In 2004, a Georgia woman named Alice Pike went into a local Walmart. It’s unclear what she wanted to buy, but whatever it was, the price at the register was pretty high: it totaled up to $1,671.55. The good news for Pike was that she had a pair of Walmart gift cards on her — but the bad news was that one had only fifty cents left on it, and the other had $1.82. Being about 99% short, Pike reached into her wallet and decided to pay cash. That’s a lot of cash to be carrying around, but no matter, Pike had it covered.
An hour or so later, Pike was in jail. Why?
Because she tried to pay with this:
That’s a million dollar bill. And no, it’s not real. I mean, it is a real piece of paper, but it’s not legal currency. That should be obvious, and it was to both the cashier and manager at the Walmart in question. The cashier contacted her boss, who called the police.
Pike claimed that the validity of the bill — or lack thereof — was not so obvious to her. According to USA Today, Pike thought the million dollar note was real and her crime was merely a misunderstanding. Even though the largest-denomination bill in circulation is the $100 bill, Pike claimed to be ignorant of that fact; she told the press that “you can’t keep up with the U.S. Treasury.” She further said that she wasn’t trying to fool anyone — that, as she noted, would be “ridiculous.” Rather, she said that her (perhaps estranged) husband had given her the money, and she had no reason to believe it was anything less than genuine.
It’s likely she was telling the truth, too, for a few reasons. First, as ridiculous as it is to believe that the million dollar bill was real, it’s just as ridiculous to think that a Walmart cashier will be able to make $998,382.45 in change on demand. And second, once it was clear that Walmart wasn’t going to accept the money and instead was calling the cops, Pike just hung out until the police arrived. But per the police report, she had reason to run: Pike had a two other million dollar bills in her possession at the time — bills that, had she fled, she could have tried to pawn off at Target or something.
In any event, Pike was arrested on charges of forgery. It’s unclear if prosecutors decided to press on further, or if she tried to use her remaining $2,000,000 to post bail.
From the Archives: The One Hundred Trillion Dollar Bill: It’s real currency. It’s just not U.S.-issued.
Take the Quiz: In November of 1999, a guy named John Carpenter became the first winner of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Here are the questions he had to answer — how well can you do?
Related: A ten-pack of million dollar bills. Costs about $6. Not for use at Walmart, Applebee’s, or really anywhere else.