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Greg Black

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Fri, 07 May 2010

Banks Puzzle Me

I recently agreed with a dealer to buy a car. After the haggling over prices and features was over, I was asked how I would pay for it. I said I’d give them a personal cheque (check for the Americans) and they said that was fine. That was no surprise, as that’s how I’d paid for the previous couple of cars I’d purchased there.

So yesterday I hunted down the cheque book. It’s rarely used and in fact the previous cheque was dated exactly 21 months ago, for the last car I bought there. But then the dealer rang me apologetically to tell me that the head office had just issued an edict that personal cheques were no longer acceptable and would I please bring a bank cheque.

I had to go to the bank in question this morning anyway, so that was no problem. I did my other business and then put my cheque for a bit over $23k on the counter and asked for a bank cheque. No problem. Fair enough, I expected that.

The bit that surprised me was that the teller, who did not know me at all, asked for no evidence that I was me; did not verify the signature on the cheque at all; did not verify that the account had backing for $23k; and didn’t even worry about the fact that the cheque I gave her was made out wrong. She just explained how I should do it next time and then gave me a crisp bank cheque for $23,310-00.

Of course, I know that the cheque I gave her was good and that there was no reason to refuse me the bank cheque. But the lack of checks was a bit of a surprise.