Monday, March 30, 2009

Telecheck Electronic Check "Solutions" (don't believe a word of that "Solutions" business!)

I don't generally talk about non-Art things on this blog. But I’ve had some trouble with my bank and Telecheck this weekend, so today I bring you a tale from the unseemly underworld of Electronic Check processing.

Our bank cards were involved in some kind of security failure, so they were all canceled and new ones were sent to our home. Only the bank had our old address and the cards were returned to sender and were destroyed. We were not contacted by the bank so we found out when hubby went to buy a few things at Wally’s and they declined first one card, and then his other card. He left Wally’s and headed straight to the bank where they explained the situation to him and he ordered all new cards and changed the address on the account. And to think, he had picked up a deli pizza for dinner!

I also had to go in and get new cards for my accounts, sign all the papers and confirm the address change. The lady at the desk was very sweet and helpful. So when my cards do finally come, I hope I can figure out which one goes with which account and which password goes to which card. It took me a month to sort out my cards the last time this “security breach” thing happened because the ATM likes to gobble them up and the folks inside can’t do much but offer you the card back to try again. Munch, retrieve, repeat… It’s like a game of fetch with a big loopy Labrador retriever who eats the stick and then comes back for you to throw another one anyway.

Friday evening I decided to stop at Goodwill to kill some time. I found some good glass and some clothing and handed over a check. She ran it through the system and my check was declined. Confused, I was surprised that there wasn’t enough money in that account so I gave her a check from another account. That check was declined also, twice. I was shocked! She showed me a 1-800 number to call so I left my un-purchases and stepped outside to make the call. A few minutes into the phone call I had given my routing number, my checking account number, a bunch of other private information and he asked me to confirm my name. So I spelled it for him and he royally screwed it up… repeatedly… like not even in the same ballpark. If you’re “confirming” my name, shouldn’t you have it in front of you? I started to get concerned because I had just given him a bunch of info about myself and my bank account and he sounded like he was spelling my name in Thai characters. Had I even dialed the right number? Who was this letter scrambling fool? Was this a scam? I was not amused. Suddenly I was not in the “Goodwill” mood!

I walked into the house and headed straight for the laptop… I checked my bank balances online and our money was still there, plenty to cover the $46 I just tried to spend. I was relieved, for a moment at least. Now who is the hack that kept me from spending my money? I got a bone to pick…

The bank has very short open hours on Saturday, and only one branch is open. So I drove across town and visited the lovely ladies at the other branch. As chance would have it, the same lady who put in the order for my new cards was the one who asked if she could help me. I told her the situation and she called in another woman who also knows me and is the boss at my usual branch office. So they tried to explain to me that it wasn’t anything to do with their bank. I looked at them and said that I have money in the account, I can’t spend it, how is this not the bank’s problem? She kept trying, I felt like I had ear plugs in cause it wasn’t getting through.

So they decided to help me by calling the 1-800 number on the receipt that I’d gotten at the not-so-Goodwill. The gentlemen refused to speak to them, so they handed the phone to me.

Lewis was his name. Lewis works for Telecheck Electronic Check Solutions, a company that processes checks in real time. Lewis told me that there wasn’t a problem on my account (thank you) and that he didn’t know why my check was declined. He gave me a list of five or six possible reasons why my check was declined but couldn’t tell me which reason it was.

“Lewis, you mean to tell me that I have money in my account, I attempted to spend it, your company denied me that privilege and you can’t tell me the reason why or guarantee that it won’t happen again?”

Poor Lewis was speechless and kept saying “excuse me?” whenever I gave him an especially nice bit of flack. Round and round I went with Lewis, and the ladies at the bank kept offering me other suggestions of things to ask. We triple teamed Lewis to no avail. He was as void of helpful information as a man could ever be.

I asked Lewis for his supervisor. Silence. “Lewis? Are you still there?” Yeah, Lewis was there. I tried again and finally he put me on hold for a very long time. He came back and said that the supervisor wasn’t available and he would not give me his/her name. Nope, not happening. I finally ran out of ideas, looked at the two tellers who were listening and they both apologetically shrugged.

“Lewis, what would you do if you were me and you needed a few things at the grocery?” I got nothing. I finally put Lewis out of my misery and hung up.

Meanwhile the branch manager had googled the company and found a second 1-800 number and so she got on her phone. She confirms that the 1-800 number we’d been using did actually go to that company. She explained that she was an officer at the bank and had a customer that needed assistance, would they help me? And that’s how I came to be speaking with Maria, my next victim.

All the same questions… all the same answers. But Maria was willing to do a bit more than Lewis was willing to do. Maria speculated that the reason my check was declined was my check writing history. Apparently I don’t write checks very often (well duh, I usually use my bank cards) and so they believed my purchase at Goodwill was out of character given my history. Therefore the check was declined.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my check at Goodwill was declined because I don’t write checks very often.

I don’t write checks very often because I usually use my plastic, but my plastic had all been cut up by the lady at the bank after she’d ordered my new cards.

I explained to Maria that I had money in my account, and that I wanted to spend it. “Because I don’t write enough checks” wasn’t good enough reason for me not to be able to spend my own money! Dead silence on the line… I’m looking at the tellers, they are looking at me… we’re all shaking our heads at each other, incredulous. We went round for round, Maria and I. The tellers kept egging me on. I asked Maria how I was supposed to buy something if I knew that when I got to the checkout that I only had a 50/50 chance of having my check accepted? I asked Maria what she would do in my situation? How was I supposed to fix this problem that kept me from being able to spend my own money? I worked her over with each new idea that my bank tellers provided. Finally, Maria explained to me one final time that my check was declined because I don’t usually write checks and that was it. I was done! I was so livid I was shaking. “Make it stop!” I whimpered and handed the phone back to the teller who hung it up with a lovely little thud. It was over and we’d been there so long the bank was closing.

We all stood there, quietly for a bit. We looked at each other and shook our heads. They apologized profusely and I thanked them for their support like a Politian’s concession speech. It was over and I was thanking my supporters and preparing to leave public life (or at least the bank.) My peace loving husband spoke a few words of benediction and gratitude and we smiled politely and left.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not impressed. At this point I don’t have debit cards, and if I decide I want to try writing a check, I’ve got a 50/50 chance of having it declined at any location that uses Telecheck Electronic Check Solutions. (And the word “SOLUTIONS” is in their NAME! Isn’t that hysterical?!) And I now have access to cash only during my bank’s open hours. And I have money in my accounts. I want to do my part to stimulate the economy, really I do. Telecheck Electronic Check Solutions gave me a “Solution” all right, but I am not amused!

No matter how bad this economy gets, no matter how much bad news I hear... I will always be grateful that I am not so desperate for a job that I must work for Telecheck like Lewis or Maria!


  1. OMG what a hassle! I see you labeled this post Stupid. Really funny lable.

  2. You would think that if you called them and told them you MEANT to write a check, they'd let you! I mean, really!

  3. You are better than me. I tried to open up a bank account one time but was denied because of telecheck. I called the company but never got a real person. I just gave up and went to another bank that does not used tele check.

  4. I hope my bank does not use Telecheck. There is nothing worse than being turned down when you know there is money there. You automatically feel guilty and look guilty. I think I would move my accounts and let the bank know why.

  5. Just got back from the store, check wouldn't go through, came home, called Telecheck, and went through the exact same thing. Telecheck is apparently a computer that runs humans around like puppets. The computer, trying to "protect" the merchant, decided that the risk was too high, based on statistics, so we are simply out of luck and unable to spend our own money. The absolutely inconsiderate nature of this whole this is mind numbing. I am thinking it might be worthwhile to start asking my retailers if they use Telecheck and let them know I won't be spending money there if they do. But what if all of the retailers are using this idiotic company? That's something I need to find out.


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