No Check, Please

What is this?

This is a check, and it used to be a perfectly reasonable way to pay for things. Now it’s just a pain in the neck.

Before direct deposit, online banking and debit cards, the only way to get money in or out of a bank account was to go to the bank or an ATM. And if you wanted to transform a check into money, then you had to go into the bank and wait in line to speak with a teller.

Money can be used to buy things because money is a representation of wealth – a medium used to exchange goods and services. Money allows us to turn bacon into blueberries and garments into gold. Without money, you’d have to find someone who had what you wanted and wanted what you had.

A check isn’t a representation of wealth, it’s a representation of money. It’s a certified IOU – a piece of paper that promises the future exchange of money. You can’t spend a check or trade it for something you want. The only thing you can do with a check is take it to the bank. And this is real problem with checks: if you give one to someone, it means they have to go to the bank.

Thanks to the technologies mentioned earlier, we rarely have to go to the bank anymore. This is great news because going to the bank costs time and is really boring. But when someone writes us a check, they make us go to the bank, waste our time and make us bored.

So why do we write checks? The answer is what we just mentioned: going to the bank sucks. We don’t want to go to the bank and withdraw the money to pay someone, so we write them a check and make them¬†go to the bank. So when you write someone a check, what you’re really doing is sending them on an errand to the bank. You’re telling them, “I didn’t want to go to the bank, so now you have to go.”

Until the person goes to the bank, they can’t get the money they’re owed. They can only have it on the condition that they go waste a bunch of time doing something that you don’t want to do. So when you’re sitting there writing their name on that little rectangular piece of paper, you’re actually subjecting them to a twisted treasure hunt.

A check is a treasure map – a treasure map that leads to the bank.