Saturday, February 07, 2004

I'll Take Two of Your Finest Pennies

Refund checks are the best. A tax refund check is the paramount variety—mine usually hovers around the $300 range and comes exactly when I need some extra cash (ok, that’s always, but still, they come when I Most Especially need some extra cash).

But there are other types of refund checks, of course.

Utility companies are big on these, particularly if the customer discontinues service. They don’t normally exceed, say, 10 bucks, and it can feel pretty silly to cash or deposit one, but they’re nice all the same.

A couple days ago I received a refund check from our utility company, PG&E. I could tell from the envelope that it was a check, which is always exciting, but I tried not to get my hopes up, knowing I couldn’t have overpaid them by much (we’ve been using the heaters with wild abandon).

Still though, I tore open the envelope and sought out the amount, picturing what I could buy (even if only a cup of coffee) with my surprise money.

Surprise indeed!

5 cents.

They sent me a check for 5 cents.

They spent 37 cents to send me a check for 5 cents.

My check was signed by one K.M Harvey, CFO and Treasurer of PG&E, as well as Mr. Michael Donnelly, Assistant Treasurer. I was flattered they both took the time.

First I just threw the check away, but shortly thereafter my friend Nick came by and, in telling him about it, I realized the situation was too ridiculous to simply let pass. I fished the check out of the trash and began brainstorming with him: how best to handle this newfound wealth?

I would definitely be going to the bank with the check, but which action to take?

I could simply deposit it. Or would it be funnier to cash it? Nick thought I should cash it and walk away from the desk smiling, whistling, and flipping my (hopefully) shiny new nickel merrily in the air.

I could also deposit a portion of it and sign for cash back in the presence of the teller. Nick said I should proudly declare, “Yes, and I’ll take two of your finest pennies, please,” pointing to the teller and winking with the word “finest.”

I could sign it over to Nick. How about this: I let him strong-arm me into the bank lobby, making a big show of it. He shoves me against the counter, clearly forcing me to fill out the necessary paperwork and capturing the attention of the guard, who decides he’d better keep an eye on us. He grabs me by the elbow very ostentatiously and leads me to the teller, where I give her his deposit slip and my 5-cent check, making a sad face and scowling at Nick like some little sister who just had her chocolate chip cookie bullied out of her.

5 cents!

There’s a notice on the bottom of the check that reads “Void after 90 days.” How about I take it to the bank on the 91st day and, when they refuse to cash or deposit it, I dramatically throw my hands in the air yelling, “this is bullshit!”

I have nothing more to say about that really.

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