"I took the check to the bank, the looked at it and pretty much told me the account does not exist in their system," said Tina Donaldson.
Donaldson got the $349 check from an online company called Xperience Days to refund a helicopter tour gift certificate- because the Mount St. Helen's tour she paid for last December was no longer available.
"I sent them the gift card they sent me the check within a few days, actually," Donaldson explained.
But on multiple occasions when she tried to cash the check, Donaldson was told the check was not valid. Even when I accompanied Donaldson to her local branch to triple check the check- she couldn't cash it. The validity could not be confirmed. Meantime Xperience Days President, Michelle Geib insisted the check, which identified the account as Bank of America- was indisputably valid.
"The check is good," said Geib by phone Monday. "We've written nearly a million dollars on that account in the last calendar year."
Geib asked for the contact information to the manager at Donaldson's branch.
"Apparently after we went and talked to them, they got to work and contacted somebody," a relieved Donaldson said on Tuesday.
Turns out the check IS valid after all. Bank of America tells me the problem- had to do with Bank of America name on the check. Xperience Days used a Bank of America check, but the account is actually with Merrill Lynch- which is a subsidiary of Bank of America. When account numbers don't match- banks go into fraud prevention mode.
Bank of America Media Relations rep Colleen Haggerty addressed the issue by email in response to my inquiries:
"We apologize to Ms. Donaldson for the frustration and inconvenience this has caused. In our efforts to prevent fraud, the check raised red flags because it was from a Merrill Lynch account but was printed on a Bank of America check, so the account number on the check did not reflect a Bank of America account number. We have contacted the customer to apologize, explain what occurred and have resolved the matter for Ms. Donaldson."
On Donaldson's next trip the bank, the only paper she came out with was the tear off portion of her refund check, and the $349 in cash she's been trying to get for more than a week.
Xperience Days has not commented on the why the crucial Merrill Lynch information was missing from the check. Donaldson just hopes it doesn't happen to anyone else.