Virginia man pays his $350 electric bill in pennies

By DAVID McGEE, Bristol Herald Courier


Rather than get upset about his $350 electric bill, John Almany found a unique way to pay it — in pennies.

Almany said he and his brother Gary came up with the idea in January. After finding enough banks to supply the pennies, Almany delivered more than 29,000 to Bristol Virginia Utilities.

"I thought I'd make light of the situation," Almany said. "Everybody gets mad, but there's nothing anyone can do about it."

Their first challenge, Almany said, was finding that many pennies.

"I called some nearby banks to see if I could exchange cash for pennies," Almany said. "We got all the way to the w's in the phone book. One bank gave me $170 in pennies and the other $123."

After trading in the cash, Almany and his brother spent about an hour removing the coins from the 50-cent rolls and dumping them into two large, black duffle bags.

That many pennies weighs about 170 pounds, so the two men worked to carry the duffle bags into BVU's Lee Highway office.

"We pulled into BVU about 2 (p.m.) and took the bags of unrolled pennies to the pay counter," Almany said. "To make my case better, I noticed a man just paid cash right before me. I laid my bill on the counter and told the lady, 'Here is my bill and I'm here to pay every penny of it.'"

After about 20 seconds of silence, Almany then explained what that meant.

"She seemed shocked and told me, 'We can't take that.' She said we'd have to wrap that up and repeated they couldn't accept it. I asked her if she was refusing my payment and she said she wasn't," Almany said. "They said they didn't have the manpower to count all those pennies and I said as much as BVU is billing its customers, they ought to have all the manpower they need."

Brian Bolling, BVU's vice president of customer service, declined to respond to questions about Almany and his payment.

In an e-mail, Bolling wrote that BVU has enacted a payment policy.

"With respect to coins used for said payment, the following restrictions are imposed to prevent overburdening of the cashier operations of BVU due to time and weight issues, which restrictions are reasonable and do not constitute a refusal to accept coins as legal tender," Bolling wrote.

The policy includes acceptance of no more than $10 in unrolled coins, while rolled coins "of any denomination up to 20 rolls will be accepted for each dollar of any one payment to BVU." There are no limitations on paper money.

Almany said BVU employees held a prolonged discussion with supervisors before eventually accepting his coins. They then spent about two hours counting just $26.

"They brought the rest back up because they were getting ready to close," Almany said. "The lady told me to come back Monday and they would count the rest."

With his point made, Almany said he took the rest of the pennies to a coin machine, and paid the balance of his bill in larger forms of cash a few days later.

Was it worth the trouble?

"It was worth every penny," Almany said.

Posted to: News Virginia

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That's awesome. . .

I wish I had the drive to do the same with my $300+ bill to the power company. I always overpay traffic fines by a 1$ so they have to generate a refund.

Not New

If the man wants to protest, call them up and tell them to get the pole and lines and meter off of his property.

Works great for gas too.


I love it! Way to go guys.

It took TWO HOURS????? to

It took TWO HOURS????? to count $26 in pennies? And how many employees were involved in that? My kids could have counted it faster back in first grade - with no help.


Way to go! It's about time we stood up and complained about the high power bills that we all have been receiving.

Yea Right!

What a jerk...don't buy your power go "green" and produce your own. I bet the clerk taking payments really got his point while the executives (the ones who really count) didn't realize it happened until they read it in the news.

Way to go !

Oh how many times I wish I had done this to pay utility bills !!! I admire the man for what he did ! The sad part though is that the poor cashier is just another hardworking person herself. Too bad it wasn't someone on the board of directors that was made to count the money instead !

point made?

What was his point? That he was an inconsiderate jerk that didn't mind inconveniencing anyone who happened to be in line behind him? That he was contributing to higher rates because of the time required to count that many pennies?

I think his point was to get his name in the paper. Point made.

money is money!

I would love to do the same thing (gas bill)!!! Funny story! I would have left all the pennies, it's money and you are paying the bill!!!

Seems like some jerk does this every few months

It seems like some jerk paying in pennies gets in the new every few months. Sorry, but no one has to take your payment in pennies, and it's not their fault your consumes so much electricity. Stop being a problem for other people and fix yourself.

Payment of pennies

I thought this was a unique way to pay his bill. We did this over 20 years ago to a dentist, but the bill was only $35 so we didn't have to get that many pennies. My husband looked quite funny with all the pennies in his pockets and the belt he was wearing kept his pants up. The people waiting in the office were trying to keep their laughter contained, but couldn't. The fact was that I was suppose to have had a tooth filled, but the dentist kept cancelling the appointment as he was in a play. We were told to wait until all the work had been completed before paying, but someone turned it over to a collection agency which called us at 10:30p.m. about the overdue bill. We were not happy campers!! Of course, the one that accepted the pennies went into shock, but was asked to call the collection agency first to let them know the bill was paid.

Wrong. .

"Sorry, but no one has to take your payment in pennies. . "

A service company can not stipulate how it gets paid. If you receive a bill, you can pay it as you wish. I applaud the guy's actions, as these monopolies have been getting away with robbery for some time.

Penny guy

Yes, this guy is trying to make a statement and have is little story in the news. However, with utility companies talking out of both sides of their mouth...conserve energy, but since your conserving and we now make less, we're gonna charge you a 'conservation fee' like VA Natural Gas. These utility companies had better wise up. We are sick and tired of their shenanigans. As for going green, that is great in concept, but can be very expensive to implement. We don't know this guys situation, he could have had a very cold winter, has electric heat, hence the large bill. The story still has it's entrainment value as we are all commenting on it.


That is the funniest thing I heard in a while but I don't blame the guy one bit. This power companies are getting out of control with charging anything they want and the government is not controlling this monopoly. I just got a bill myself for $320 and im mad that a mother. I stay in a one level 3 bedroom house and I stay by myself so how did I use $320 of power. I agree with this guy charging this much they should have the man power to count pennies easily.

Pennies are legal tender

So until they are not legal tender, then they should be accepted for cash payment, no matter what the amount is.

They do

I agree with this guy charging this much they should have the man power to count pennies easily.

They do and it's paid from your bill. There's no magic money tree for them to pull out funds to cover immature stunts like this.

Paying bills...

Just an example of a spiteful consumer, and I can't say that I blame him. I see the electric company didn't refuse his payment, so why is this news?

Sorry People

Pennies are legal U.S. tender and if I want to be an A$$ and pay my bill that way, it is my perogative. If you don't like it, don't accept any cash payments and solve the problem, but good luck with that...

viva la revolution

Way to go, Mr. Almany! You really taught that cashier a lesson I'm sure she'll never forget. When she decided to charge you that much for your electricity, I'll be she had no idea with whom she was trifling.

Go Green?

"don't buy your power go "green" and produce your own."

I love this statement. People have been cutting back energy use and their reward is states attempting to find new ways to tax people who have gone "green". For example; people cut back on large vehicles and drive less now some states are looking at ways to tax how far people drive vice how much fuel they use.

Old myth

Pennies are legal U.S. tender and if I want to be an A$$ and pay my bill that way, it is my perogative. If you don't like it, don't accept any cash payments and solve the problem, but good luck with that...

That's an old myth. No one is obligated to accept a big pile of coins even if they normally accept cash payments.

The Only Point Made Is:

...that the poor cashiers have to count the pennies, Mr. So and So got his name in the paper,(Oh Boy!, Oh Boy!), and energy is still expensive for all of us. Including the providers. And all around the world. If Mr. So and So Really wanted to make a point he would have disconnected from power and gone without. All this was, was a STUNT.

For the information on the law

Check out http://www.ustreas.gov/education/faq/currency/legal-tender.shtml for the law regarding payments.

$5,000 fine paid in pennies

Back in 1997, NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace was fined $5,000 for some remarks he made. In turn he had an armored car deliver 500,000 pennies to NASCAR to pay the fine he felt was unwarranted. I think we should all pay our utility bills and our gas bills at the service station in pennies. It would start to make these companies think twice about screwing with people in the economic times. PLUS, these companies would have to hire more people just to count pennies. We would actually be helping the economy.:-)

what a waste

of time and effort all the time and gas he took to drive around and find that many pennies. then to make someone else count them while you show how thoughtless you are. i would have made him count them to me after i had served everyone else in line. and then charged a *convenience fee* for taking them all in. what a narrow minded little man with way to much time on his hands. if you dont want to pay a high bill weather proof your house. i have a large townhouse and i only pay 150 a month. just goes to show how wasteful he was with both his time and his utilites. and since the clerk did not personally set out to make him pay such a high bill. way to show her that she is meaningless to you too. what will you say of this action when you have to stand before your maker and explain why you treated her this way?

What was he upset about exactly?

Did he use the electricity or not?


Did any of you with comments about weather proofing your house or "go green" bother to read that this was Bristol VA Utility.....and do you have any idea where Bristol is? Maybe living in the Blue Ridge mountains is just a bit colder and incurs a bit more severe weather than we do here on the coast. Easy answers and pap and pablum we are constantly fed by the "green" crowd doesn't always fit the situation. And as far as making his own energy.....I'm sure in the Bristol area there are plenty of trees to cut down, stick in the ole wood burning stove and send plenty of carbon and other carcinogens in the air to be carried on the jet stream in our direction.

Money is Money

Any payment is better than no payment at all. My children saved pennies and silver for 2 years and bought themselves a very nice swingset with it. We exchanged it for paper money, but they don't take pride in that part, it was the pennies that counted to them. As it still should to all of us. Times are tough and if I save enough pennies to pay for a tank of gas, electric bill, or even my mortgage...at least I'm paying my way. Penny Payers Unite!!!

I will tell you this now!!!!!!!

After reviewing all the coments on this page I realized that this country is in alot of trouble. I have been trying to prove that STUPID PEOPLE will destroy this country for a long time and again your statements prove my point. I know this man and I can say no he did not do this just to get his name in the paper!!! As for the ones that said they dont have to accept pennies please refer to the coinage act. BVU cant refuse a cash payment of any kind in US currency. This was done to see if BVU would just clear out the balance or not did you ever think of that? The answer was no but proved another point that the VPs and CEOs dont care about their employees. The VP refused to comment but probably had no problem with the cashier having to count the pennies as long as he made his hugh bonus. This is another example of large companies and government crushing the little person. This has to stop and fast before we are beyond fixing the problem. Our founding fathers would be ashamed of how you all are acting and letting government walk over you!!!!

Check your power bill....4

Check your power bill....4 years ago,I didnt have a fuel surcharge added to my monthly statement. Oil and natural gas and coal were relativley cheap. The power companies added that when the price was artificially driven up due to speculation! Now that oil/coal/natural gas prices are down below what they were 4 years ago, you would think those surcharges would dissappear. Yea right...guess again, they are still there! Corporate America sticking it to the public once again!

While I understand his frustration,

and believe me, I've been incredibly frustrated this year since Dominion's 18% rate hike somehow came to more like 30% on my bill, he went about this quite poorly. All he really accomplished other than getting his name in print, was making some poor clerk who is probably also having a hard time paying her electric bill spend her work hours and even have to stay late counting his pennies. No executives counted them, no politicians counted them... You just made a low level employee suffer because you wanted to make a point.

cost of electricity

Isn't it amazing how the utilities can say that they supply electricity for only $.08/kw yet if you divide your total bill by the number of kilowatts used it comes out to about 1.5X that rate. My electric bill is increased by fuel adjustment charges and taxes yet the price of a barrel of oil has dropped over $100 dollars. Even in a recession the utilities still continue to screw over their customers. And now the gas company has to raise rates because customers are conserving and using less gas so the company isn't making enough money. We're way past a recession and moving full bore into a depression.

fed up!!

I agree with him and I wish we could...or maybe we all should do something about these electric companies...I'm on a fixed income and I look at my Kilowatts from last and they are almost the same but my bill hasn't been anywhere near the same cost..since Dominion was "allowed" their increase my bill has been over $70 more each month...That's insane!! Some many more people are having to get help with their electric bills here this year and so many are getting turned off.Something should be done about it. I bet if they checked they would see that hardly no one for months has been able to pay their bill completely and all it keeps doing is adding on like it will suffocate us all...Why can't we get to vote and make the decisions on increases or not? Dominion is one of the richest companies right now in a world where large corporations are a taking a hit....why so greedy Dominion? Can someone please make it stop?


Over and over, Virginia shows that it favors big business--whatever they want is fine with the State Corporation Commission the State Insurance Commission, etc. Specifically: The rate hike approval for fuel cost (look at fuel cost now); the rate hike for future construction of a new polluting coal-fired plant; allowing one scam company after another to fleece Virginians--e.g., the computer installment purchase scam, the recent job finder scam (pay $400 for a phony job interview); the Insurance Commission quietly allowing insurance companies to add a 2 to 3 percent "Wind/Hail" deductible that essentially relieves the insurers of 90% of claims. I think the only states that are as bad for this are Florida and Texas. I'm guessing that this goes back to the fact that the Virginia legislature and most Commission members are Republican. Result: “The Consumer be Damned.”

Why our bills so high??

Why is our energy bills so high? Let me take a wild guess. Winston Cup and other races. With vehicles driving around in circles. People driving gas guzzlers and old chucklers. Traffic congestion, with thousands of cars, sitting still, with motors running. Huge indoor heated sports areas. Transit buses moving around, almost empty. So many air-conditioners running, during hot days, that transformers are blown out. An astronomical number of school buses, running 5 days(except holidays) a week. Did I miss anything???

Numbers Game

The high rates they charge are to pay off their investors when it comes dividend time. Plus they need to pay off the Fat Cats in Richmond and in DC that are in the back pockets of the Utilities. I just love the way they try to hide their raping of the little guy with all the miscellaneous delivery and distribution charges. Plus look at the high salaries and bonus plans they pay their executive officers.

You have to like this guy.

You have to like this guy.
Aslo David H brings up some good points. Why can't they just tell us the true electric rate per kw, instead of a false low rate and then add all the extra hoodoo?

Law not on BVU's side in this one

Like it or not, pennies are federal legal tender. Businesses who have attempted to prevent coin payment such as this have lost each and every time in federal court resulting in large punitive award judgments. If they accept any amount of coin, then they must by federal law accept all coin. This will be a great opportunity for an enterprising lawyer to win himself some hefty "coin" in a future lawsuit against the company should they not accept coins from a customer.


Why can't the Electric Company purchase one of these coin counting machines. One never knows when one might have to tap into that old penny jar to pay a bill. Times are rough out there right now.

Ever notice

Ever notice how all the conspiracy nuts come out at night? Sorry, but things cost money. Get over it.


Funny but seems when you need change they charge you in other countries.Withdrawing money cost a $ also what will they think of next?

This is quite amusing but silly

I think this whole thing is quite amusing. One side of me wants to say that he can pay in any legal tender that he wishes, however there has to be some common sense here. None of us likes to pay our bills but we sure appreciate the convience that electricity gives us. I guess that the utility companys are another entity to have anomosity against. I just say that if he doesn't want to pay anymore electric bills, get candles.

I don't understand how this

I don't understand how this action made any point. Why did he choose to enact his revenge upon the cashier at the office? Did she or her supervisors have any control over his bill? Did he choose to hassle this woman for a particular reason? Does he realize that this cashier and her supervisors take all the anger and flack for bills they have absolutely nothing to do with? The electricity company owners will probably never hear about the situation. If they do, they won't care. They may laugh.

The only thing he accomplished was creating horrible, degrading situation for a low-level employee who has been equally screwed over by the company. Apparently, this gave him a lot of satisfaction.

Next time, try attacking the people who actually caused your problem, dear.

Did he stomp his feet with the temper tantrum?

You used the power, you have to pay for it. Paying for it with pennies with a childish a "nyah nyah nyah" stance is foolish and proves no point whatsoever. Estimated bills, actual bills, whatever. You've USED the electricity. Pay the bill. Don't want to pay that much for electricity? Then turn something off! Simple!

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