The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 November 2004

Prolonged bounce

People hate Wal-Mart for lots of reasons: they don't like the crowds, they don't like having to park in the next county, they don't like the idea that somebody else (not them, of course) would drive twenty-five miles to save 99 cents on a box of Tide rather than walking into Ma and Pa Kettle's old gen'l store.

This is, however, the first instance I can recall of someone hating Wal-Mart because they expect to collect their unpaid debts:

She asked for my ID, proceeded with the return procedure and then gazed up at me. "I'm sorry, ma'am, we cannot take this back. You have a bad check with Wal-Mart, you have to call this customer service number."

This was a huge embarrassment. In a day of debit cards, I have not written checks in years for in-store purchases. I did not remember having a bounced check at Wal-Mart. At this point, getting the $10.88 back was not important. I felt like they were making me out to be some scumbag looking to get money. It's not like I was doing something illegal, like stealing a DVD player and then trying to get store credit.

On the way home, I called the customer service line to inquire — closed for the weekend. I did call this morning, Monday, and found that I had a bounced check in 1997 — when I was a sophomore in college, my first year in my own apartment, and with my own checkbook. Ooops. I was eighteen and made a mistake. The amount? About $20.00. I am sure I was charged a fee from my bank at the time, and almost a decade later, I am sure that $20.00 was written off as a loss for the Waltons. The past came back to haunt me — one bounced check at a discount chain eight years ago. I am not a teenager anymore, but a young professional with a career, a house, and the means to buy a real leather coat.

Last I looked, bad checks were illegal.

And I must say, if 42nd and Treadmill were as hard-nosed about collecting from deadbeats as Wal-Mart apparently is, there would be suicide on a Guyanese scale. I can assure you, I would not miss these characters (calling them "customers" is an insult to the people with whom we do actual business) with their lame excuses and their inflated senses of entitlement. Fortunately, The Powers That Be are starting to see things my way.

(Via Always Low Prices.)

Posted at 4:40 AM to Dyssynergy

While I agree bad check writers cause a lot of grief for businesses and in no way think she SHOULDN'T pay I must point out the way the UCC and banking laws are structured there is NO WAY they can MAKE her pay. It's like the (civily speaking) statute of limitations for debt ... syonnara (sic)to there money ... the statute of limitations for criminal action (ie... filing with the DA.) is likewise WAY past action ... they simply cannot collect it ... period. But of course companies like Herr Walton's DO attempt to collect and in fact DO collect these all of the time. Of course to attempt to collect it means THEY are in violation of the FDCPA and the FCA (disclosure wise) which puts them in the unenviable position of breaking the law themselves and if she moved quickly SHE could have their behinds in a monetary sling ... an interesting twist, eh?

Posted by: Ron at 9:58 AM on 14 November 2004

Seven years is a long time; I don't know what the statute of limitations is up there, but I can't imagine it being much beyond that.

Still, it seemed to be at most a conditional collection at best. They didn't demand the $20 (plus fees) from her; they simply refused to give her a refund on an item. Perhaps she could hang them for failure to live up to some sort of implied warranty.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:09 AM on 14 November 2004

This line from the lady in question bothered me the most: "Wal-Mart stole from me too: ten minutes of my dignity."

Posted by: David at 1:20 PM on 14 November 2004

of course, she never mentions that she made good on her bounced check. and the statute could be from 7 to 10 years, depending on where it happened, the laws, etc.

interesting that she blames them, though.

Posted by: becky at 2:45 PM on 14 November 2004

Ever stand in the returns line at a Walmart?

I'd be more pissed that I wasted that I stood in line for half a day and got nothing out of it.

Posted by: Vickie at 5:01 AM on 15 November 2004

Well my sister had this happen.. 2 weeks before the limitations was up the police show up and put her in jail.. She didnt even remember the check had bounced and her 7 year old was an infant at the time.. What upset her was they had her address and # but said never a word about it. Hell she lived and still lives right around the corner from the store. She had to pay them, bail and court costs.. So a 100$ check that she could have paid a hundred times over by now cost her around $500... It was a crappy thing to do. When she called WM they wouldnt let her apologise for the mistake and pay over the phone by debit.. They had a point to make and didnt care she was sorry-had the money to pay it and is a single mother who wasnt getting child support or walfare at the time... Not that she mentioned the last part... WM does this. And yes they write it off as a loss and then come back to collect right before they cant or after when its illegal to do so.. And she wasnt trying to get a refund they just showed up at her door while her son was at school and arrested her left her in jail for 2 days.. I remember how terrified she was that DHS would come take her son.. You tell who thinksits worth 100 bucks to do that to somebody? And a hundred bucks they didnt remember you didnt bother to think about for 7 years.

Posted by: Josephine at 2:43 PM on 16 November 2004