The Shabby Millionaire

1989: John Barrier of Spokane, Washington went into Old National Bank to cash a $100 check. Then he asked to have his 60-cent parking ticket validated. The cashier refused, saying that merely cashing a check didn't entitle him to free parking. Barrier had a manager called, who also refused to validate the ticket. Barrier suspected that they were refusing because he was dressed in shabby clothes like he had just gotten off a construction job. So he withdrew the entire $2 million he had deposited there and took his money to another bank, Seafirst Bank of Spokane.

The tale of the shabby millionaire eventually ended up being told in Seafirst's company newsletter. From there it made its way to a local newspaper column, and then leapt to the front page of USA Today and national headlines.

Both banks confirmed the basic details of what happened, although a representative for Old National Bank later insisted that they had, eventually, validated Barrier's parking ticket.

Detroit Free Press - Feb 21, 1989

The Akron Beacon Journal - Mar 29, 1989

     Posted By: Alex - Sat May 13, 2017
     Category: Money | Pranks and Revenge | 1980s

I grew up in a farm community and the car dealers know that that 'shabby old coot' may be a well off farmer.
Posted by BMN on 05/13/17 at 01:41 PM
I remember reading much the same story back in grade school, only the banker was an early American innkeeper and the 'shabby old coot' was Thomas Jefferson. Such innkeepers may have been as unpopular as bankers back then.
Posted by Phred22 on 05/13/17 at 03:25 PM
Phred -- the story did strike me as having the feel of an urban legend. The legend being the story of the shabby stranger who turns out to be someone great and powerful. Now that I think about it, back in ancient times it was believed that you always had to treat wandering strangers well, no matter how rough they look, because the stranger may turn out to be a wandering deity, or someone powerful. I think stories like this pop up in the Odyssey and the Bible.

So the story of John Barrier might be an example of an urban legend happening in real life. I think folklorists call this "ostension."
Posted by Alex on 05/14/17 at 07:51 AM
Oh, his parking was in fact validated "within ten minutes?" And nobody can understand why he took his business elsewhere?

If I ever have to ask to see the manager and spend ten minutes arguing to get my parking validated I'll take my business elsewhere, too, but it won't get on the news because I don't have $2,000,000 in the bank. Besides, I'm not (usually) all that scruffy looking. Oh well. I guess I am not destined for fame....
Posted by Cougar Allen on 05/14/17 at 02:12 PM
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