last posts

The Writing's on the Wall for the Paper Check - But I'll Miss It Anyway | Genetic marks


IIn our age of everything electronic, you would think that most businesses would no longer use paper checks. Consumers have certainly abandoned the paper check. According to a study, only 7% of their bills are paid this way. Many of my clients did not receive this memo.

For most businesses, paper checks are still a thing. Up to one in three business-to-business transactions are paid this way, and 81% of businesses in the United States still use paper checks to pay at least some of their bills.

Stop rolling your eyes because yes, we know. Electronic payments make more sense for a business. They’re faster to initiate, authorize, and complete, and they’re easier to track, audit, and report. They save paper and are good for the environment. They are safer, effective and cost less. They can be launched and approved from anywhere. And a growing number of businesses not only prefer electronic payment, but require customers to do so. My company sells Microsoft products and even Microsoft recently announced that they will no longer accept paper checks from their partners. So the writing is on the wall.

But still… I’m going to miss the paper check.

I have always enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the bi-weekly check-up. Obtain the pile of blank checks from the locked safe in the accountant’s office. Tear the exact number of checks needed and run them through the dot-matrix printer for duplicate copies. Record amount, payee, date and check number in general ledger. And then the grandest of all gestures: the final approval materialized by the ultimate proof of authority: the signature. Some of my clients have appreciated the opportunity to review and sign each check because there is no better example of power than this.

Of course, the process becomes even more serious when a manual check is required as it requires pulling out the “special” checkbook which is usually in a locked desk drawer. Rather than using a computer, the accountant or business owner should write down all the required information while cautiously watching the nervous recipient over their glasses. This is followed by the licking, the tearing, the folding and the solemn handing over which always implies “don’t make me regret that”.

And who doesn’t like to say “the check is in the mail” while enjoying the five to seven day float before the money is actually withdrawn from the account? All of that is lost in the world of online transactions. Only the banks now benefit from the float. There is no glitz or circumstance with online transactions. We digitize the emotional experience of this age-old business transaction, one EFT at a time.

Paper checks are not only a written form of contract adopted by businesses throughout history, but also a form of marketing where businesses can proudly display their logos. They are tangible proof of stability and reliability. Most importantly, the bi-weekly verification is a moment of reflection, a kind of ceremony where suppliers deemed worthy of payment are selected, approved and honored with a place in the pile on our desk for final signing off.

Paper checks are real. They provide the necessary backup for listeners. They are tangible, with a lot of information crammed into them. There are the addresses and the signature (or two signatures if it’s really special!). There is the amount which is so large that it is not only stated in dollars and cents but also written – as “one hundred and forty-one dollars and fifty-seven cents” – to add to the seriousness of the event. which is about to happen: payment for the products.

And there are numbers, lots of numbers: the check number, date and bank routing and account number stamped down the bottom using the same font that looks suspiciously like the title sequence from 2001: The Odyssey. space as if there was once a desire to show how futuristic it is. On the back of the check are “deposit only” type stamps (as if it was going to be used for other purposes) as well as the imprints of the banks involved and a signature of the depositor to “endorse” the check.

Of course, any accountant could tell you that these measures are just for show. Fake stamps can easily be created. Signatures can be forged. Quantities can be transformed with a similar colored pen or bottle of Wite-Out. But it seems official, so why not? And who doesn’t love getting checks? Checks are pretty much the only reason we check our mail. They make the trip to the post office something akin to opening presents on Christmas Day.

Unfortunately, all of this is disappearing. And that makes me sad.

According to the Small Business Administration, the majority of small business owners are over 50 years old. We grew up with Swanson dinner parties, helmetless hockey, and designated smoking areas on airplanes. We know that will inevitably change. We will retire and the younger generations will bury us with our checkbooks. But for now, many businesses in the United States are still clinging to traditional methods of paying their vendors.

Yes, it is inefficient and more expensive. But please be patient. Grant us this small pleasure while it lasts.



Font Size
lines height