At the register

When you look at a check for $20 that is returned to you as NSF, you probably see red. But when a check collector looks at it they see gold. Because that $20 check is really worth $45 or $50. That's because the law entitles you to a collection fee or what is commonly known as a state fee. Those are fees charged to the check writer above and beyond the face value of the check. All 50 states allow such a fee and six of those states allow you to also recover your bank fee on top of that state fee. Those six states are Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and Vermont.

The electronic collection of these fees has hatched an industry and revived the benefits of accepting personal checks for the pizza operator. As someone in the pizza business, you are probably well aware of the multitude of services that offer one form or another of check recovery. These services include your local district attorney, traditional collection agencies, check guarantee services, electronic check recovery firms that you send your checks to and web sites that let you do your own check recovery.

So how do you decide what is best for your business? The first thing you need to realize is that there is no magic in the process of recovering the funds from these checks so you should be leery of any big promises. If you use the non-electronic methods (telephone and letter campaigns) you tend to get less money and the process takes longer. If you use the electronic methods, via firms you send your checks to, or doing it yourself through the Internet, there are laws and rules that must be followed. Whichever method or company you choose, just make sure you read any agreements carefully and ask questions, and get good references. You should avoid signing any long-term contract without some solid business reason behind it. The laws and rules that govern the collection processes are designed to get you paid and to protect the person who wrote the returned check from unlawful recovery.

How much money should you expect to collect? Let's do some math. If all $20 NSF checks have a potential value of $45 dollars on average nationally, you should get back at least 100 percent of the combined value of all your $20 checks. The problem is that the average recovery rate, according to the organization that monitors the banking network (ACH) that pays these checks electronically, is 65 percent. So the only way you can get back the 100 percent of the combined face value of all your $20 checks is to get yourself a major portion of any recovered state fees.

So, add these to your list of questions for any provider of check recovery:

1) How much you will you pay me from any recovered state fees?

2) How will I know when you recover a state fee?

Hope this information helps put more money in your register.