Is it reasonable to tell creditors 'The check must have gotten lost in the mail'?

According to my most recent electric company bill, billing date October 18th, I didn’t pay last month’s balance. According to my checkbook ledger, however, I wrote the check on September 27th. Normally, I would have mailed the payment on the next business day, which was the 30th. A quick check of my account history online, however, shows that the check has still not cleared.

Ordinarily I’d assume I mailed the payment, and therefore it must have been lost in the mail. But over the past year I’ve made two late credit card payments, both due to absentmindedness: the first because I buried the bill under a stack of papers and forgot it existed; the second because I fully prepared the payment, but allowed the envelope to fall down between the passenger side door and seat in my car, causing me to forget to mail it until I happened upon it a month later.

So I guess this could be a case of the latter, though I have scoured apartment and car to no avail. I have proof that I wrote the check, but I can’t be 100% certain that I actually mailed it. Nonetheless, I’d feel like a pushover if I just kept quiet and mailed another check. Is the electric company going to believe me if I call them and say ‘I know I sent the payment; please cancel the late charges’?

The only person who could answer your question is the person at the electicity company who you call to ask your question. How could we know what their attitude would be.

Personally I doubt they’ll believe you, but what have you got to lose? You could hardly blame them for being a bit sceptical, but you won’t know unless you ask.

While they may be gracious enough to go by the postmark date if the payment arrives within a few days of that time, technically the late fee applies if the payment is not received by the “pay by” date. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether they’ll believe you, it’s a simple case of “it’s late, you owe the late fee.” Why it’s late is irrelevant.

If somehow the check gets to them and they cash it, they simply add the overpayment to your account, and apply it against the next charges incurred.

If your payment history with the electricity company is pretty good, they probably WILL give you the benefit of the doubt this time.

There are a couple of possibilities here. You didn’t mail the cheque. You did mail the cheque but it didn’t reach the electricity company in time for it to be credited against your account for the electricity bill. You mailed the cheque and it’s gone MIA.

If I was the accounts person at the electricity company, I’d be wondering why you’re only following this up now, when the account telling you payment hadn’t been received was issued almost two weeks ago, but if you’re payment history is good I’d probably let you off if the late payment fee is reasonably small and the outstanding amount is settled pronto. In my experience manual payments CAN take along time to be credited against an account, and at this point you’re justified in cancelling the original cheque whether you lost it, the post office did, or the electricity company did.

If you’re getting absentminded, it might be a good idea to look into scheduling automated payments or direct debits through your net banking facility.

It will depend on whether or not the clerk’s children and/or husband gave her a hard time before she left for work. Oh, and then there are her boss and fellow employee’s. Forget it and pay the penalty. :frowning:

“The check must have gotten lost in the mail.”

I need to remember to include this chapter in my autobiography.

I’ve done the write the check, stick the envelope in the attache and forget about it thing. If it didn’t clear your checking account, and the utility company shows it outstanding, pay 'em again, now.

Checks DO get lost in the mail. They also get slolen, washed and reused. I once droped all my cerdit card, eneryg, phone, etc bils in the mail box at the complex when I lived only to find out the next month not a one had been recieved. Calling the post office was a joke - they didnt care.

Any how - a big company is going to let you off the hook once, or twice, if you have a good payment history.

Even if the post office personnel were absolutely devastated by your news what could they do?

We once received a notice from our mortgage company that they hadn’t received a payment. We knew that we had mailed the check so it must have, yes, gotten lost in the mail. We called customer service and they saw that we had a good history of paying on time every month. So they just said mail in a new check now.

But you really need to jump on these late notices as soon as you get them. Sitting on them won’t do your case any good.

What I would do is mail a new check, return receipt requested (the little green card). Then, you have piece of mind that they got it when you get the little green card back.

I’ve done this for a few creditors, one of whom was playing games with my account. It would be claimed that my check never arrived, yet I knew I mailed it, and on time. So I started mailing money orders in RRR. (Less chance of gamesmanship; MOs can’t bounce.) Having the green card signed was a way of saying, “Now you can’t get away with it; I’ve got proof that you got it.” It worked. I still use the money-order-and RRR trick for difficult creditors.


Money orders can’t bounce, true enough – but getting proof that they were paid is difficult. I once had an eBay transaction in which the seller insisted on a money order… and then claimed he didn’t receive the payment. It cost me $14.95 to obtain a copy of the deposited and paid money order… this was a $160 transaction, so it was just under 10%. Faced with the evidence, he “realized” that he had made an error, and since he had “resold” the product, he refunded the money to me. I never got the $14.95 out of him, though.

Had this been a personal check, I would have had no problems at all showing it was paid, since I would have had the cancelled check image available to me.

  • Rick

“The check was mailed on time.”

“I have cocaine at my appartment.”

“Of course I will respect you in the morning.”

No, they won’t believe you. You might be telling the truth, but they won’t believe you. It’s a percentage chance thing, you know. They hear that same exact phrase two hundred times a month, and almost all the people who say it are lying. They really don’t care anyway.

The accounts clerk has a set of rules. It probably includes checking your account history, and giving you a pass if it is your first time to be late in a fairly long time. I know that when my roommate kept our electric bill on the dashboard of her car for a month, and I got the late notice from the Electric company, I phoned them because I was worried about them cutting off the power. The Accounts Department Lady said, “Sir, with your payment history, it is unlikely that we would cut off your power for a month or so, and only if you didn’t answer your phone when we called.” I paid the whole penalty amount, and they credited the penalty to my next month bill. (They had already rescinded the penalty on the basis of my phone call.)

Most businesses notice it when you pay promptly over time. They really like customers like that, and it gives them a reason to believe that you are that one in a hundred that is not lying when they say “I mailed the check on time!” But you are one in a hundred, or more like one in a couple of thousand. The post office doesn’t loose a lot of mail. They do lose some, though, and the electric company does, now and then too.


“People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge.” ~ Lao Tzu ~

Well, in the interest of keeping my checking account balanced, I think I should cancel the check. Can you notify a business that they should not attempt to deposit a specific check they might receive from you? This check is still out there in limbo, and if they eventually get it and attempt to deposit it, they’ll charge me a fee for sending them a ‘bad’ check.

Also, do banks charge for stop payment orders?

Banks charge for stop payment orders. Lowest fee I’ve seen recently was $8, highest I’ve seen was $25.

Bricker: The issue was that checks that were allegedly “lost” most likely saw the shredder. At least one was flat-out refused. The reason for the money order is it’s a lot harder to explain refusal of payment.

In addition to this, the little green card shows date received and a signature. This way, if I got a letter about a “missing” payment, I had legally acceptable proof that they got payment, and that it was their responsibility to find it.


Speaking as a creditor (telephone company), I can tell you for a fact that we don’t care. We especially don’t care when your check gets “lost” in the mail and it’s the only payment you ever made on your account and your telephone is scheduled to be disconnected tomorrow. It’s not our problem. We go by when your payment was received and not by when you mailed it. And calling us to tell us you mailed it? Means nothing.

Maybe if you were the first person ever who called us to claim your check was lost in the mail, we might believe you and take pity on you. Unfortunately for you, you’re approximately customer number 328,406 whose check was mysteriously lost. Sucks to be you.