Deal of the Day June 26, 2008

Tired of paying $15 – $25 for getting your checks printed?

Wal-Mart has now ventured out into the check printing business and is offering many different designs with prices starting at just $5.95 for 150 checks. Also of special interest is their Photo Checks where you can upload a favorite picture of a treasured pet or family member to be printed on your checks. This offer is on-going and is most likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the services that Wal-Mart will eventually branch out into in their attempt to take over the world.

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Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

Red Flags and FedEx and Are You Sure That Check’s Not Going to Bounce?

Sometimes I just know things are going to go wrong. My internal red flags go up, and they keep waving, trying to get my attention.

They’re usually right, and they were this time too. Just not in the way I thought. In much weirder ways.

Last month I wrote about the freelance job Husband secured, and that we were waiting for a check to arrive before we fronted money from our pockets for a photo shoot. The check, for 50% of the contracted amount, arrived just in the nick of time and was deposited to our business account within fifteen minutes of the postal worker placing it into my slightly dewy (hey, it’s Florida) palm.

I was still nervous that the check wouldn’t clear. Just because a bank makes it available doesn’t mean the other party’s bank can’t refuse the check. Banking regulations require banks to make the money available to depositors within a few days, but if the maker puts a stop payment on it, or if it’s written on a closed account, or if the wrong person signed the check, or if for any other reason the bank decides not to honor the check it could take a week or more before my bank is notified, and then another 3-4 days for them to notify me via a bounced check notice.

Oddly, no one at the bank – not the teller, the head teller or even the bank manager – could tell me how long to wait before I was sure to be safe, though the manager did keep saying, “I wish more people cared so much about making sure they were writing good checks!” That’s disturbing on more than one level, isn’t it?

So, fast forward to yesterday. The first check has cleared and the project is over. They tell us they’ve overnighted a check to us (and faxed Husband a copy), then asked us to overnight the completed product back to them that day. It does not include an expense reimbursement for the photo shoot, which they agreed to pay and we invoiced them for separately but at the same time we invoiced the final payment.

Red flag alert!

Husband talks to them, and they balk about paying the expense (they didn’t use most of the footage from the shoot). Husband made a deal with their local representative that he would pay us for the photo shoot (next week some time, hopefully) and release the final product once we get a tracking number for the check. I’m not holding my breath on that expense payment. The dang red flags are blinding me at this point.

Fine. Whatever. I’m not happy about it, but it’s Husband’s call.

So, we’re waiting for the check, and it’s not arriving by the 3pm FedEx promise deadline. Or 4pm. Or 5 pm.

Red flags waving faster than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

We find out that there’s a weather delay in Memphis and we will not get delivery until today. Husband decides to go ahead and FedEx them the final product. I have visions of a FedEx envelope empty but for the “April Fools!” scribbled on a used tissue.

Breathe…

Now, you’d think FedEx would have us as one of the earliest deliveries, since it was already a day late. Customer service and all. But nooooooooo. I’d set it up to get e-mailed status updates, and at 3:06 pm I get an e-mail that the check was delivered at 2:59 pm. Yahooooooooo……….???????????????????!!!

Um, it was?

Red flags a-wavin’.

I didn’t hear the truck. Contrary to what some people think, I don’t nap the afternoon away (well, not every day). I was pretty sure I hadn’t been napping seven minutes ago, unless I’d suddenly been afflicted with narcolepsy.

I walk to the front door and open it. Nope. No package. I go to the tracking site and it says that the envelope was left at the door. Hmmm. My dog didn’t hear anyone approach…

So now I go outside and look around my front patio. I think perhaps the driver went to the wrong house, so I check my neighbors’ patios. Nope.

I go back inside and call FedEx. And as I’m making my way through the FedEx automated phone maze I hear a truck pull up.

Gotcha, sucka!

I rush to open the front door, and it’s obvious that he was not going to knock; he was just going to leave it.

“I know what you did, ” I say. He looks stricken. “I know that you said you delivered it at 2:59 when you weren’t anywhere near here. It’s now 3:14. That’s fraud, dude. ” FedEx has a policy that they will refund you if they’re late, and at this point they were 24 hours and fourteen minutes late. FedEx guy would get in trouble for delivering late, so he fudged it.

I told him I was going to call FedEx, that he better make this right; I’m pretty steamed. I’m irate. I’m offended.
The guy gives me a million mea culpas, and takes full responsibility. Tells me he’s totally wrong, it’s on him. Tells me he’s going to call his supervisor. He’s shaking.

The wind so totally went out of my sails. I’m a sucker for a guy who takes responsibility.

I realized that our client was getting their money refunded anyway. I realized that this guy could get fired. I realized that my next package could get accidentally “lost” if I made an enemy.

And he took responsibility.

So I told him I wasn’t going to turn him in. And I warned him that the next time the person could very well be even more of a bitch than I am, and he could very easily get busted. Seriously. And I sent him on his way.

Sigh.

Part of me wishes that I’d turned him in. What he did was just so wrong.

Ah, well.

At least we got the check. And in 3-6 months if it doesn’t bounce I’ll even write checks against it.

The Check Is In the Mail. Trust Me.

I’m a skeptic realist. My husband is…not.

Husband has been hired to do freelance design work via Craigslist ads before. Most of his work is from referrals, but we keep the Craigslist ad going when there’s a lull. We’ve actually turned down most of the Craigslist jobs we’ve been offered; they more often than not seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. Perhaps that’s where my skepticism realism comes from.

Last month he got a call from a company wanting to hire him to do a 3D animation for a product presentation. They had seen his Craigslist ad, checked out the demo reel on his website and after chatting with him and a short in-person meeting, hired him.

This has the potential to be a lucrative deal for us. Not only would he receive a nice fee for the product presentation, it could also result in semi-regular work producing more animations for their website.

We sent off a contract and a request for a 50% deposit to their New York office. In the meantime Husband started working on the piece. And worked. And worked. Meanwhile, we have no contract and no check. I can’t really complain, though, because all that’s been spent is Husband’s time. And he’s been enjoying the challenge.

But.

There’s a photo shoot scheduled for tomorrow. We have to pay the videographer and the actress, then bill the client.

Except we still have no check. No contract. They sent it on Monday from New York, they say. Well, I mailed a birthday card to my sister in Connecticut on Monday and she got it on Wednesday…

Thankfully, Husband himself offered that if we didn’t have the check by today there’s not going to be a shoot, even though the client is on a tight deadline to get the animation and delaying the shoot would be a big problem. I really did not want to bring it up, but I would have if he hadn’t.

For me, though, I’m not really comfortable doing the shoot until the check clears. I think that makes me realistic. Husband thinks it makes me unreasonable.

Well, the check did show up in the mail today, and I immediately deposited it. I tried to call their bank to verify the check, but they want me to call a 900 number and pay $2.50 for the privelege. Which would only guarantee that the check was good today; it could still bounce or have a stop payment placed on it before it hits their bank.

So I passed.

And now I will watch Husband pay money to the videographer and the actress, and I’ll pray that the check clears. I’d rather be wrong, and I’d rather not burst Husband’s bubble.

But I’m going to be really nervous about this until we know unequivocally that the check has cleared.

And if it doesn’t you may just see me on Judge Judy. At least I have it in writing.

How Do They Sleep at Night? Part 4 – Banks and their Usurious Fees

My Dad went to Las Vegas last week and did a wee bit of winning. When he got back to his L.A. home he deposited the money, about $9000 (woo hoo!), into his business account there.

He was very surprised to discover that his bank had charged him a service fee. Apparently, he deposited too much money with them.

Yeah. See, they charge .30 per $100 for any deposit greater than $5000. Apparently “their exposure is greater.” Whatever that means.

A bank. That’s using his money to make money of their own. Charging him for the privilege of allowing them to do so.

Those are some pretty huge, green kahunas. And that got me thinking about other bank fees that really get my panties in a twist…

My husband walked into a branch to cash a check a friend had written to him. The teller told him there was a $5 charge to cash the check because he didn’t have an account there. “But this check is written on your bank! Why should you get my money to cash your own check?” After listening to the woman spew the company line he turned on his heel and left.

Another bank here charges you to talk to a teller. Indeed.

I’ve read that other banks are charging fees to deposit or withdraw from accounts and to transfer money between them. There are fees if you dip below a certain balance, and fees if you write too many checks. There are fees if you write too few checks.

I’ll bet some  have pay toilets.

They charge three times as much to order new checks for you than you’d pay yourself by ordering through a secondary vendor like www.checksunlimited.com.

Don’t  even get me started on credit card fees

I understand that banks are businesses. I don’t have a problem with every fee banks charge. I’m aware of and even support fees for bounced checks. We’re all responsible to know how much money we have in our accounts, and if we blunder we need to pay the price. At the same time, a $25 charge for a $3 overdraft just seems usurious.

I’m also not completely against banks charging fees when you use an ATM that isn’t in your network. You’re paying for the convenience of not having to travel far out of your way to find your own bank. Fine. You save money on gas, so it’s almost a wash.

Apparently, though, we’re supposed to understand that the banks are also victims of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. They must raise their fees to try to make up a portion of the money they don’t have since they lost their shirts making bad loans.

Boo-hoo.  My heart breaks for ya.

Like this post? Read the other posts in this series!

See the Stretch Your Dollar Page for other money-saving ideas.

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