Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who gets to say when paper checks go away?

Or maybe the question is, "Will they ever go away?"

Like many other financial institutions out there, we offer free Bill Payer and we used to have a checking account that rewarded members with a dividend if they consented to receive their statements and communications with us electronically. And yet we continue to have thousands of members that use paper checks, no matter what incentive we offer. I have yet to hear of a bank or credit union getting rid of paper checks altogether, but it appears that one particular mass retailer might be discouraging their customers from using paper checks. Or maybe it was a lapse in training?

A friend of mine experienced this and she blogged about it:

"I recently got back from a quick trip to the grocery store. I've been putting it off for over a week now. I find that now that I don't have my own income, I procrastinate doing things that involve payments. Grocery shopping is high on the list of things I would rather do with K... part because two kids, two parents... part because, then he can pay for the goods.

I'm used to using my debit card when I'm out. It's convenient and it takes the money directly out of my account. But, I only have a debit card for my account, not our joint account. That means that while I have been unemployed, I've had to write checks for groceries. UUUGH!

My dislike of the paper check is apparently shared by many. I've pulled out my check book numerous times these past several months and I hear moans and groans from those in line... as was the case tonight. It made me think about the time I went to Walmart when they just opened.

It had been opened for maybe a week. I had to get some necessities late at night (they are open 24 hours) and, of course, I had to write a check - I can't believe how much just one can of formula and one package of diapers cost! The cashier looked at me like I was insane. When I asked for a pen, her expression changed from obvious disbelief to sheer panic.

Cashier: "Are you going to write a check?"

Me (I hate obvious questions): "That was the plan."

Cashier: "Uhhh"

Me: "You do accept checks, right?"

Cashier: "Uhhh... I'm not sure. They didn't cover this in training"

She had to call a manager over. The manager had to consult with someone over the phone. They consulted other cashiers and eventually I was able to write my check.It made me wonder... am I really the last of a dying breed? I'm not a fan of the paper check... but at the same time, shouldn't stores be equipped to take all forms of payment... or if they aren't, have it posted on the doors and at the registers? The whole ordeal took nearly 10 minutes... but more annoying than that, I left feeling
alienated.

Of course, I still haven't gone in to get a debit card to that account because it requires both of us to be there... and when we have time together, we don't want to go to the CU (sorry Verity!). I'm not sure I really have a point... and I know it's taken me a long time to get to the end of a pointless blog. I guess I just felt like sharing my thoughts on the paper check and the experiences I've had surrounding them lately. Perhaps if anyone associated with Walmart is reading this... they could put in a request to include the acceptance of paper checks into their training."


What do you think? Will paper checks go the way of the dodo bird or are they here to stay?

BTW, I emailed my friend and told her she didn't need to go into a branch to get a debit card. She commented back on her blog-- thanks for the shout out, K!

"Kayce said...
Now that's customer service! Granted, I used to work at the Credit Union... but a staff member there read my blog and took it upon herself to email me and let me know that I can call to have a debit card issued on the joint account... no need to go into the branch!Take note Walmart! She wasn't sure what the proper procedure was... but instead of trying to talk me out of using the debit card, she asked around and got me some answers. I like that about this company. The employees take it upon themselves to take care of their members and make them feel important. If you are in need of a financial institution, I'm still a big fan of Verity Credit Union. "

Shameless plug, I know-- but seriously, will paper check usage ultimately be replaced by debit cards and online bill pay?

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Morriss Partee said...

Hi eCom Gal!

I think the answer to your question is no, paper checks will never go away. Most technologies in our society never completely fade away, even if they are made obsolete by newer technologies. Here are a couple of examples: recorded music has gone from wax cylinders to LPs to cassettes to CDs, and now mp3s on iPods. Despite LPs being at least 4 generations old, and prone to scratches, there STILL exist record stores that sell vinyl! Granted these are a very rare breed, but they are serving a need that some audiophiles swear that vinyl just sounds better, fuller, warmer, and overall more realistic.

Another example of old technologies never going away: I once read that of the 5000+ items for sale in an early 20th century Sears Roebuck catalog, all of them were still being made and sold somewhere by someone. Back then, this included a lot of farming tools. I'm sure Sears carries nearly zero farming tools today, and Sears is a completely different kind of store, but it's amazing that someone somewhere is still making everything that was once in that catalog eighty years ago! One more example: when television started to become popular in the 1950s, everyone thought that it would only be a matter of time before radio's death knell. After all, a TV is just a radio with pictures added, right? But no, there is still a time and place for radio.

So, even though debit cards are much easier and more convenient to use than checks, and most merchants prefer to accept cards than checks, there will always be people who might prefer to use checks for some reason, and for people who prefer using cards, there will always be certain situations where writing a check will be preferred.

Thu Feb 22, 11:00:00 AM PST  

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