Businesses should be aware that if they use the Telecheck system, they may be inadvertently discriminating against honest check writers.
I am a small business owner and work hard to maintain my financial health. To this end, I keep adequate funds in my account, have never written a bad check, and have an excellent credit rating. These facts apparently do not always matter when people write checks at businesses that use Telecheck.
Recently, I suffered embarrassment and stress while trying to pay for my purchases at my local Home Depot and Auto Zone stores. I am a very regular customer at Home Depot and have always paid for my purchases using a check. In fact, the week before this incident occurred, I wrote a large check there with no problem. Over the years, I have spent thousands of dollars at Home Depot and used a check for each and every purchase.
I was shocked when, during a recent shopping trip at Home Depot, the cashier handed my $69 check back to me saying that it had been "denied". When I asked her why, she just handed me a piece of paper with a reference number and a phone number on it for Telecheck and told me to "call them". I was very embarrassed, as there were people I knew in line behind me, and I could only imagine that they thought I was trying to pass a bad check.
My first thought was that my checking account had been compromised and my funds depleted. Was I a victim of identity fraud? I immediately went to my bank (where I have had an account for over 20 years), and they assured me there was no problem with my account. The people at the bank could offer no explanation as to why my check had been "denied" by Telecheck.
I went back to Home Depot with a copy of my banking account balance to show the manager that I had adequate funds in my account to cover a $69 check. I told him I was very embarrassed to have my check "denied". He was sympathetic and apologized, but told me that there was nothing he could do and that I would need to deal with Telecheck directly.
I called Telecheck and, after navigating a lengthy voice mail system requiring me to supply much personal banking information, I finally reached a live person. I asked her why my check had been "denied" and she told me, (in very broken English), that my check "did not fall within Telecheck's parameters". I asked her what that meant, and she would only repeat the line "your check did not meet our parameters". I then asked to speak to a supervisor and she said someone would call me back. Of course, no one ever did.
Hoping it was just a fluke, a few days later I tried to purchase a battery at Auto Zone and that check too was "denied". I was given another slip of paper with Telecheck's phone number on it, and went through the excruciating voice mail system again, only to be told by another non-English speaking person that my check did not fall "within their guidelines".
I did some on-line research about Telecheck and was amazed at the number of complaints people have posted about them. Many of the complaints were identical to my experience. People who have written checks for years with no problem, were now having their checks "denied" and they could only get a vague explanation from Telecheck. A couple of States have even sued Telecheck over some of their consumer practices. I am in the process of making a complaint about Telecheck to the Consumer Protection Agency and through our States' Attorney General's Office.
I'm sure many readers are asking themselves why I don't use a credit or debit card to make purchases. Well, I have had to start using a debit card, but it should have been by choice, not because my good checks were being "denied" by Telecheck. I find it odd that I can use my card with no problem, even though the funds are coming out of the same checking account my checks were written on. Could it be that Telecheck makes more money when people use their cards?
Thank you for letting me use this forum to vent. I hope other people whose financial reputation means something to them do not have these same types of embarrassing situations happen to them at local businesses that use the Telecheck system.