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.
- 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."
- A current (May 2018) advert for Cadbury's Chocolate has a feelgood fuzziness about it, where a little girl is seeking to buy a bar of chocolate for her mother, but only has a few pennies, buttons, gimcrack rings and accessories and other pocket junk. The sweet little girl tentatively offers the miscellaneous pocket junk to an impassive and not especially sympathetic-looking Asian corner-shop owner, leading the viewer to wonder how unsympathetically he will say "no." or "Get out of my shop". But his stony heart is softened, he smiles, then offers up the largest possible bar of chocolate to the little girl in exchange for the crap. Then he calls her back and says "you forgot your change" and returns a toy ring...
- One jewelry-store ad features a young boy giving the clerk a jar full of change to buy something for his mother. The dad pops up behind him, flashing his credit card.
- In the movie of The Little Rascals, the gang tries to buy materials from a lumber yard to rebuild their clubhouse, but run into a small snag- they only have a few dollars (which they assume is more than enough) which is enough for a piece of wood the size of a dollar note. For the lumber required for rebuilding, they need $450.
You know what they say; wood doesn't grow on trees...
- In the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy and her Valley Girl friends watch Pike and his buddy deposit a handful of change on the table at a diner and ask if the amount is sufficient for pie.
- In Bubble Boy, as Jimmy tries to get a bus ticket with a small amount of change, the man at the ticket booth tells him to take a step back to show that it's all he could afford with it.
- Silverado: Paden has been robbed, and just walked into town wearing nothing but his underwear, when he sees one of the men who robbed him. He barges into a nearby gun store and tries to buy a gun with the money he has on him, i.e. nothing.
- 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 War Hammer Fantasy, it's stated that Ogres will trade for some very esoteric items, including, in one instance, a skeleton and a pickled orc head.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang, who only has two 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.)
- Spongebob Squarepants: In "Born Again Krabs", the Flying Dutchman offer Mr. Krabs whatever is in his pockets in exchange for Spongebob's soul. This turns out to be 62 cents. Mr. Krabs accepts.