The Junk Mail Windfall

Windfall money begs us to take it and run. But I restrained myself. And gave the bank another two excruciatingly long weeks to do their job, catch up with their mistake, and bounce the cheque. But at the end of three hellish weeks, during which I hourly resisted the urge to take the money and run to Mexico, where it would be worth twice as much, I was told by my branch manager, “You’re safe to start spending the money, Mr Combs. A cheque cannot bounce after 10 days. You’re protected by the law.”

Now, it’s possible that any thinking man would have asked for a satchel and all the cash right then and there. Me, I must lack the gene for seizing the moment, because I didn’t touch the money. I drove myself straight to a law library to confirm for myself the 10-day rule. This triggered two discoveries. First, that my branch manager was wrong. There is no 10-day rule that protects you on a bounced cheque. It is a 24-hour rule! In the United States, when a bank receives notice that a cheque paid into your account has bounced, it has 24 hours to notify you and, if it fails to do this, you are safe to spend the money.

Patrick Combs received a non-negotiable junk mail check for $95,093.35, and as a joke, decided to go to an ATM machine and deposit the check into his account. The crazy thing is that it worked. The crazier thing is that Combs was willing to give the bank back their money if it sent him a letter accepting responsibility for its mistake, which it refused to do (okay, maybe this isn’t so crazy—banks never accept responsibility). Combs, the clever guy that he is, has now taken this story and created a successful one-man show which he is performing around the world. It’s called Man 1, Bank 0.



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