Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Check encashment entrapment

Yesterday I decided to cash a check.

But let me back up and start at the beginning. I'm one of the few people at my job paid on an hourly basis. Simply put, if I don't work - I don't get paid; so once I've used up my vacation and sick time, I have to negotiate time off with my employer. Anyway, to calculate and record my time worked, I also have to "clock-in". I don't have an issue with that, but over the week after Christmas, I had to travel to my job on the train while my car was being repaired. For one reason or another, I failed to "clock-in". I kept saying that I needed to enter my time, but procrastination, something of which I'm very guilty won out and updating the time records was never done.

The repercussions of procrastination can hit in the heart, the pocket or as detrimental health. Mine hit me in the pocket! When I got my salary notification, my heart thumped and almost skidded to a halt as I realized that I'd only been paid for one week! It's funny how quickly I can jump into action to rectify the problems caused by my procrastination, I immediately contacted Payroll, explained the situation, got approval from my supervisor who verified my time worked and got an assurance that a check for the shortfall would be mailed.

The check arrived as promised on Monday, but I needed cash immediately, so I decided to do what millions do - visit the 'check-cashing shop' to get my paper money turned into hard currency. My experience at the first establishment, Western Union, was not a good one I must say. From the very beginning, the clerk was nonchalant in her arrogance, she ignored me for a full minute while she continued listening to her You Tube music, bopping her head while I stood in front of her window, waiting for her to acknowledge me. Then she took the check with a look that said "what the hell do you want", held it in her hand while she glanced back at her computer screen and bopped her head in defiance. I kept my cool and kept my mouth shut. She did what she had to do, scrutinizing the check, punching in identification information, then told me that she would have to get her boss to approve it, since my company "was not in the system". What the heck. Confirmation came from the boss, everything was good and she was ready to hand over the cash - then she asked me for my social security number. Call me anal, but I don't give my social security number to anyone - I mean it. I'm the only person I know who can't pay her phone bill because I keep forgetting the password I use in place of the last four digits of my social security number. I grabbed my check in disgust and exited the establishment. The next Western Union, fared no better, I was told that I could come back tomorrow once they "verified" the company. That response wasn't good enough for me, since I needed the cash there and then.

The last establishment, "Check Rite" proved to be the charm. Luckily, I'm known there and they cashed the check without putting me through the ringer.

This experience has led me to form the opinion that if you're poor, an undocumented immigrant or not literate, you get screwed, not just because you probably have a job that pays less than minimum wage, but also you have to pay to use the services of check cashing establishments, who arbitrarily decide what rules to set before passing on what is rightfully yours.