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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Bad Check


A guest at the Hyatt had fallen ill and cancelled a flight. He had recovered, but the airline insisted on a doctor’s note before allowing him on board.

Determining if someone is healthy enough to fly requires only a few questions, but I do a thorough exam. He delivered a steady patter as I worked, describing himself as a venture capitalist with an exciting but stressful life as he prepared for an important meeting in Japan.

As I composed the note, I saw him writing a check and immediately announced that I accept credit cards.

Apologizing, he told me that it would be a hassle unless payment came out of the company account. Seeing my hesitation, he added that he had credit cards and would give me a number. He pulled one out and scribbled on my invoice, getting one number wrong. 

I’ve received a few dozen bad checks, the last in 2000 just before I began accepting credit cards.

You can imagine my feeling later as I stood watching a teller fiddle at his computer…. and fiddle…. and fiddle… and finally explain that it wasn’t accepting the check.

Naturally, I felt stupid. Young single males write most bad checks, and this guest fit the pattern.

Now came the tedious process of trying to recover the money which occasionally happens. Most likely, the address and phone number on the check were wrong. Asking the hotel for contact information sometimes helped, but I might hear that it must respect the guest’s privacy. The credit card was certainly worthless.

But it wasn’t! When I phoned the computer and entered the numbers, it approved. Some things are hard to explain.

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