A bad bet
I got a call from the bank this morning. They told me that it is too late to stop payment on the check. We talked about how this situation occurred, and I explained that I was specifically told by a bank representative that I would be able to stop payment within a few days.
I am still trying to decide how angry I should be. On the one hand, I made a decision on the basis of help from the bank that caused an unauthorized payment of $116.16 to clear my checking account and that is now irreversible. A $20 fee ahead of time would have stopped it.
On the other hand, the money isn't clearly lost. It was applied to an outstanding account of Linda's. The reason the account is outstanding and in the hands of a collector is a long story, the short of which is Apria (medical equipment company) has totally bungled Linda's account. The bill is still in dispute with the insurance company, but Apria sold our account to a collector so I have to deal with that.
As I see it, this can turn out one of two ways. The insurance company will refuse to pay, and supreme efforts of the courts, and congress, and all honest folk will fail to prevail upon them. Then, the account is mine to settle, and my bargaining position (for a discount) is damaged because the collector already has more of my money than intended.
Or the insurance company will pay their portion. In that case, my account will become overpaid, and I will be in the awkward position of trying to collect from a collector.
How this was a bad bet:
Part of me thinks I should view it as a poker bet. The bet is $20 I could have paid up front to stop payment on the check when I first learned of the problem. If you make that bet, then you are betting that they check is not lost, and the stop payment at a later date will fail. In this case, I am out $20, the cost of the stop payment but I have save $116.16 of unauthorized charges.
It's really a bet on these pieces of information. What is the probability that the check was really lost? What is the probability that the bank representative is right about the stop payment? At the time, both seemed pretty likely.
Out of 7 situations like mine, if 6 times the check were really destroyed, it would pay on average to not stop payment and take your chances. If the advice of the bank were accurate, when the check wasn't destroyed, it could still be handled most of the time. Perhaps if the check were destroyed in only 2 or 3 of the 7 cases you would be better to take your chances.
When you bet in poker, you can't care whether this time you got the right or wrong card. You'll go insane asking questions like that. It's part of the game if you are wrong, and you are happy if you are right.
Unfortunately, it's not poker. It's not a game to me, and there was an aspect I didn't think of before: If you care that dishonest people got the better of you, you should spend the money up front and stop the check. It's worth $20 to see dishonest people thwarted.