I had my first experience with an electronic check today which was a bit different than I remember things. I went to pay for some things I was purchasing and decided to pay for them with a check. Normally, they take your check, place it in the cash drawer and you’re off with your stuff, so I was a bit surprised when the check was handed back to me.
The cashier took the check, scanned it into an imaging device. That device apparantly grabs the image of the check along with the codes and immediately sends it off to the bank (no more check floats, but not a problem since I never did that anyway – the cashier said the money wouldn’t be deducted immediately, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be). Then a receipt was printed out which I had to sign which included an ominous statement that had to pay up to 3 times the amount of the purchase if there wasn’t enough funds in my checking account – and my check was handed back to me.
A little research when I got home informed me that the 3 times the purchase price paper I had to sign is part of the California Civil Code that allows retailers to receive 3 times the amount of the purchase in restitution when their aren’t sufficient funds, but it seems to sound worse than it really is. This provision only comes into play when the retailer sues someone whose check bounced – if you the customer makes the payment good before it gets to that stage, there is only a $25 bounced check fee from the retailer (and lots of fees from your bank, so it’s not something you want to do)
It will be interesting to see how this transaction shows up on my banking statement when it arrives and I’m also curious to see how long it takes for the funds to be taken out of my account.