refused to accept two 100 rand notes each sporting a 1-cm tear, we took a shop staff member along to check with the shop’s branch bank manager. The bank manager informed us that damaged foreign banknotes remain legal tender and will be accepted by banks as long as they are clearly more than one-half of the original note and as long as no identifying/validating marks are missing. This is the same position recently enunciated by the US Embassy regarding USD, which we summarise below for your convenience.

In our view, it is not for those in positions of petty authority, such as till operators or ‘cash officers' to inconvenience paying customers with unnecessary bureaucratic rules when the principles governing the validity of foreign currency banknotes are quite clear. In the event of a dispute, we suggest you call the shop manager rather than haggle with his or her minions (who may be afraid of the petty little sawdust Caesar in the cash office). Similarly, if a bank teller declines to accept a damaged banknote, ask to speak to the chief cashier and/or the bank manager. It can do a bank’s image no good to be reputed to routinely reject foreign currency notes. And while the recipient of a tendered banknote may have the discretion whether or not to accept the note, further diminishing the stock of banknotes in circulation on spurious grounds such as ‘the bank won’t accept it, says our cash officer’ does no-one any good.

This is what the US Embassy said on the 19th February.
 U.S. banknotes do not expire; older series of U.S. currency remain legal tender in the United States, and elsewhere.
 Badly soiled, dirty, defaced, disintegrated, limp, torn, worn-out banknotes remain legal tender – if they are clearly more than one-half of the original note and if they do not require special examination to determine their value (presumably this refers to the denomination being readable by the naked eye, i.e. 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, rather than to ultra-violet checking for counterfeit notes).
 The decision on whether or not to accept any banknote is up to the potential recipient (i.e. don't invoke the US authorities).
 The U.S. Embassy does not issue new banknotes in exchange for old and/or mutilated currency.
 If you have questions about detecting fraudulent currency, contact the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section in Eastgate, Harare – or visit the website

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