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DEBTSMART® Household Math™: What Happened to the Other Dollar?
by Scott Bilker

Scott Bilker is the founder of and the author of Talk Your Way Out of Credit Card Debt, Credit Card and Debt Management, and How to be more Credit Card and Debt Smart. Send your questions about money, credit, loans, mortgages, or debt, to him at: Scott Bilker, PO Box 563, Barnegat, NJ 08005-0563 or online at:

Three men checked into a hotel room and were charged $30 for which they paid $10 each. The next day, the manager realized that the men had been overcharged since the real price is $25 for the room. The manager gave the bellhop $5 to return to the three men. On the way to their room the bellhop decided to keep $2 for himself so he wouldn't have to make change. The bellhop gave $1 to each man. The three men had now paid $9 each, or a total of $27. This, plus the $2 the bellhop kept for himself, makes a total of $29. What happened to the other dollar?

1) Nothing, it's a trick question.

2) Bellhop kept it but this wasn't stated in the problem.

3) Disappeared into another dimension.


Nothing happened to the dollar. All the money is still there. Yes, they each ended up paying $9 each for a total of $27. Plus the $3 they got back is a total of $30-it's all there. They were supposed to pay $25 but they paid $27, which makes sense because the bellhop kept $2.

Charges: $25 for the room + $2 for the bellhop=$27 $30 initial charge - $3 refund = $27 Each paid $9 and $9 x 3 = $27

The trick is in the statement, "The three men had now paid $9 each, or a total of $27. This plus the $2 the bellhop kept for himself makes a total of $29."

The $27 is the total payment and $2 is a cost, not a payment! It just happens to add up to $29 giving the illusion of a missing dollar.

(End Article)

Reader comments about this article:

"I just love to figure out math problems. That is why I have no credit card balances, and I'm a disabled senior lady! Actually it gives me something for pleasure too." 
--Jayne Jones

"I liked the fact that it makes you think, if you just run over it like I did you won't see the answer....very good style." 

"The answer that it is a trick question is a non answer!!! i have been pondering this for years. clearly 9x3=27 and clearly the bell hop kept 2$. so it simply proves that math, as it is, can be flawed." 

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