Folding Our Money


The most common method that those of us who are blind use to distinguish bills is to fold them differently. Different people use different techniques; there is no right or wrong way of doing it. I leave my $1’s unfolded, fold $5’s in half the short way, and fold $10’s the long way. My wallet has two sections for cash, so I put $20’s in a separate section and leave them unfolded.

Folding currency often allows us to handle cash reasonably well, but it has serious limitations. Before we can fold a bill, we need to find out its denomination by asking a sighted person or using a machine. This often means that we cannot independently verify that we are being handed the correct change for a purchase, for example. This may be somewhat less of an issue in a crowded store where others in line might notice if we are being shortchanged, but in other situations, such as in taxicabs, there may be no way to check because there may be no witnesses around when it comes time to pay.

Our currency-folding systems are also very vulnerable to tampering by other people. I once had three bills in my bureau drawer that I thought were $100’s, but I went to use two of them at different times and was told that they were $1’s. I suspect that someone who was living with me took the $100’s out of my bureau and replaced them with $1’s, since she had done other things that made me inclined to suspect that, but I cannot be sure, since it is possible that the cashier was lying to me or that someone I asked to identify the bills might have kept them and given me back $1’s in their place. One may point out that I should have immediately gone to the bank with the money rather than keeping it in my house, and in retrospect I would agree with that. Nevertheless, this story does present issues that sighted people would not have–and that I would not have either, if I could distinguish a $1 from a $100.


17 Responses to “Folding Our Money”

  1. Karla Says:

    It’s interesting to hear about the systems that different people have for dealing with our inaccessible currency. I don’t have two different compartments for bills in my wallet like Mike does, so I fold my twenties in quarters.

    Also, when I get change back that includes more than one type of bill, I ask the cashier (rather than another customer in line behind me) which bills are which so that I can fold them and put them away. I know other people that wait to sort through and fold their bills until they have more time and maybe can ask someone that they trust more than a total stranger. I choose to ask the cashier because, if I don’t get a chance to ask someone else later, I don’t want to have to make another purchase and find only a wad of unidentifiable bills in my wallet. Also, there’s a part of me that thinks that even if the cashier is inclined to cheat me, they might suffer a prick of conscience if they actually have to lie to my face and say, “Yeah, that’s a ten” when it’s really a single.

    Still though, I am completely at the mercy of each cashier (or cab driver, or waiter at a restaurant) that I deal with when I use this system. Even when there are other people nearby, they are often busy doing other things (putting their groceries on the counter, talking on their cell phones, whatever) rather than staring at the checkout counter to make sure I’m not being defrauded. What’s probably most frustrating about the whole thing is that on the occasions when I have found that I don’t have the amount of money in my wallet that I thought I did (the bill that I had folded like a $10 is actually a $1, for example), there’s no way for me to track back and figure out exactly when in the last few days I got shortchanged and by whom. Not only is it money that I’ll never get back, but I don’t even know who to blame or what store not to frequent again.

  2. Alison Roberts Says:

    Even if there are sighted customers in line behind you, they probably can’t tell what the cashier is handing you anyway, because U.S. paper money all looks so similar from a distance (especially the newer bills, which aren’t as familiar). In other countries, the bills are different sizes and colors so it’s easy to tell which bill is which, even from a distance.

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