Payson's Wal-Mart Supercenter is participating in an experimental check cashing program that gives the check back to the customers once it has been scanned and approved.
Through the program, which is also being tried at several other Rim country businesses, paper checks are converted into "electronic items" at the point of sale, and the check is then returned to the customer.
The Payson Supercenter is one of selected group of Wal-Mart stores participating in the test program, according to Tom Williams of the Wal-Mart public relations department.
"It is in the testing phase," Williams said. "Basically, it's very similar to the old paper-only system, except that it gives the check back to the customer as a receipt. It has a lot of advantages, one being that it acts time-wise like a paper check. Instead of a debit transaction, which transfers the money from the customer's account immediately, the timing of the withdrawal is the same as a paper check."
Once the check is approved electronically, the customer is asked to sign a copy of the sales receipt authorizing the transaction.
Through the service, called the TeleCheck Electronic Check Acceptance service, customers not only have the same amount of time before a check is presented electronically to their bank, but also receive more information on their bank statements, including the date the check cleared their account, and the place where the check was presented.
The program saves merchants money in several ways, according to TeleCheck, the company that developed the program.
"Now the check is just as easy and hassle-free for a merchant as a credit card," according to a brochure available to Wal-Mart customers at checkouts.
Because the new service tells merchants whether adequate funds are available in the customer's checking account to cover the check, returned check fees, losses associated with bad checks, and collecting on returned checks are things of the past. Merchants also avoid the paperwork and trips to the bank associated with paper checks.
TeleCheck claims merchants will have more time to focus on their customers and their business, while saving money in the process. By "bringing the advantage of electronics to their check acceptance processes," the brochure says, merchants are "saving time and money and greatly reducing the risks and costs of bad checks."
Williams said Wal-Mart usually spends over a year testing a new program, a process that relies heavily on response from customers. "That's what we thrive on," he said.
Of the other local merchants trying the system, at least one has seen enough. Kelly Enerson, owner of KDJ's Specialties & Beauty Mart, said his shop dropped the program.
"We quit it because most people hate it. They don't understand it, especially older people," Enerson said.
"We actually have people stick their head in the door and ask if we're still using it. When we say, 'No,' they come in and shop."
Mary Hansen, owner of Strawberry Stetzan Restaurant, likes the system.
"We pay a larger percentage per transaction," Hansen said, "but we have the guarantee that the money is there. Our customers are accepting it OK."
Kelly Kazarian, owner of Kelly's Komputers the company that installed the system at Strawberry Stetzan and KDJ's says another advantage to the consumer is better security. "The personal information on a check is not floating around out there, available to anyone and everyone who sees it as it's processed," Kazarian said.
"Basically it's an educational process for the consumer."