Automatic payments…..

August 2, 2013

giving strangers access to your bank account….

The genius of today’s technology never ceases to amaze me, except for brief periods when it totally pisses me off. Every once in awhile, the two faces merge into amusement. This is one of those instances.

I’m “old school”, as the saying goes, and I like to pay my bills each month by writing a check. You know, one of those paper doo-hickies. The only concession I have made is my surrender to the use of a debit card for certain retail purchases. That transition began to take shape about ten years ago when I started to notice 8 x 11 signs at various check out counters declaring that the writing of a personal check constituted tacit permission for the institution to snag $35 out of one’s bank account if the check should not clear.

First of all, I understand the frustration business owners must suffer when trying to deal with bad debts. Nobody likes being ripped off, and even if the screw up is accidental and easily resolved the collection process is time consuming and annoying. On the other side of the matter, however, the “domino effect” on a shopper experiencing a bad math day could be ruinous when the original miscalculation is compounded by such an allegedly authorized withdrawal unbeknownst to the account owner, serially triggering subsequent allegedly authorized withdrawals to the extent of the national debt. I didn’t like the new policy, but could find no way around it save shopping elsewhere, which was not possible as everyone was doing it.

It has been many years since I inadvertently bounced a check, but it can and does happen. Doing so on purpose is an entirely different situation, and one that doesn’t happen to be among my sins of the past. Being unmotivated to change my habits and shop with cash only, and perhaps being in a mood to jut my chin out a bit anyway, I created a disclaimer template on my computer and applied it to a check whenever we needed to go shopping. I don’t know if my clause had any legitimate authority, or whether it trumped their clause or not, but it kept me occupied for a few months until I gave in and signed up for a “debit card”.

These days, larger stores that accept personal checks usually process them electronically right at the point of sale, so the old tacit permission clause versus the negating disclaimer clause shtick is ancient history. Now things are even worse, though, with the early “in your face”, like it or lump it, rubber check policies having been replaced with campaigns of disingenuously cooing in the consumer’s ear while trying to slip one’s hand into his bank account under cover of the friendly distraction. The satellite TV bill that I just stuck in an envelope with a check is a case in point. On both sides of the envelope are teasers encouraging me to pay my bill “on line”, which, of course, would necessitate authorizing the company to rummage around in my bank account for whatever amount they happen to bill me. The electric company, and several other interests that regularly share in my Social Security check, repeatedly try to lure me into just subtracting myself from the monthly transactions altogether by inviting me to sign up for automatic payments, with the pap that I will save time and money.

As the saying goes, I was born at night, but not LAST night. WHO will save time and money? I used to SELL printed business forms and envelopes before computers rendered such fare largely obsolete, and I know they can run into money. Once, back about forty years ago, I had to arrange for the pickup of five million envelopes that had been mis-manufactured and were jamming in the customer’s high speed posting machinery. I would imagine the various utilities and other accounts I do business with on a regular basis might realize considerable savings if they can convert enough customers to automatic payments and thus reduce or eliminate the expense of materials and payroll required for hard copy billing and posting. I, on the other hand, would save a couple of minutes of my time and would not save a penny, while “they” would enjoy an Open Door policy in regards to my bank account.

I DON’T THINK SO…..and feel free to augment that with adjectives of your choice.

So, the current trend facilitated by technology and our digital addiction falls into the realm of amusing me because it pisses me off to an awesome extent. I can’t figure out why any business assumes it should have access to the bank account of a customer in exchange for the customer doing them the favor of saving the business time and money. What’s more, I can’t figure out why the consuming public apparently buys into such chum hook, line, and sinker. Have cell phones and other electronic cranial attachments caused a diminished IQ?

I wonder if these are the same people who purchase ID Theft protection.


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