"Plastic. It's easy for everyone," says Holly Secrest, the co owner of Sunshine Food Store. The store accepts debit cards, but says no to checks. It's a statewide trend reducing the workload for hot check administrator Dawn Johnson. She sits at her desk with a four-inch stack of bad checks. "This is just the active checks that I already have checks on, and then I have the stack of people who have had checks before." And on a file cabinet are more checks from first-time hot check writers.
Johnson still has plenty to do. She processed over 4300 checks, but there was a day when fines and fees paid by hot check writers offset office salaries and expenses. That's no longer the case. Nacogdoches County Attorney Jeff Davis calls it a good problem to have. "It's not put our office in a bind. However, we have had to go to more traditional funding through the commissioner's court as opposed to being able to rely on more solely on the hot check fund," said Davis.
Aggressive enforcement sends offenders before judges and sometimes even jail. Those steps aren't taken as often because of an equally get tough stance from merchants. Secrest said, "There are so many different ways that they can get cash or buy things in the store without personal checks. We just cannot absorb the loss anymore. It's too great."
Last year, more than $300,000 was reimbursed to Nacogdoches County merchants. Nevertheless, bank and collection fees for hot checks take a bite out of profits.