Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
If I send a check and it gets lost in the mail, who should pay the bank fee to have it stopped? Me or the recipient?
Miss Manners and Emily Post haven’t really covered this, but in other check etiquette it is generally best to cash checks ASAP when you get them so people are surprised by the draw on their account three months later (though of course, everyone should be balancing their checking accounts- HA!)
Jaya: Whoaaaa. I have no idea. I mean I think you? Actually the post office should.
Victoria: Lol okay, so I answered thus when it was originally posed on Twitter: if you are close to the person, just write a new check and ask them to tear up the lost one if it ever arrives. But if not, since you are ultimately the person who will have the check amount come out of your account when it is cashed then its on you to pay the fee to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Jaya: What doesn’t happen?
Victoria: Okay, so say you write a check and it gets lost in the mail. You write the person a new check and they cash it, then the lost check shows up and they cash that too.
Jaya: Then they’re a scumbag?
Victoria: Well yeah, but it can be an honest mistake but you are still out double the money (which you then have to try to get refunded). So its your responsibility to cancel the check so that it can’t be cashed.
Jaya: Well yeah of course. Wait is the other option people consider is asking your friend to call your bank to cancel the fee? I don’t get what the issue is.
Victoria: No, I think the issue is that the person writing the check wants to write a second check and deduct the fee the bank charges for canceling the first check. Thus making the check receiver “pay” the fee. By getting less money. Which yeah…no. They have no way of knowing that you even genuinely sent the first check! You could be lying!
Jaya: Why do people insist on making things a thousand times more complicated? I guess this seems like such a non-issue to me. I can’t imagine a situation in which I wouldn’t call my bank to cancel the check, pay whatever fee, and then send a new check. How is that not the standard course of action for everyone?
Victoria: Yeah exactly. I mean, check canceling fees CAN be high, like sometimes something like $50. So I often hedge my bets and don’t bother canceling them.
Jaya: Wait so you just ask your friend to rip up the check, right?
Victoria: Yeah, I mean, my rent check has gotten lost in the mail before and I just never canceled it. I guess, if it did finally show up and they cashed it, they would just apply it to my next months rent. Which for me is fine, but for other people might be a problem if that would overdraft their account. So you just have to weigh that kind of thing against whether it is worth it to pay the fee for the peace of mind knowing that it can’t be cashed.
Jaya: This seems less like etiquette and more like finance. Or really like, etiquette: don’t cash double checks and scam your friends?
Victoria: Haha yeah true. And business-wise, there is no way you are ever going to get, say the cable company, to pay your canceled check fee, they will laugh at you. I think it was a worthwhile etiquette question to ask though- a young person might just not know what is the social norm here!