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14 FOOT FEB10 misfit:Footwear_Jan10_p10 02/02/2010 12:24 Page 14
MISFIT
Misfit
Cheques
S
o cheques are going to be demolished. The panjandrums of Of course cheques bounce from time to time and have a tendency
the banking industry have met in solemn conclave and decreed to get stuck in the post, but getting a cheque from a customer
that as the usage of cheques is diminishing year on year, they usually tells most of us that the deal is complete. There is simply
are going to be phased out. something about getting a cheque more satisfying than the money
I have long marvelled at our bankers. From the bank manager we just appearing in your account, especially internationally.
started with who could never quite understand the nature of our In theory when I ask my bank to pay someone in Italy the money is
business to the anonymous jobsworths we have today there has there ten seconds later, but in reality I get a phone call a week later
never been a meeting of minds. asking what has happened it. It turns out that the payment is indeed
My bank recently notified me, without me asking, that I was in Italy, but in a bank there which for one reason or another is sitting
entitled to an overdraft of so many pounds and 57 pence. Fifty-seven on it.
pence? How did they work that one out? Our Italian suppliers know us as prompt payers, a reputation I do
So the bankers have decided to abolish our old friend the cheque. I not intend the bankers to spoil. We now have a euro account with an
hope they know what they are doing, and we have to admit they do Italian bank in London, who transfer our payments to their office in
have form as far as knowing what they are doing is concerned. Italy. We put a cheque on that bank in the post and e-mail the factory
We shall miss cheques. I know that these days we don’t get as to tell them their money is on the way. Somehow the arrival of that
many as we used to, but I have a soft spot for them. Many years ago, bit of coloured paper with the name of an Italian bank on it gives our
when customers wrote their address on the back of the cheque so Italian friends confidence, which the eventual appearance of our
they could be contacted in case there was a problem, we had the idea payment on their bank statements does not.
of asking if we could store this information. This
became the start of the database, which I some
times think, runs our business today more than I do.
Now when we ask if they want to receive e-mails
I do wonder if our banker friends are fully in touch with
from us we have to get them to sign a disclaimer. All
grist for the lawyers’ mills and part of the so-called
reality, or even the basics of their trade. A cheque is not
paperless office.
I know it is quite miraculous that our stock control,
something magical or hi-tech, nor is it a modern invention.
profit and loss account, and address list are all
updated instantly, but what happens when the It has been around for centuries – they even found them
power goes down? This happened to a friend of
mine who runs a bookshop. When his electrics failed
on clay tablets in ancient Babylon
he thought he had no alternative but to close his
shop, until I gave him a shoebox and told him it was
for putting the takings in. (They call this thinking inside the box).He The people who run the banks argue that cheques are used less
then protested his customers could not browse in the dark, so I told and less, and they are expensive to handle. They use the same
him to go and buy some torches, and to keep a record of what he had argument about cash, by the way. They seem to be dreaming of a
sold on a piece of paper which he could transcribe onto his system happy land where every transaction, down to buying a newspaper or
when he got his power back. Much to his surprise his takings went up, a bar of chocolate, would be done electronically, saving them the
which I could have forecast, because exactly the same happened to bother of dealing with all those pieces of paper. Computers would do
us during the three day week when we sold shoes by torch and everything, so they would not have the agony of employing staff and
candlelight. It defied logic, but there it is. having all those expensive buildings for those annoying customers to
As I said, I do wonder if our banker friends are fully in touch with come and queue up in. All they would have to do is collect their
reality, or even the basics of their trade. A cheque is not something salary and bonuses.
magical or hi-tech, nor is it a modern invention. It has been around This is the old argument that if we got rid of the customers our
for centuries – they even found them on clay tablets in ancient business would run like clockwork but we don’t have too much
Babylon. It is simply an I.O.U, with the bank seeing fair play. It is trouble in seeing the fallacy of that. We deal in solid things like shoes
actually the same as those pieces of paper with the Bank of which you can put on a computer screen, but not if you want to wear
England’s promise to pay the bearer £10, only you promise, not the them. It is all very well bankers doing everything in hyperspace but
bank. The bank’s I.O.U. is actually worth less than yours because is a what happens if the customers stop trusting the words on their
lie. If you go to the Bank of England demanding they pay you £10 screens?
they will just give you another £10 note. It is worth remembering that I just have. I tried to get into my personal bank account on my
up to 1929 they would have given you ten shiny solid gold sovereigns. computer and it has come back and told me I don’t know my own
Proper money. name.
14

FOOTWEAR TODAY

FEBRUARY 2010 www.footweartoday.co.uk
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