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Carolyn Hax: Bounced check an expensive lesson

Dear Carolyn: A friend agreed to keep my pet for a couple of weeks while I was away this past summer. I gave her a check when I left and another when I returned. There was no agreement on a charge for her services; I offered the money simply because I appreciated her help.

When I handed her the second check, I told her I had postdated it by three days to ensure that sufficient funds were in my account to cover it.

I was very surprised to learn shortly thereafter that she cashed the check ahead of the date, and the bank charged me $175 for the resulting overdrafts.

I told this woman what had happened. Her response: She hadn’t heard me ask her to hold the check, and she hadn’t noticed the date on the check. She said she was really sorry about the overdraft fees I had paid.

I have reason to believe she was not truthful with me – that she did hear me but cashed the check anyway because she needed the money. I can’t be sure, though.

Even if she was truthful, her mistake cost me $175, and she apparently feels no responsibility for sharing that expense.

I no longer feel I can trust her. I could be missing something. I could be wrong. What do you think? – Anonymous

I think you got a $175 education in the hazards of postdating checks.

Regardless of your friend’s trustworthiness, you set yourself up; you handed off control of your account balance to someone else, when you just as easily could have told your friend you’d be mailing her a thank-you check.

As it stands, unless she heard your warning and consciously chose to ignore it, she has zero responsibility for sharing the overdraft expense.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at 9 a.m.each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.


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