Sketchy Furniture Stores Suck
February 21, 2009 2:21 AM   Subscribe

How Do I Get A Furniture Store To Pay Me? They offered me a $2000 refund if they didn't deliver furniture I ordered before an agreed upon date. They wrote a post-dated check to prove they would deliver or pay. But they didn't deliver, and the check bounced.

So I've gotten some advice that I can sue in small claims... and I've filed for that. But the court date isn't for a while, and I want to hear from people who have experience actually getting money from a bounced check.

The judge will most likely side with me, but then after that -- what happens? Will I just have to use a collections agency anyway? They'll take their cut, and I'll get 50%? What's the best way to maximize my return?

I'm looking for the "practical" side of this.. I can look up what the law says, but getting this store to actually pay is going to take some effort (considering my dealings with them so far). So pointing me to my legal rights is helpful, but I'm looking more for what I can do to actually get my money back.
posted by mhh5 to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Where are you? Country/state?
posted by different at 2:26 AM on February 21, 2009

Is it a locally-owned store and is the check drawn from a local bank? Did the check bounce because they put a stop-payment on it or did it bounce because of insufficient funds in their account?

If the check is drawn from a local bank, you can present it in person at that bank for payment. If it bounced because of insufficient funds, you can keep going back and hope to get lucky on a day when they've made a deposit.

However, if they've put a stop-payment on it, you'll just have to wait it out until you go to court.

Other things you can do include calling the Better Business Bureau and filing a complaint and calling your state's Attorney General's office and reporting them for consumer fraud.
posted by amyms at 2:59 AM on February 21, 2009

Is there usual policy to have a post-dated check like that? Or was that a special negotiation you suggested? It sounds a hair suspicious. Did you search to see if any other complaints have been filed locally or griped about on the internet - for that specific retailer?
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 3:00 AM on February 21, 2009

In many American jurisdictions bouncing a check is a criminal matter, and the local prosecutor has a unit that routinely handles prosecutions for it. So the first thing to do is to talk to your prosecutor's office and see whether they will handle this for you.
posted by grouse at 8:21 AM on February 21, 2009

I think some key info here is what kind of documentation exists. Was there some sort of written guarantee of this payment? What does the small print say?

Is there anything in fine print on the check itself? Such as "By cashing this check you agree to blah blah blah"? Or any hint of "Non-Negotiable"?

It sounds suspicious, in that post-dated checks don't really mean anything anymore. Legally (I believe - IANAL) there's nothing that would have prevented you from cashing that check the moment you got it, regardless of when it was dated. Assuming it was a real check. (As amyms asked... why did the check bounce?) In the absence of anything you might have signed along the lines of "I agree not to cash this check unless my stuff isn't delivered" or other agreement on your part not to cash it regardless of delivery outcome, I'd say it's a scam.
posted by SquidLips at 8:54 AM on February 21, 2009

I would file a police report. They defrauded you. Writing bad checks is against the law.
posted by charlesv at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2009

Call your local TV news station and ask for whomever it is that goes to bat for consumers who have been ripped off. Very public pressure works wonders.
posted by acorncup at 10:42 AM on February 21, 2009

Best answer: In many American jurisdictions bouncing a check is a criminal matter, and the local prosecutor has a unit that routinely handles prosecutions for it

Wow, what they did was really slick, because they used a post-dated check. At least in my state, someone cannot be prosecuted under the criminal statute governing worthless checks when they write a post-dated check. Only when a check is dated on the day it is tendered can a criminal prosecution be commenced. A dispute over a post-dated check is solely a civil matter and you would have to file a lawsuit to recover the money.

I'm no expert on negotiable instruments, but think the idea behind a post-dated check not being prosecutable is that, if someone writes you a check dated on the day you accept it, you are being fraudulently induced by that negotiable instrument to give something of value (in your case, the thing of value was your money). However, by giving you a post-dated check, the merchant under the law can be argued not to have fraudulently induced you to do something since the instrument was not negotiable at the time you accepted it.
posted by jayder at 10:53 AM on February 21, 2009

I can almost see the sleazy furniture merchants laughing as they send the post-dated checks out, knowing that there's no money in the account the check is drawn on and knowing there's no criminal liability.

If you have the wherewithal to sue them in civil court, then maybe you will get your money, but 99% of the people who fall for their scammy little guarantee will not follow through with a lawsuit, so the furniture store never has to pay them.

(Of course, maybe your state allows criminal prosecution concerning post-dated checks. Check with a lawyer.)
posted by jayder at 10:57 AM on February 21, 2009

Send your story to the Consumerist...they may have advice...or you can just publicly shame the company.
posted by radioamy at 2:25 PM on February 21, 2009

Every state has an attorney general, and a consumer affairs department is usually under the A.G. They'll be in the paper version of the phone book, and on the state's website. They can be very helpful.

2nding Consumerist, but they're more effective with national companies than small, local businesses.
posted by theora55 at 8:04 PM on February 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments.. I'm dealing with a small local store in California... and I've already filed a small claims suit. I think my only option is to get a local TV station involved to shame them into paying.... :(
posted by mhh5 at 10:52 PM on February 22, 2009

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