Smart & Final accuses woman of using fake money

Posted at 7:08 PM, Jun 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-07 22:08:19-04

A Santee woman was fuming after a clerk at a Smart & Final store refused to take her $20 bill Sunday.

“Everybody was looking at me though,” said Summer Gulihur. “It was humiliating. I was really embarrassed. I just felt like she could have been more tactful about it.”

Gulihur said she was buying groceries for her family when the clerk said the bill was counterfeit.

“She kind of felt the twenty and stuck it in the machine that said ‘fraud detection,’” recounted Gulihur, who said she has stopped at the store almost daily since it opened several weeks ago.

Gulihur said the bill passed the fraud detection twice and a marker test. She even held the $20 bill to a light to show a watermark of President Andrew Jackson and a strip embedded in the bill.

“And she goes, ‘I can’t accept this bill. It’s a fake bill,’” said a dumbfounded Gulihur. “I never could believe it could be that hard to spend your cash at a store!”

She paid with a debit card but immediately filed a complaint with Smart & Final’s corporate headquarters.

Gulihur said the store’s manager called her personally.

“He was extremely apologetic and he let me know that I guess on Saturday alone they’d received over $400 in fake bills including twenties and hundreds and $1,600 that week.”

The US Secret Service Special Agent-in-Charge of the San Diego Field Office told 10News there wasn’t any strange influx of fake bills in the market. The Secret Service regularly investigates counterfeit money besides protecting political leaders. The Special Agent-in-Charge said there is roughly $1.2 trillion in US currency around the world but less than 1/100th of 1% of that currency is reported to be fake.

10News contacted Smart & Final’s corporate headquarters as well. Smart & Final spokesperson Marisol Marks responded the same day with the following emailed statement:

“At Smart & Final, we take issues of counterfeit currency seriously, and recognize that type of crime has increased. It’s unfortunate that our customer was exposed to this situation. Our customer service team has reached out to the customer, as well as the store associate, to resolve the issue.  Counterfeit currencies are an industry-wide issue in retail. As such, most retailers, including Smart & Final, train employees to follow government recommendations and use materials provided by the U.S. Treasury Department to aid in identifying fake banknotes. To test bills, our cashiers are instructed to use two or three methods of verification in order to detect counterfeit bills, such as testing for feel and texture, viewing watermarks, identifying color-shifting ink, or using UV lights to detect the color coded security thread which differ depending on the bill.”

Gulihur said she will continue to shop at the Santee Smart & Final because the manager was so quick to respond to her issues. She said her main concern now is to warn others about the counterfeit money floating around town.