A while back, I needed my shower fixed. I hired a contractor and, while reinstalling the decorative panels, the glass broke, shattering in thousands of sparkling pieces. I was not a happy girl when I found the box of glittery bits and was less enthused when I realized I could not take a shower.
I notified the contractor and asked that the requisite repairs be made, but when that did not occur in a timely fashion, I stopped payment on the fifteen-hundred-dollar check.
End of story? Not so fast. Six months later, a fifteen-hundred-dollar withdrawal was made from my account by said contractor, an unexpected deduction that sent me into a tailspin. By the time I understood what was happening, I’d bounced some checks and was understandably horrified.
So, I contacted the bank, explaining that they had made some kind of accounting error.
“No, there’s no mistake,” a bank employee explained breezily. “The fifteen-hundred-dollar check went through two weeks ago.”
“But … I put a stop on that check! He’s not allowed to cash it!”
“Well, yes … he can.”
“How is that possible?”
She sighed. “A check hold is only good for six months.”
“That doesn’t even make sense!” I’m sure I said calmly. “You’re telling me that, for the rest of my life, I have to keep renewing my hold on that check every six months?” There was a slight pause, so perhaps I wasn’t as calm as I thought.
“I want my money back.”
“I’m sorry, that is our policy.”
Back when this happened, I was still a new teacher, making new-teacher pay. So, fifteen-hundred dollars was a ton of money. I asked to speak to a manager. When I got the same answer from him, I asked to see the bank president. As you might expect, he was busy. In fact, every time I tried to get in touch, he was unavailable.
“What are you going to do?” My sweetie-pie asked.
“I don’t know.” I frowned. “There are no options.”
“Are you sure?”
“You know, if I was still a member of the media, I’d march right in and …” That’s when the lightbulb went off.
I called the editor of a paper I used to write for and asked if I could borrow my old reporter cap for a few days. I explained my plan and he agreed.
I called the bank and told the president’s secretary that I was a reporter doing a story on bank regulations and policies. Would her boss mind being interviewed for my piece? (Here’s what I know about most people. They like being interviewed. Are impressed that someone might be interested in their thoughts and opinions.)
After placing me on hold, she said, “Yes! He would love to have you come in.”
I was escorted to the big guy’s office, introduced myself, and sat in a plush chair. I smiled and asked him to discuss the policy involving stopped checks being just temporary.
Without skipping a beat, he launched into the spiel I had already heard several times.
“Do you think that’s fair?” I asked.
He spread both hands. “That is our policy.” Then he squinted, perhaps suddenly aware that reporters report on things publicly.
I made a point of adjusting my recorder. “So, what would you say to people who have lost money in this way?
“In fact, what would you say to me, since I’m out fifteen-hundred dollars because of your policy?”
He froze. Our eyes met across his desk. Slowly, he picked up the phone. After a long conversation, he hung up. Then he described the very convoluted journey my money had taken through another bank and the difficulties involved in getting it back.
I folded my hands in my lap and waited.
“I’m not sure there’s anything we can do.” Now he looked nervous. The recorder kept whirring.
Perhaps it will come as no surprise that, relatively quickly, my fifteen-hundred dollars magically reappeared in my account. Would I have received a refund had I not been a reporter? I think not. As a bonus, my editor ran the story in which I advised those who place holds on checks to make sure they read the fine print.
So – all together now – let’s hear it for the power of the press! Hip hip hooray!
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.