Saturday, April 19, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #320
Nancy White Kelly

It there is ever an emergency or urgency in our household, you can be sure it will occur on the week-end. Busy sorting old coins, I picked up the ringing phone.

“Ye Old Coin Shop.”

The man on the other end sounded cheerful enough.

“Is this Dr. Kelly?”

“It is. How can I help you?”

He introduced himself as “Ted” with Clearcheck Collection Agency. Now that is not a company I was familiar with.

“And how can I help you?” I asked again, genuinely puzzled.

“You made a purchase at So-and-So drugstore in Blairsville, Georgia, on March 31st for $69.00.”
I vaguely remembered. “And?”

“Your check was returned. Are aware there is a $30 returned check fee.”

I interrupted him. “Excuse me. My check should not have bounced.”

“But it did. You need to send us $69.00 plus the $30 returned check fee today.”

My blood pressure was rising.

“That is impossible” I said. “We have an adequate amount of money in our bank account to cover that check.” I knew it was so because I had just checked the balance the day before.

“Mam, you need to send us $99. We are a COLLECTION AGENCY.”
My mind swirled as I tried to remember the many scams I have read about recently in emails and in consumer magazines.

“You are mistaken, sir. We haven’t bounced a check.”

He proceeded to give me a check number which certainly sounded like one of the series we were using. Ted said I could check it out on-line at I assured him that I would and that somebody would owe me an apology. He proceeded to tell me that they would take a credit card on-line. Hmm.

Our bank in Young Harris is not open on Saturday and there was nobody for me to call or vent to. I probably needed a doctor as my blood pressure had risen enough to launch a space shuttle.
Sure enough, on line I was able to see a picture of the check I had written. I carefully read all the information and it seemed correct. That was my signature. This was puzzling. Surely our bank would have notified us if we had a check that bounced. It hadn’t.

I called the chain drugstore in Blairsville and asked to speak to the manager. She was not there, but the assistant was.

“Does your drugstore use a company called Clearcheck?” Without hesitation the manager replied that it was. I told her how I was called by a collection agency. The manager explained that the drugstore doesn’t even know when a check bounces and gave me an 800 number to call.
Being the week-end, of course, I couldn’t reach anybody but a foreigner who informed me in imprecise English to call back during normal business hours.

There was nothing to be done until Monday. My school schedule doesn’t permit me time to take care of such things, so Buddy became the main man. I presented him with the information that I had scribbled down. I braced for his reaction which, if a video, would be named, “Dial M for Mutter.” He fumed all that day and the next.

Even though Buddy had to be in Ashville for a medical appointment, he was up at sunrise on Monday. He was standing at the bank window as they opened the blinds. The pleasant teller spotted the problem immediately. The check had been routed to the wrong bank.

Back at home, Buddy called the 800 number he was given. As expected, he got the robotic “If you want a certain party, dial 1.” Dial 1 directed him to another 800 number. After 5 demands to punch in any number from 1-5, he was finally given to a human being.

I would not have wanted to be the lady he finally reached. He went through the entire spiel again. The lady said she would take care of it. No apology was forth-coming.

Buddy wasn’t ugly, but he was emphatic, “It will be a cold day in you know where before ya’ll get my $30.”

The next day Buddy got a call from the drugstore. “You need to send Clearcheck another check for the $69 since they are the ones who still have it.” We haven’t and probably never will.

My question is, “What happens if Clearcheck deposits the first as well as the second check?” Call me anything, but “S-T-U-P-I-D” is not how you spell it.


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