For many years, there have been efforts to get rid of the penny. The Penny Debate has its own Wikipedia page. The argument was a sub-plot in an episode of “The West Wing,” and there’s even an organization, Citizens to Retire the U.S. Penny, dedicated to eliminating the one-cent coin from our currency. Among its arguments: “The penny has outlived its usefulness.”
That, however, simply is not true. The penny is incredibly useful, in a way no other coin can claim to be: It allows you to meet a financial obligation while simultaneously insulting the person you’re paying. The penny is the middle finger of American currency.
Brett Sanders effectively waved that middle finger in the face of Frisco, Texas when he paid a $212 speeding ticket by dumping two buckets of pennies on a city worker’s desk. He filmed the whole production and posted it to YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 2 million times since May 22.
The whole thing started when the police issued Sanders a ticket for driving 39 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to the video. He appealed the ticket and lost, resulting in the $212 bill (including the original ticket and court fees), CNN reported. It took city staffers about 3 hours to count the pennies using two coin-counting machines, after which they determined Sanders overpaid by $7.81, a city spokeswoman told CNN.
You can see the video below.
Sanders isn’t the only one who has used thousands of little copper Lincolns to prove a point. Early last month, a Miami-area mayor paid a $4,000 ethics fine in pennies and nickels (though he was ordered to count the change himself), the Miami-Herald reported. And in 2011, police charged a Utah man with disorderly conduct after he attempted to pay a disputed medical bill of $25 entirely in pennies, Yahoo! News reported.
They may be annoying, but bills like a speeding ticket, fines for overdue library books or an unexpected medical expense can have a serious impact on your finances. If the bill is sent to a debt collector, it can damage your credit score for years (though some credit scoring models ignore medical bills sent to collections or paid collection accounts). That, in turn, can lead to paying higher interest rates on your credit accounts, which can add up to a lot on something like an auto loan or mortgage. (To see how your payment history is impacting your credit, you can check your two free credit scores, updated every month, on Credit.com.)
You can avoid negative consequences like that by promptly paying debts. But as Sanders and others have shown, you don’t have to be happy about it. And there’s no better way to show your frustration than giving someone buckets of pennies, though there’s no federal law that stipulates a private business, person or organization must accept your method of payment. Rage on at your own risk, Americans.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
- What’s a Bad Credit Score?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life