The Case of a Counterfeit Twenty

Dec 10, 2007

RAY: This was sent in by a fellow named Joe Pisch and I had to... embellish it.

A man went into a store to buy a shirt. Shirts happened to be on sale and that day they were 12 bucks. The man handed the clerk a twenty-dollar bill and it was the first sale of the day and the clerk couldn't make change. So he took the twenty and went to the diner next door where he asked the diner owner for twenty ones.

The diner owner opened the till and after a few seconds he said, "Jeez, if I give you twenty ones I'll have only two left." A customer sitting by himself at the counter, sucking down some greasy eggs, volunteered to pay the four dollars for his breakfast so the diner owner was able to give the twenty ones to the clerk in exchange for the twenty.

The clerk then returns to his store where he gave the customer his eight dollars change and the twelve-dollar shirt. Of course, while he was gone the customer stole three neckties, five pairs of socks and a trench coat, but that's another story. Anyway later that day, the diner owner came to the clerk and said, "That twenty from this morning, it's counterfeit. Instead of Andrew Jackson's picture on the bill, it's got Michael Jackson's!" The clerk apologized profusely and handed over two good ten-dollar bills, then he tore up that bogus twenty.

If the store paid six-dollars and seventy-five-cents for that shirt, how much money was lost, and by whom?
RAY: Now I threw in a lot of red herrings: the customer eating the greasy eggs and the diner owner.

TOM: Sure.

RAY: But the thief made off with 8-dollars, right, in change, and a shirt which the store had paid 6.75 for. So 14.75 was lost and the store lost all of it. Now, you could argue that the store lost 20 dollars if you wanted to, because if they were able to sell the shirt for the retail price of 12... They no longer have the shirt in inventory.

TOM: Yeah --

RAY: But my answer is 14.75 and I'm sticking with it. Now, do we have a winner?

TOM: I like it. The winner this week is Paul Brauger from Tenino, Washington. And for having his answer selected at random from among the heap of correct answers that we got, Paul is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate from the Shameless Commerce Division at, with which you can get any one of our famous Car Talk CD collections, which are described in detail on our website.

RAY: And of course you could re-foist whatever on a relative this holiday season.

TOM: Right.

RAY: And by the way, our parking services people would like you to know that they are still giving away free Car Talk Plaza parking permits with any order.

TOM: Yeah, and that permit allows you to park at any Car Talk Plaza parking facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

RAY: If you can find a Car Talk Plaza parking facility.

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