I lost my checkbook.
The book knows it belongs in the desk drawer – but when I checked, it was not there. So I looked on the kitchen counter. The counter is where our lost things are supposed to wait until we can find them – but it was not there either.
Losing patience, I yelled across the house, “Honey, do you know where the checkbook is?”
“Your book or the joint account?” she yelled back.
“No, I don’t.”
“What do you need it for?”
“The tractor chewed up a belt and the implement dealer doesn’t take plastic.”
“Go someplace else.”
“I already have the belt.”
It is how business is done around here.
When I pulled out my credit card to pay for the belt, the parts guy gave me a nasty look and tapped a sign clearly visible on the counter. It read: Cash or Check Only.
A couple of old guys who came in for free coffee also gave me the same look. I felt like an idiot for not noticing the sign. They wanted to make sure I felt that way.
The parts guy looked tough but in reality he was a softy. He reminded me that both the dealership and I save money by avoiding a credit card fee, then added that he knew who I was and I could pay him later.
The thing is, it is unsettling that he knew who I was because I didn’t know him from beans. Maybe he knows my in-laws. Everyone around here does – and because of that, even though he does not know me directly, he knows he can trust me.
This was Saturday – which left the entire weekend to find the checkbook. Not nearly enough time for me.
Which brings me back to checks.
It has been a long time since I wrote one. I pay for all the little purchases with plastic and the regular household bills pay themselves automatically. Gone are the bad old days when we had to meticulous maintain a check register and God help us if a service fee bumped us into an overdraft.
Now it is all so convenient.
It is so convenient that I never balance my checkbook. When I forget how much money I have, I use the phone to check the balance and if I make a mistake, I have overdraft protection for the very reasonable interest rate of 21%.
Because it is so convenient, I only tally the big purchases and ignore the little ones – so I always overdraw my account. It is the way it goes. The system is kinda designed to make sure that happens – but it is not a problem because like the parts guy, my bank trusts me.
What is shocking is that even though they know I always repay them, they still consider me a dead-beat.
To understand their logic, you have to understand banks.
In banking everything is reversed: debits are credits and credits are debits – and people who reliably pay off their credit card balances every month are called deadbeats because the bank doesn’t make money on them. There is nothing so frustrating to a banker as a person with money – who refuses to borrow.
Like the parts guy, my bank doesn’t know me directly, only through statistical analysis – which tells them that I immediately pay back what I borrow – so they keep enticing me to borrow more than I can immediately repay.
So several times a month they send me a credit come-on – and get this: it includes checks.
The checks are filled out with my name and address just like the checks in my register – but my checks spends my money, their checks spend theirs – and they charge me 21% for it.
But if my bank really knew me, they would not send checks – because I never remember where I put them.