Money laundering at the Westin St. Francis

For 72 years, every quarter, dime, nickel and penny presented to guests of San Francisco's Westin St. Francis hotel has been scubbed with soap and water before given to guests as change.

The practice started as a courtesy to guests in 1938 so that they would not receive change from any bar, restaurant, cafe or cashier that was tarnished with the grime of the outside world.

It is representive of the concept that when staying in a hotel, a guest would feel protected from the outside world, and you were the first to have used each room, towel, sheet, and even penny.

Unfortunately, the St. Francis is thought to be the last hotel in the world to continue the practice of washing its change.

"It's a connection to a different time," current hotel coin washer Ron Holsen says. "A connection to a more gentle time, when to go downtown was a big deal. Dress up, put on a hat and gloves, and go to Macy's."

Money washing at the St. Francis began during a time when coins were used to pay for everything from taxis, to tips, to pay phones, to lunch tabs. Hotelier Dan London noticed that coins dirtied a woman's white gloves.

Now that paper bills and credit cards have mostly replaced coins, I wonder if they'll start a money laundering washing service for other forms of payment.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate

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