This is a Comedy Trope
where a character or characters try to buy some item (which is normally at least somewhat expensive), and tries to do so with nothing more than a few pennies of spare change, or lint, or some sort of ineffectual barter. Usually this trope is invoked just after the seller has told the character all he has to offer, all the options and all the flexibility in deal making. Either out of desperation or out of a literal interpretation of the idea of making a deal, the character then makes his own pitch, almost ALWAYS starting with the phrase, "What can I get for..."
Generally, the seller then either kicks them out of the store, or sells them something that wasn't in his list of options he gave before, and the item in question is either of questionable quality or is a poor facsimile of whatever product he was selling.
Not to be confused with lint as an actual, valuable commodity.
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- In a commercial for the McDonald's Dollar Menu, a guy goes to various places to find out what he can get for a dollar.
- In one radio commercial, a little boy tries to buy a hot dog with a dime. When the counterman gently tells him it's not enough, he says "Oh. [beat]. Never mind the mustard."
Live Action Television
- In an homage to the above, the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Two premiere "Anne" showed Buffy working as a waitress; two young runaways who spent all their money on matching tattoos deposit a handful of change on the table and ask if it will get them anything.
- In the song "One Meatball", a man has fifteen cents, and buys one meatball at a restaurant. He is refused bread to go with it.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang, who only has three copper pieces, tries to haggle with a pirate who is selling a waterbending scroll for 100 gold pieces. He offers one copper piece. Then, okay, how about two copper pieces? (He gets kicked out of the shop.)
- Family Guy:
- Peter and Lois are stranded in another country without money. They go to the black market to be smuggled back into America, Peter offers to pay for fake passports and transportation with the lint and bits of string he has in his pockets, but the clerk refers him to the sign already posted that they do not accept lint or bits of string as payment.
- In the episode "The Giggity Wife," Quagmire has gotten himself into an Accidental Marriage with an old, washed-up druggie prostitute named Charmise. Lois and Peter invite the couple over for dinner, and Chris throws a $5 at Charmise and asks her to do something to him. She spits in his face.
- In an episode of Camp Lazlo, Scoutmaster Lumpus attempts to pay a restaurant bill with the contents of the Bean Scouts' pockets: buttons, lint, string, a frog...
- An episode of Beavis and Butt-Head has the two walking into the local Maxi-Mart and asking the clerk how much party stuff they can buy with whatevers in their pockets (a few coins and some lint). The clerk says none, but he gives them some plastic forks and some day old doughnuts (that he picks out of the trash). The duo are satisfied with that, and we actually do see the clerk taking the coins as they leave.
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids In the first episode, the gang decides they want to start a band. They go to a music store, pick out a pile of instruments, hear how much it will all cost, then ask the counterman what they can get for the amount they have. He shows them a single drum mallet. (The rest of the episode shows how they improvised instruments — except for Rudy's guitar — from junkyard stuff, and proceeded to play them on every subsequent episode as well as the opening titles.)