What to do if you were given a bad check?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What to do if you were given a bad check?

My mom owns a dry cleaning pick-up store and told me that she received a bounced check from her customer 5 months ago. We contacted her right after the check was returned due to having insufficient funds and she said she would stop by and make a full payment which is $43. After the first response, she never came by and I tried to contact her until August just a few phone calls, text, and one letter in mail, but I am assuming my phone number is blocked since the texts are not shown as read. Since the amount that she owes us is only $43, I just decided not to make more attempts to reach her because my mom didn’t want to make it more complicated than it is. However, the customer showed up at my dad’s pick up store last week with her clothes she doesn’t know that the 2 stores are under the same management. We are going to tell her we can’t receive a check for this item in order to avoid the same situation, however I was wondering if there is any to make her pay the amount that she owes to my mom’s store. I just don’t think it’s worth to file a small claim for $43 since it’s such a small amount but I am just really frustrated how she was unresponsive for almost 5 months and tried to do business at my dad’s store. I will be appreciated if you could share any thoughts or tips for this customer.

Asked on October 20, 2017 under Business Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You're right: it's not worth filing a small claims case for this. In theory, you could file a criminal complaint (i.e. go to the police), because intentionally or deliberately passing a bad check (and refusing to make good on the check is strong evidence this was intentional) is a crime, and sometimes those cases are settle or resolved if the defendant does make good the payment, but those can take hours of time--again, not worth it.
Your dad's store can, of course, refuse a check under these circumstances and insist on cash ora money order; indeed, if he has not yet taken the clothes in, he can tell her that he will not take her clothes unless she first pays in cash the debt owed to the other store and then pays all amounts due going forward in cash--if she does not, he should invite her to find a different cleaner.

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