WAL-MART CHECK COLLECTION PLAN COULD HURT DAS� OFFICES Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has stopped using district attorneys across the country to collect on bad checks, a move that could sharply reduce income for some local prosecutors and disrupt programs that fight check fraud.
Marty Heires, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based chain, said Friday district attorneys were notified last month the retailer would turn this work over to a private company.
Many district attorneys demand payment from people who write bad checks. The face value of the check and other fees go to the merchant, and prosecutors add on a collection charge that can be a significant source of revenue for district attorneys. In Oklahoma, this charge is about $140 per check.
The charge helps fund district attorney expenses and pays for bogus check programs that often allow people to avoid prosecution by making restitution and taking classes on check fraud, said Paul Logli, president of the National District Attorneys Association and a prosecutor in Rockford, Ill. http://www.enidnews.com/localnews/local_story_344003221.html
Surely other merchants besides Walmart still need the prosecution to step in? Has Walmart really dominated our society to the extent that DAs offices can't survive without their business? I suppose in smaller jurisdictions where Walmart has driven out the local business, it may be the primary business--but even then, not the only business. If it such a wonderful target for hot check writers, why doesn't the store change its practice on accepting checks?
I confess I am a little shocked that DAs offices have become so dependent on Walmart. I also don't understand how Walmart benefits by paying someone to do what the prosecution does. Aren't prosecutor's fees charged to defendants costs and added on top of the check amount that Walmart gets back in its entirety?
I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the chain--it was great until the advent of the Super Walmarts. Maybe I miss the founder for what he accomplished!
I certainly don't mean to disparage any of our colleagues. My Christmas wish is for them to obtain adequate alternative avenues of revenue as soon as possible.
We have pretty big hot check dockets each month and Wal-Mart is not a big part. I think they already have the electronic system in place that checks the check before accepting w/likely reduces the # for insufficient funds.
NOW - If the Pizza places stop taking them or giving them to us, that might be a different story.
Also, it always amazes me when you look at the dates on the checks and they have written 3-4 in the same day to the same place and did it for 1-2 weeks running... What were they thinking accepting them? My family has some c-stores back home and in Huntsville and when the deposits are made and checks tallied, if we saw the same person more than once in a day and more than one or two days in a row, you could feel pretty confident that trouble was coming. Not always, but alot of the time.
Once they figure out that the private company cannot do what you can do, you hold the key to debtors prison (of sorts, and I mean that in jest), they will be back, hat in hand. And, you know when the private phone call/letter writing company cannot get anywhere, they'll call on you, bad check in hand.
Sounds like we need new legislation: 'If a local megachain store uses private collection efforts to identify bad check writers, and collect on the checks, and the private company is unsuccessful, and the megachain then uses the prosecution unit to collect on the bad check, then the megachain must pay a $100.00 special handling fee to the prosecution unit, which is not collectable from the hot check writer.'
Beck is absolutely right. No private collection agency has the hammer that a prosecutor who is diligent in hot check enforcement possesses. Once they lose that check collection fee on top of restitution, and see the number of checks decline for which restitution is made, they will be back. Like it or not, Wal-Mart does dominate the shopping scene locally, and, along with pizza places, my collections are going to take a big hit until Wal-Mart realizes its error. However, the increasing reliance on electronic transfer and debit cards is also making inroads on my statistics. In ten years none of us will be in the hot check collection business.
Posts: 171 | Location: Belton, Texas, USA | Registered: April 26, 2001
Rick strikes the true chord in this medley. Many Wal-Marts (including the two supercenters in my jurisdiction) process checks as an electronic funds transfer, rather than a traditional check transaction. That is, they scan the check for the account number and routing number, then run that information much like the transaction proceeds after a customer swipes a debit card and enters his/her P.I.N. Some even hand the check back to the checkwriter after the computer grants an "acceptance" code (again, much like a card transaction). As we move out of check collection, a question that confronts us is: what kind of resources are going to be required to prosecute the next generation of offenses that are sure to come with the checkless marketplace? And, despite the apparent shrinkage of our offices due to loss of the collection fee, aren't we still going to face a demand for a consistent level of service? If the law doesn't change, it would seem that section 32.31 will be the offense du jour. That being so, my office's workload will decrease fairly dramatically, but the DA's docket will swell commensurately. With no collection fee for incentive to aggressively pick up the slack. What to do, smart folk?
Posts: 1233 | Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA | Registered: March 15, 2001
Maybe we should promote a bill that allows for fees comparable to hot check fees to be collected for credit/debit card abuse cases? While that wouldn't help the County Attorney's Offices in counties with split misdemeanor/felony jurisdiction, it would provide a (probably small) budget boost for some prosecutor's offices. A couple of small amendments to CCP Art. 102.007 would do it.
No one seems to have snapped on the last line of the of the next to last paragraph in the AP article. What's the deal with the $140 collection fee? So I called an investigator in the Comanche Co. DA's office to see. According to him check collection fees in Oklahoma are $25 to the merchant and $108 for checks under $50 and $128 for checks over $50 for every check that goes thru the office which goes to the DA like here.
No wonder they are screaming up there!
Why are we so far behind them?
Posts: 13 | Location: Wichita Falls, Texas | Registered: May 21, 2002
My experience with private collection agencies is that they skim the cream off of the top of the hot check writers. By that I mean the people who for whatever reason do not habitually write hot checks and are ready to pay whatever it takes to clearup the matter. Once those checks are collected, the private collection agencies will turn the "uncollectable" checks back to the merchant who in turn will bring them to the DA or CA and expect miracles to happen. When the miracles don't happen they will complain loudly about how worthless the DA or CA office is.