Be Sure to Open All Your Christmas Cards

On Christmas Day I was cleaning out my closet.  No, I’m not a neat freak, it just so happened on Christmas Day I felt a little more energetic than usual and thought I would spend a little time organizing the shelves that Mr. A put in our bedroom last weekend.  I was organizing my yarn totes and going through the closet.  I came across a couple of small boxes with envelopes and mail and old bills.  Sometimes I can’t decide to keep mail or throw it away, or should I shred it?  That’s when it ends up in a box in the closet.  So I was going through one of these boxes and I came across some Christmas cards from December 2009.  That’s right, two years ago.

I didn’t recognize the name on one, and the envelope had been taped closed by the sender.  I slid my finger under the flap, took out the card and was shocked to find inside a check for $200!!

I still didn’t recognize the name, but the check was written out to Mr. A’s business.  Oh boy.  I didn’t remember having any invoices that didn’t get paid in 2009 or early 2010, so I went to talk to Mr. A about it.  He remembered the customer, and luckily the customer wrote the service rendered at the bottom of the check which jogged Mr. A’s memory.

So now what do we do?  Rightfully the money belongs to Mr. A’s business, but we can’t in good faith just take a check for that amount and cash it.  I mean, we could, but what if the people don’t have that money in their account?  I would hate to find $200 taken from my account and not have any idea what happened.  Then again, because I reconcile my account faithfully each month, I would have known, and I would have called the business person and asked them if they got the check.

You might be asking, how come we weren’t expecting this money?   In the fall of 2009, Mr. A was not yet using numbered invoices and I was not yet using Quickbooks.  I was using Excel to track his invoices, and he was using non-numbered invoices.  This allowed this invoice to fall through the cracks, and then apparently Mr. A forgot the money was owed to him.  It’s so much easier in Quickbooks… just enter every transaction as it comes through and then you can spit out a report of what’s been paid and what’s owed.

So now what to do?   It’s going to be a weird conversation but Mr. A is going to call the customer and explain what happened.  Hopefully they will say go ahead and cash the check.

It’s kind of embarrassing on both ends.  Like, why didn’t they call and ask if we received the check?

That’s what I would have done, but like I said I do reconcile my checking account faithfully each month, and I would have known within a couple of weeks that the check had not been cashed.   Perhaps these people just don’t reconcile their checking account?  Maybe they don’t even know the check was never cashed?  Or maybe they did know but were not honest enough to call and ask if we ever received the check… hoping that we wouldn’t cash it, and hoping we wouldn’t call.  Because Mr. A didn’t ever call them asking for payment, maybe they hoped we just forgot about it.

I like to think they don’t reconcile their account and have no clue the check was never cashed.  I’ve never understood not reconciling a checking account myself, but then I’m old school when it comes to reconciling my accounts.

On the other hand, there’s the embarrassment of misplacing and not opening that Christmas card.  Whoops.

Have you ever not opened a card or envelope and missed out on money?

 

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12 comments to Be Sure to Open All Your Christmas Cards

  • Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Seinfeld cashes his grandma’s old checks on Kramer’s advice and overdrafts! :)

    Good idea to always open your christmas cards!

    [Reply]

  • One thing to be aware of is that a bank is under no obligation to cash a check more than six months old (§ 4-404 of the Uniform Commercial Code). They can choose to cash the older checks, but aren’t obligated too, so policies vary widely from one bank to the next.

    You might need to get the person to give you a new check (they’ll almost certainly want the old one in exchange, to make sure it’s not floatin around).

    About ten years ago, my Mom noticed that I hadn’t cashed the check in my birthday card ($20). It turns out that I never received the card from my parents, as well as a couple of cards from siblings – and a couple other envelopes had some damage. Around this time, some employees at a post office the cards would have been routed through were busted for stealing things out of the mail. I’m pretty sure I know what happened to the check. :)

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Kosmo, thanks for making me aware of this. I didn’t know. We are kind of half expecting for the people to have moved, closed the bank account or something so we’re not really counting on the money. I figure it can’t hurt to call and ask though.

    [Reply]

  • I had a good find like this not too long ago. I was cleaning out my old closet at my parent’s house and found a box with cards from my bar mitsvah in 1998. I opened an envelope from my uncle and found $50 in cash. It felt like winning the lotto!

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Eric, this reminds me of when my FIL passed away. We were asked to help go through and pack his home and I was working on the closet. I don’t remember how much I found altogether – this was about 21 years ago – but I remember finding cash in most of his pants and shirts which were hanging in the closet. Not a ton of money, but we were pretty poor at the time so even a dollar here or there might have thrilled me to no end. :-) Tell me though, did you feel bad that you didn’t send the prerequisite thank you card to your uncle? He probably thought you were a bad nephew for not thanking him formally. At least that’s what I would have encountered.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    @Mrs. Accountability, I think I did get the thank you note written, but because it was cash (instead of a check) I did not pull it out for the bank. I doubt he would have noticed the lack of a note. These days, I always keep cards on my desk and never take the gift out until the thank you note is mailed. That way I get the note out faster and don’t forget.

    [Reply]

  • Joe Kenney

    If “Mr. A” has to worry whether his customer still has $200 in their bank accounts after 2 years …. Maybe it’s time to set his sights on a more solvent customer base.

    [Reply]

  • That’s so funny that you found a $200 check in your holiday card. It’s a good thing you opened that card. It just goes to show: Don’t just toss those cards in the trash!

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @youngandthrifty, yes, too bad we opened it two years later. Well, live and learn, right?

    [Reply]

  • This is a great lesson. I was just yelled at his holiday season for not openning them before recycling them. While I didn’t find anything this time around I def understand why it’s important. I mean as a business coach I am constantly telling clients to not leave any money on the table and here I was ready to possibly throw some away lol

    [Reply]

  • That money did really belong to Mr. A… But it is odd they they didn’t inquire about the check. Still, you totally did the right thing!

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @David @ yesiamcheap, yes, I agree. Odd is a good word for it. I like to think they just don’t realize the check wasn’t cashed. Otherwise, how rude!

    [Reply]

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