A question about a check

mandy2003January 5, 2003

Hello everyone! Happy New Year!

Here's my dilemma. Almost 3 months ago, I was in a small privately-owned store and bought $19 worth of items with a check. On the reciept, it said Paid by Check with the Check Number. So here we are, months down the road. I have been wanting to close my checking account, but this check has not cleared yet. I contacted the store about 2 weeks ago, and yesterday the owner finally calls me back. She said that they must have lost the check, so now it is up to me to bring in the amount of the check IN CASH. And, to top it off, she said that I can never write a check in her store again. Can she do this? She said that if I don't come into the store in the next week, she is going to file charges against me. I have never heard of such a thing.

Thank you for your time, and any input available.

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Take her the cash. Technically you do still owe her the money. However, politely point out to her that --

1. The situation is NOT your fault.

2. That you are doing HER a favor in the first place by bringing it to her attention -- you could have easily blown the whole thing off and she wouldn't have gotten the money at all.

3. Tell her that you will never again buy anything in her store anyway due to her unreasonable attitude.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 1:57AM
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Don't most checks expire if not cashed w/in 90 days or so? I'm not sure... but if that were the case, you could just wait the time, and then close your account.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 2:10AM
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I don't see any possible reason she could file charges against you, that seems ludicrous. I would not take her the cash. What if she finds the check later and then cashes it? Then she actually might be able to press charges against you for passing a check on a closed account. I think it takes 6 months for a check to become stale. What does your bank say?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 11:40AM
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This situation sounds crazy!

What if you had paid in cash and the owner said that they had lost the $20 bill you paid with and now you have to come in and pay her another $20?

I don't know the law, but it would seem that once you have given the store payment in the form of a check and received a receipt, it is then the store's resposibility to keep track of their own money!

Definitely contact the bank and see what they say.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 11:57AM
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I already planned on contacting the bank again on Monday. They had told me to contact the store to try to figure out the problem. It isn't a big deal to go pay the money, technically I didn't ACTUALLY pay for it. Although, I did try. I offered to come in this weekend, but she said no since she wouldn't be there. I told her that I wouldn't be able to come in until next weekend then (she closes before I get off work) and that's when she told me that if I didn't come in before Friday that she would file charges. I think that is what made me maddest.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 2:00PM
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A check is not automatically void after a standard period of time. Some people have a notation printed on their checks "Void after 90 days" or whatever period of time, but that applies only if the document says so, and it does not relieve the payor from owing his debt to the payee after that period of time --

The check is not the actual money. It is an order for the checkwriter's bank to pay said amount of money to the stated payee. The store doesn't have the money until the check clears and the money is deposited into the store's account, or cash-in-hand.

It certainly is possible that the storeowner could find the check later after being paid in cash, and try to deposit it anyway. That's what stop-payments are for, but they are rather expensive (almost surely more than the $19 debt that is involved here), and they do generally expire after 6 months. This aspect of the situation is something that should be discussed with the bank, and perhaps with the storeowner, and possibly even with the local police department.

But none of this has anything to do with the unreasonable attitude of the storeowner.

I had a similar situation some years ago when closing a business checking account and switching to a different bank. Several vendor checks and payroll checks had not cleared, so I had to leave the old account open with sufficient balance until they did. One outstanding vendor check was very old, more than 6 months and possibly more than a year. I contacted them. They said the check apparently had been lost, and they were not concerned about having it replaced as it was only $8.00.

I've also had employees lose payroll checks and not realize it. Several times I've noticed PR checks not cleared after several months, questioned the employee, and he/she had no clue. If the situation is discovered in less than 6 months, I require them to either pay the stop-payment charge on the missing check, or they have to wait at least 6 months to confirm the item doesn't come through before I replace it. But I always do replace it. In the most recent case, the check was issued in Sept 2001, and I replaced it in Dec 2002. I didn't bother to question the girl in this case (her parents divorced about that time, so I figure it got lost in the shuffle). I just waited a good while to make sure it didn't come through, then issued her a replacement with a note of explanation. It was only $17.00, and a stop-payment order is $20 or $25, so doing this way was to her advantage.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 2:11PM
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I don't see how they can file charges against you. You have a receipt saying that you paid. If the store lost the check, that's their fault. You could pay with cash and put a stop payment on the check to prevent them from cashing it if it's found later. But I think most banks charge $20-$25 to do this, which means you would end up spending more of your money for their mistake. I also don't see how you could still owe them the money because THEY lost the check. Perhaps the store owner is looking at this like a bounced check and needs someone to explain to her that her store's failure to submit the check for payment is not the customer's fault. I can't believe some people act like this and expect to keep customers. You will need to take some sort of action, though. Like kldg pointed out, if they find the check and submit it after you've closed the account, you would get hit with NSF charges. Definitely call the bank and ask them.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 2:19PM
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Id say yeah Ill pay you only if you pay me to stop payment on the check you lost??

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 8:47PM
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A lot of good information here, but keep a few points in mind. First of all, she cannot do anything legally to you if she lost the check. Because of her attitude, I personally would not bother to pay her now. As someone said, she's acting as if you bounced the check and not as if she lost it. Finally, staledated checks are not exactly foolproof. Banks cannot possible look at each and every check that customers write to check for date, amount, endorsement etc. They only spotcheck certain checks that are of a larger denomination. The bank may or may not have a program available that pulls checks that are out of the number range that you are currently using so they may not spot that lost check if it shows up for payment later. Your only recourse is to put a stop payment on it and reissue. However, at around $30.00 a pop to place the stop and the storeowners current attitude, I'd forget about it.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2003 at 10:46PM
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First of all, I would tell her to stuff it. If she lost the check, then she can't very well prove that you purchased anything to begin with. Secondly (and double check with your bank first), the check becomes no good after six months. Third of all, I would tell her that after the way you were treated (after trying to be honest), you have no intentions of spending your money in her shop.
And, if she continues to ticks off enough customers, she will have no reason to open her doors.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 12:12AM
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Where do people keep getting that checks have a built-in expiration date??

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 1:50AM
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The store owner is blowing smoke. Tell you you'll give her the cash if and when she locates the check and returns it to you. Put this in a letter to her. Give her a week or two to find it, and then close the account.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 11:31AM
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"Where do people keep getting that checks have a built-in expiration date??"

Probably from a common situations:

1) Most banks have a policy that they will not allow you to cash a check more than 6 months old. This is because some businesses close out their books for the quarter or the year and cashing it would screw up their bookkeeping. Banks don't want to upset their commercial customers, and they don't want the hassle of drawing a check against an account that might now be closed. So they often put a time limit on it.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 11:38AM
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After her attitude, I am getting in the "Don't pay her at all" line. I like the I'll pay you the cash when you give me back my check and put it in writing suggestion. She lost it, you didn't. If she presses charges, show the cops the reciept, tell them you called because the check hadn't cleared, she lost it, and is now being unreasonable. They will drop it from there. She could sue you in small claims court, but if you keep your documentation, it too, should be thrown out of court. Either way, it is her loss, plus, how many more people will stop shopping there when word of this gets out.

It never ceases to amaze me how honest people are treated like crooks.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 12:04PM
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1) Most banks have a policy that they will not allow you to cash a check more than 6 months old. This is because some businesses close out their books for the quarter or the year and cashing it would screw up their bookkeeping. Banks don't want to upset their commercial customers, and they don't want the hassle of drawing a check against an account that might now be closed. So they often put a time limit on it.

Hmmmm. I've never heard of that as a common policy. I don't think a business closing their quarterly books would have anything to do with closing a checking account and/or cashing a check. How many businesses do you know that switch banks every 3 months? The expense or debt involved with a check is already on-the-books when the check is written, so I don't understand how anything would get screwed up.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 5:51PM
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I, too, am in utter amazement at how this business owner is treating you over a $19 check that she lost!! The bad reputation she is receiving over this is worth a lot more.

As to a limit on when checks can be cashed, I do bookkeeping for a business and I've had people not cash checks for 9 months. My daughter received a check via another person that was written with 3 months earlier and had the "must be cashed within 90 days". I called the business that wrote the check and they said to ignore the "limit" and to go ahead and cash the check and I didn't have any problems.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 6:20PM
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I've cashed checks that were misplaced and well past the due date and had no problem. I don't remember from law school that there's any time limit for cashing them. If the payee delays, of course, s/he runs the risk that the account may be closed and that's reason enough to cash them promptly.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2003 at 7:18PM
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Wow! I can't believe a store owner could stay in business with that type of attitude!!
It's a tough call- I feel like you do have a moral obligation to pay them, but since you wrote them and gave them a check, you DID pay them. They lost the check, and it is their loss.

Man, if this happened to me, I would be sharing that story with everyone I knew, being sure to mention the business by name so none of my friends or family would go there either!!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2003 at 10:50PM
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since you're going to close the account, you can pay them and not worry about losing the money. All you really need is something to protect yourself should the dip-brain store lady FIND the check, cash it, get it back "account closed" and decide to go after you for fraud.

So tell her that since she can't return the check to you, you insist that she sign a letter stating that you paid cash to replace check number XX in amount of $19 for a purchase made on Date X.

Maybe photocopy the original receipt, write your note about the payment, etc., on the photocopy, and insist she sign it. Include in your note the info that you told her you would be closing that account and so youa re not responsible for any bank fees should she decide to present the check for payment. Then keep a copy for you as well as leaving one for her and her bookkeeper.

True, you'v egot an obligation to pay her, but she's got an obligation to present that check in a timely manner (or not gripe about it if she doesn't and gets stung for bank fees).

    Bookmark   January 14, 2003 at 6:11PM
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Three years ago I wrote two checks to Walmart on the same day. The total was about $150. I had a bad habit of not writing who the check was to since all I really cared about was the amount and check number. I knew they never came through my account, but not who they were to. Fast forward eleven and a half months and Walmart sends an electronic debit through my account for those amounts. They had all the info when they ran it through their computer/cash register. I went to ask what happened and they had a big sign posted on the door saying "Checks dated on this date were lost and Walmart has electronically debited all account numbers in those amounts". I didn't mind them doing it, but I don't know why they waited so long.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2003 at 9:56PM
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I would love - LOVE! - to take this idiotic "businessowner"* on, in person, at her store, in front of a whole bunch of other customers. I wouldn't give her one more cent until she apologizes. She's treating you like some kind of criminal because of HER stupid mistake.

*With "businessowner" skills like she has, do not worry, she won't be one for long.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2003 at 11:03AM
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I mostly lurk here, so you won't know my name -

I own a small business, and frankly, if I had been stupid enough to lose a check, I would consider that my loss - nothing to do with the customer.

You paid your bill and you owe this store ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! You have a receipt which completely discharges your debt, both legally and morally.

And if a customer had been kind enough to call me and ask about the unpaid-through check, I'd have been doing some serious groveling and thanking.

Do not pay this business a single cent.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2003 at 6:39PM
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I don't think anybody has pointed out the concern that comes to my mind:

This woman mishandled your check, so who knows where your private and personal account number and other information are floating around? What if she dropped it in a parking lot and somebody dishonest finds it, washes it, and cashes a check for $500 against your account? She was very irresponsible with your information in a way that could come back to haunt you.

Shame on her. You owe her nothing and that attitude should get her nothing and nowhere. You paid in good faith and she didn't care for your information with the same respect.



    Bookmark   January 19, 2003 at 12:09PM
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So, you have a receipt, they lost the check, and you need to pay more? For $19, forget it, Close the account and just let her "file charges" against you. It's a bluff because it is not even an amount within the sane realm of pursuing in small claims court. I would even encourage her to do so. Your receipt is all the judge will need to laugh the woman right out the door if she does.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2003 at 12:58AM
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I wrote a check to my oil company.Someone broke in and stole all the checks.The company called me and explained the problem.I wrote them another check.You however called them and they got nasty.Write them another check and keep your eyes on your incoming statements to make sure they don't get paid twice.Don't stop the check because then you will have paid three times.Don't ever go there again and soon they will be out of business .If they loose checks they also are sloppy in other things

    Bookmark   October 24, 2003 at 12:20PM
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Having fraud charges is not a joke. Several years ago I had a warrant out for my arrest for a $19.00 check.

I had a "missing" book of checks so I put a stop payment put on all 25 checks at no bank cost. I also had the bank type me a note on their letterhead stating I stopped payment because I suspected they were lost or stolen. With the note from the bank and a receipt of cash payment, State Attorney dropped fraud charges. An accident but what a scare though. By the way it was my DH who had the checks in his work truck door.

I'm not saying this is same situation as the posters just that fraud charges are very serious.

I would suggest you pay the store cash (even though owners a a$$) and get receipt with check number substitute written by her before closing your account. But this post (mine) is being written by someone who almost went to jail. lol

    Bookmark   November 7, 2003 at 1:10PM
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What happened after all?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2003 at 8:57PM
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Hi mandy2003,

It's a bit late for you to fill us in on the results in 2003, but ...

...we're waiting (not quite with bated breath) for your report.

Being the nosey, curious critters that we are.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 10:35PM
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I wouldn't pay this "business woman" a dime! She lost the check, she eats the loss. You tried to find out what happened, she treats you like a thief, and threatens lawsuit. She's blowing smoke, what could she possibly charge you with? You made the payment, she lost it, it's her loss. Close the account and forget it. But don't forget to spread the word of her 'business dealings"! hehehe

    Bookmark   February 20, 2004 at 7:21PM
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