I was a loyal Safeway customer for over 20 years, contributing many thousands of dollars in revenue to Safeway during that time. Recently I wrote a check for $38 worth of groceries in local Pacific Grove store, had posted a deposit in my checking account earlier that afternoon. Bank glitch,check did not get posted until following evening. Found out Safeway's check was returned to them, and went into the store to make payment. The manager refused payment, handed me a small hot pink slip with a toll-free number on it. Told me I had to call to 'correct the problem.'
I called, it was a COLLECTION AGENCY! I gave them the info they wanted to locate my "file." They told me that Safeway's policy is to present checks for payment twice. (I have a bank statement verifying it was only posted ONCE.) They told me after that the bad checkwriter is sent to collections.
I remained calm and asked how I could arrange payment. The agent told me I needed to WAIT UNTIL I WAS CONTACTED by the collection bureau they had dispatched my 'bad checkwriting' account to!
I waited several days and finally received an envelope from the local MONTEREY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE. Upon reading contents, it stated that Safeway stores had filed a collection complaint, that I was liable for fines or imprisonment or both, as 'bad checkwriting' was a FELONY.
Moreover, the notice stated that in order to respond, I must pay $258 to the County District Attorney's "Bad Check Writing Program" which is designed to REHABILITATE BAD CHECKWRITERS! It stated that in order to avoid prosecution, I must attend a full day class, at their specified dates and times. It further stated that I must be punctual and there were no other alternatives or I would be prosecuted for my 'crime'.
I contacted the DA's office and gave them a piece of my mind. They stated that bad checkwriting in the current economy had reached epidemic proportions and that they were stepping in with an implemented program to correct 'repeat' offenders.
I told them I had written a $38 check and had a bank electronic malfunction statement in hand proving my innocence. Did that qualify me as a repeat offender?
They stated I must attend class, pay the fee, and that this was one of the County's ways of assisting the private sector in reducing crime. Imagine that. By assisting PRIVATE ENTERPRISE IN the COLLECTIONS business by sending threatening letters (endearing me forever to my local county government, which is there to protect me, I believe) they are growing fat by illegally collecting ridiculously high 'mandatory' rehabilitation education fees!!!!! I say illegally, because they have no proof of the individuals' guilt or innocence prior to forcing them into paying these fees.
Back to my story.
With proof of innocence inhand, I paid the fee, sent it certified mail, and went to the class at appointed time. To my surprise, many well dressed folks were standing in line, among them physicians, dentists, professionals, attorneys, and general all around folks like me. The person at the desk near the doorway was apologizing and handing out 'certificates of completion' to all. Reason? The location time and date had been mixed up, and the door was locked, no one could access. When it was my turn, the lecturer of the class confessed that the County did indeed need revenue, and that in the lecturer's opinion, people consider the 'fees' low enough to pay, but not high enough to be considered worth pursuing legally.
Pitiful. Out of the Safeway frying pan into the Fires of local local Political Hell.
I went home with my useless certificate, worth $258 plus the loss of a half-day's work. Then I went straight to the kitchen, whipped out my very, very low serial number Safeway membership card, and cut it up into small, red and white confetti.
I have told my story to all who will listen. A COPY HAS BEEN SENT TO THE EMAIL ADDRESS FOR SAFEWAY'S BUSINESS.ETHICS@SAFEWAY.COM.
I have yet to hear from anyone, but I'm sure I won't. Meanwhile, Safeway has lost my income, and that of quite a few of my friends already. If I get enough time, I am going to picket the Safeway stores locally, however I do need to work, and as a single parent this is a bit difficult.
If anyone out there has had a similar experience, or if you have any way to get SAFEWAY'S attention, or if you know how to fix the local corruption bureaucracy at the Monterey County government offices, please DO ADVISE!
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