## Not for circulation

On Wednesday, a woman tried to purchase a $5,000 prepaid Visa card at a Safeway store in Washington with 49 of these hundred-dollar bills: Source: "Woman tried to pass off fake$100 bills with pink Chinese lettering written on them: police", by Greg Norman, Fox News (10/4/18).

2. ### KevinM said,

October 4, 2018 @ 9:17 pm

Interesting that these bills communicate the same message to both communities. If you don't read Chinese, you immediately get that they can't be genuine. If you do–same thing. (The person who tried to pass them seems to have missed this.)

3. ### Rebecca said,

October 4, 2018 @ 9:28 pm

What is the context in which people need to practice counting money fast with fake money? Casino work?

4. ### zafrom said,

October 4, 2018 @ 9:35 pm

Aside from wondering about the additional \$100 needed, and the counting speed needed for \$100 bills compared to \$1 bills, would it have been too much trouble to go into 50 different non-Chinese stores to spend each bill separately? Trying to spend counterfeit \$1 bills could of course have been riskier, with a portrait of the namesake on each bill.

5. ### zafrom said,

October 4, 2018 @ 9:42 pm

(Does the dollar sign work different for Australian posts?) Aside from wondering about the additional 100 dollars needed, and the counting speed needed for 100-dollar bills compared to 1-dollar bills, would it have been too much trouble to go into 50 different non−Chinese stores to spend each bill separately? Trying to spend counterfeit 1-dollar bills could of course have been riskier, with a portrait of the namesake on each bill.

6. ### Chris C. said,

October 4, 2018 @ 9:43 pm

@zafrom — Presumably (and assuming I parsed your comment out correctly) the training occurs for a context where bills of various denominations are counted out to make up a total, so the training includes a reasonable facsimile of several denominations, including the $100. As Rebecca suggested, casino cashier would be one such context and not too implausible. (Revenue of Macao casinos is now about 5x that of Vegas last I heard.) 7. ### zafrom said, October 4, 2018 @ 10:23 pm Good to know. Thank you. 8. ### Chrisj said, October 4, 2018 @ 10:35 pm @zafrom: My assumption (on the basis of no evidence provided, admittedly) was that there was a single genuine$100 bill on top of the stack, and she was hoping/expecting that the rest would be counted rather than actually looked at even briefly.

The alternative, of course, is that in addition to assuming pink chinese text on USian currency would go un-noticed she failed to count them properly.

9. ### B.Ma said,

October 5, 2018 @ 3:21 am

These bills are sold at banknote collectors' fairs for the equivalent of $1-$2 each as "novelty items" or "collectables", although I got them free with another purchase.

The seller who gave them to me said he was told these bills were used for training bank tellers in the PRC in the counting different currencies. Since I can read the Chinese, I confirmed that that was what the phrases indicated.

Some LL readers may not be aware that, at least in Hong Kong, it is quite common for everyday bank accounts to be denominated in multiple currencies (e.g. RMB USD EUR CAD AUD NZD CHF JPY SGD), and to accept deposits and withdrawals of these in cash without fees or needing to convert via HKD. Furthermore they also have foreign exchange services for other currencies.

I don't know whether PRC banks also offer this facility, but it is plausible that these bills could be used for training cashiers in what the currencies look like.

However, the thing is, you really wouldn't confuse them with real money except in a blurry photo where the text is hidden. They are a bit thicker and stiffer, completely smooth and flat and don't stick to your fingers. So they don't work for counting practice, just like cutting out bill-sized bits of newspaper wouldn't work. Maybe some suppliers make ones that feel more similar to genuine bills.

I can't conceive how this bill passer would have thought a cashier wouldn't inspect a stack of $100s. 10. ### David Marjanović said, October 5, 2018 @ 4:18 am My assumption (on the basis of no evidence provided, admittedly) was that there was a single genuine$100 bill on top of the stack, and she was hoping/expecting that the rest would be counted rather than actually looked at even briefly.

Ah, that would explain why there were 49 of these bills instead of 50.

11. ### Philip Taylor said,

October 5, 2018 @ 5:13 am

Zafrom — it looks from the choice of font and the omission of inter-word space that the dollar sign has triggered a switch into maths mode on this forum, as it does in TeX. Whether other TeX markup (such as caret for superscript and underscore for subscript) might also work is uncertain, but you might like to try adding the following if you post again : $x^2 + y^2 = z^2$ H$_2$SO$_4$ NO$_3^-$.

12. ### Victor Mair said,

October 5, 2018 @ 5:16 am

I assumed that Safeway was offering $5,000 worth of Visa credit for$4,900 as a special deal.

13. ### KeithB said,

October 5, 2018 @ 9:38 am

These must be getting around right now. My daughter just got one at her homecoming dance.

14. ### Rube said,

October 5, 2018 @ 9:53 am

@KeithB: I know there's no linguistic issue, but I'm curious as to why people would be giving out Chinese fakes of American Benjamins at a homecoming dance.

15. ### Ed said,

October 5, 2018 @ 6:02 pm

Practice currency is readily available from Amazon

"Features: Funny, Cash Counting Practice, Fake Dollar.
It is paper money collector's favorites and popular on making movie as props. Training banknotes is a very good tool for bank employees, which can help them to improve the counting speed and accuracy."

http://a.co/d/1GoZ9fn

16. ### zafrom said,

October 5, 2018 @ 7:28 pm

Thanks very much to everyone for the useful info. I will be happy to pay good money for a genuine Language Log T-shirt (no hurry, get it right, and hopefully we too won't be forbidden to circulate).

17. ### Scott P. said,

October 5, 2018 @ 8:54 pm

(Does the dollar sign work different for Australian posts?)

Yes, in Australia the dollar sign is written upside-down.

18. ### Warren W said,

October 6, 2018 @ 11:27 am

Aside from the pink on the face, the serial number format is wrong, USA bills do NOT have three letters followed by numerals.

19. ### Matthew McIrvin said,

October 7, 2018 @ 10:39 am

@Philip Taylor: Is the site using MathJax? I can think of a lot of forums where I'd love to have that installed, but didn't think of this as the first place where I'd expect to see it.

$f_5(x) = {x^2 + 5 \over k_5 x}$

20. ### Rishi Mago said,

October 7, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

This post could be a plug for learning other languages! :-)

21. ### BZ said,

October 8, 2018 @ 11:02 am

I've seen lots of legal bills stamped with writing of some sort, so the fact there were pink Chinese writing on the bill would not tip me off that it was fake. Maybe it's more jarring in person than in a picture.

22. ### Ellen K. said,

October 8, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

The pink may not be a clue, but the white in the two large Chinese characters is a big clue it's a fake.

23. ### Michele Sharik said,

October 10, 2018 @ 8:39 pm

@Ellen K.
"The pink may not be a clue, but the white in the two large Chinese characters is a big clue it's a fake."

Why is that a big clue?

24. ### Ellen K. said,

October 12, 2018 @ 9:19 am

Because if it was a real bill, with the Chinese stamped on, either the characters would be solid pink, or else the white part would not be white but would instead show what's printed on the bill. A stamp with white ink would be exceedingly unlikely.