Friday, November 4, 2011

We Apologize for the Convenience: The Check Writers- an observational essay on why it's not 1994.

   Handwritten checks.
    I know right? The very fact that they still exist is laughable, but the sheer amount of people that still use them to pay for anything is downright astonishing. Yet on an average day I process around twelve of these things.
   Everything will be going smoothly in Toaster-land until that checkbook pops out.
   The second a customer opens up a checkbook, times comes to a halt and customers and employees alike have to hold back the simultaneous groan that involuntarily bubbles up inside their throats.
     By the time the offender has finished the process of opening said checkbook, finding a new check, folding down the crease and putting on their glasses, I'm already waiting with an amazingly patient and understanding smile plastered on my face and a pen at the ready.
     That pen never works though, or it's the wrong color, or it has germs, and the entire store has to continue their excruciating flashback to 1994 until a better pen has been located.
    The check is then filled out and after gathering every single bit of information from current address and phone number to blood-type, I begin to process the check.
     Provided everything goes smoothly this process can take upwards of six or seven minutes, which in retail time is around forty years (give or take part of a lunch break and factoring in the tax-rate). However, everything rarely goes smoothly because even our check processing machine is upset that it's being used. Every time a check is inserted it makes a grinding noise as if to say:
        "What the hell people? I should be in retirement! Somebody call President Reagan and tell him the labor laws need changed, this is outrageous!"
       And then it just spits it back and beeps out an "Eff that."
   Perhaps the most amazing thing is that usually only around 75% of the offenders are over the age of sixty-five. The others are upsettingly young. Young enough that I am beginning to worry the Hipsters are going to embrace them, and if that happens the efficiency of the check-out process is completely doomed.
    I understand that most Senior Citizens can't be expected to learn how to use the debit card machine. I still weep with joy every time I see one of my Grandparents successfully operating a cell-phone. Seniors get a pass on this subject for the very same reason that I will expect a pass fifty years from now when I'm still rocking an iPod and haven't gotten around to micro-chipping my iTunes library into my brain-stem. (Plus, in those cases, the check writing isn't the only thing that slows down the process. Payment is constantly interrupted anyway when I have to keep reminding them where they are and why they are buying a cheese-grater.)
   But I'd like to give a shout-out to the thirty-something business woman with her iPhone and practical heels:
      You Mam, should be ashamed of yourself. You are obviously very businessy since you are wearing dress-pants and can work Excel on your smart-phone just fine. I get that these items, which include a space heater and Genie-Bra, are going on the "Business Account" but for the love of VISA: God of Materialism, get yourself a damn credit card.
      Did you time-travel all the way from the 1900's just to mildly inconvenience everyone around you? Do you actually prefer handing over what is essentially an IOU and spending the next several weeks wondering if it's been cashed? Are you aware that there are faster, more convenient ways to handle money, or did you miss the transitional decades in between 1985 and the Present?

  I use checks for two things only:
                  1. To pay rent - and this is only because my landlord won't get with the times and acquire his own personal  debit card machine. Completely out of my control.

                  2. To reimburse my parents for things - this is my own personal IOU system. I write them a check for the amount I owe, and mail it  (I know right? Like, in an envelope.. with a stamp. It's adorable) to them with a sweet little note that says something like :  

             "Hey Mom, 
                    Here is the money I owe you, thanks again for paying that hospital bill and all.
             Only, could you do me one favor and just not deposit this until I tell you? I totally have the money and everything it's just I would hate to have to dip into my saving account right now, I'm trying to keep that money safe for my mission trip next year. For the children. 
             Anyway, I love you so much and I will so totally text you when you can deposit this, and it's going to be totally soon!
                                                                                                Baylee "  

       Other than those two very logical examples, I can see no good reason to write a check in this day and age. I'm confused about why the Banks still print them.
       This problem directly ties in to another serious issue everyone seems to have: The inability to work a debit card machine even though they all follow basic protocol and have been around for well over ten years. I assure you there will be a post dedicated to this subject very soon. Until then, I ask only one thing of anyone still rocking the checkbook.
    The next time you pull that thing out in line at Target, hear the groan from the person behind you, and notice that ever-so-slight deadening of your cashier's eyes, ask yourself this:
     How would you feel if you were a cashier and when you asked for a check, someone handed you a bag of gold doubloons?

     *This post is dedicated to my Mother, who is under the age of fifty but still uses checks to buy groceries. 
      P.S. There's a prize for anyone who can guess who's check that is a picture of.

            P.P.S. There isn't really a prize, I just want to prove my point about checks being obsolete.



  1. I totally still write checks for my mortgage and HOA payments. And groceries because Albertsons takes a week to cash them.

  2. See you use them for IOU's too haha. "Hey Albertsons, I'm totally gonna pay you back for these groceries"

  3. I don't even write a check for my rent - I pay it online with my bank account and THEY mail them a check that is all typed our and pretty. It's great, but the first time you send one to Mom she will call and ask if you're mad at her.

    And I definitely used checks a few times in college when I had NO money in my bank account but really needed enough ramen noodles to make it through the week.

  4. You see what I mean? Checks are nothing but the Paper version of a credit card. If you don't have the money when they are deposited, you get charged, just like a credit card. If you do have the money, it comes out of your account like a debit card. So why don't we stop wasting time and paper and just use a card?

  5. Especially when 99% of checking accounts give you a debit card when you open the account.

  6. Well, no, I have the money for them. And I do keep track of my balance (like with paper) so it gets subtracted out and it's all accounted for. It's just nice that when I write that check for the groceries, I know it won't come out until I get paid again, so if in the weird off chance anything random happens, I don't have to pull money out of my savings account.