“Check’s in the Mail”: The checks that never return

About two weeks ago, I e-mailed the credit union to ask if some franked, printed mailing envelopes I had on hand bore an address that was still correct for depositing checks by mail. Several branches had closed since the CU had given me these envelopes, and I wanted to be sure the address remained valid.

Well, no: as a matter of fact it wasn’t. The “Contact Us” people sent me a fistful of new envelopes plus a fistful of deposit slips, with no comment.

The sole convenient aspect of working on the main campus of Arizona State University was that a branch of the credit union resided in the basement of the student union. The West campus, which is closer than Main, also hosts a branch, but it’s not a lot handier to my house than Tempe. Although it’s only a 15- or 20-minute drive away there’s nothing else over in that part of town for me to do: no stores that I frequent other than a Costco that’s even further up the road, a big gasoline-gulp away from the Costco where I normally shop. By the time you’ve made a round trip to nowhere for the privilege of dropping off a few pieces of paper with a drive-up teller, you’ve killed an hour of your time to accomplish rather little. I find that frustrating.

Unfortunately, some clients cannot or will not do direct deposits. I had a check from Google—their online system through which you can request direct deposit doesn’t work any better for me than for the many other people who complain that it doesn’t work—a dividend check from a limited partnership, and a check from a publisher, amounting in total to about $500. Having many other things to do other than drive an hour to shuffle paper, I used one of the credit union’s self-addressed envelopes and a deposit slip to send them in.

Bad. Never do that.

The checks are now lost in the mail or at the credit union. It’s been two weeks, and there’s no sign of them.

Day before yesterday, I called the credit union and explained that I had dropped the envelope in the mailbox outside the local post office a long time ago and would like to know if the checks were in transit somewhere in their office. The answer was no; their customer disservice rep asked me to go to the post office and ask if they could trace the lost mail. I said I couldn’t imagine they would be able to find one piece of mail among the millions of envelopes that pass through their system. He said well, that was the policy.

So yesterday I traipsed over to the post office, waited a good 20 minutes in line, and told a P.O. customer disservice rep this story. She shrugged. “There’s nothing we can do about it,” said she, quite predictably and quite reasonably.

“Why do you suppose companies tell people to go to the post office and ask about lost mail,” said I, “when it’s pretty obvious that there’s no way you find one envelope among a zillion?”

“I don’t know,” said she, “but they do it all the time!”

So, five hundred dollars worth of checks for deposit are lost. I called the partnership and the publisher, each of whom said they’d try to stop payment on the checks. Apparently if someone has already cashed them, I’m just out the money.

Where the Google payment is concerned, I’m probably going to have to eat that. AdSense has exactly zero customer service. There’s simply no way to reach a human being. Every question is referred to Google’s uninformative website.

At that website, you find an option to cancel payment for a check that hasn’t arrived. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to tell them that they need to stop payment on a check that has arrived but has been damaged or lost. To put through a stop-payment order, I would have to lie and say the check never reached me. But it in fact did reach me, and I endorsed it and tried to deposit it.

Google moves with the speed of a galloping snail when it comes to dealing with customer issues. It also is notorious for canceling people’s accounts arbitrarily for any real or imagined offense. Obviously, if the check reaches the credit union before Google gets around to stopping payment on it, Google’s people (if there are any) will think I’m trying to steal $157 from them. So, rather than having the whole Google lash-up canceled just as it’s beginning to earn a little money, I guess I’m just going to have to let it go.

Makes me mad as a cat!

At any rate, the moral of the story is simple: Never send checks to the bank in the mail.

8 thoughts on ““Check’s in the Mail”: The checks that never return”

  1. Why not just wait two or three months? If the check still hasn’t shown up, you can reasonably assume it won’t and request a new one from Google. Just one thought…

  2. @ Abigail: That would make sense. Two or three months seems a little long. I think if the things stay lost for two or three weeks, one would be justified in asking for a new check.

  3. I have been mailing checks for years and never has one been lost. I agree–wait a bit. It is expensive to stop checks. And you will be covered if someone else cashes it–it is the bank’s responsibility to ask for ID.

  4. Another thing I will Never, Ever do in my lifetime……drop a check in the Bank’s Deposit slot. Thirty odd years ago I put my paycheck into a bank deposit slot and it disappeared…it is probably still stuck in some crack somewhere. I started bouncing checks left and right, rent, utilities, department store cards. Never even knew until my statement showed up with all the bounced check charges. And of course this was before online account information. Hell, there was No Online Anything, even in anyone’s imagination! Had to have a stop payment put on the paycheck and have another one issued, a major hassle. From that point on, I Handed my paycheck to a Real Person, even if I had to wait my whole lunch hour in line at the bank. Automatic deposit has been a miracle, and I use it whenever I can. (PS from now on, my blog-o-sphere name will be “Still Hangin’ In.” Love your “column” and check in every day.

    • @ kerryann: Amazingly, the lady I spoke with in person, who was very empathetic, speculated that the envelope might have gotten stuck in a crack in the mailbox! The nearest postal station, however, is very busy — most days you wait in line in your car to get up to the drive-by post box — so it seems likely that even if such a thing could happen, it would eventually get dislodged just by the action of so much other mail pushing past it.

      Glad you like FaM! 🙂

  5. That just happened to me…. waiting three weeks now on almost $600 of checks I mailed from a secure box. When I went into the bank branch, they didn’t even know where their mailbox key was, or which number it was. Ridiculous. I’ll give it another week maybe then start asking for stop payments.

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