TJ Maxx — declined checks

S Review updated:

Hello, I am one of the customers whose card number was stolen or whatever. My credit card company replaced the card and I suffered no ill effects.

However, twice now, in State College, PA and Williamsport, PA, I have had good checks declined by your system. I nearly always used a credit card before, but I switched to checks because of the card snafu. I buy a couple thousand dollars worth of merchandise from your company yearly (in fact, just a couple months ago I bought over 150.00 dollars worth of things from the store in Morgantown, WV, paid by check, and nothing terrible happened).

Now, I know you have a new system, but both times it was personally humiliating and without precedent or purpose. There I am, a fifty-one year old tenured college professor, who paid back all my loans for the Ph.D, and also own a thriving jewelry and antique store. I always had my ID, never spit on the floor, or otherwise showed myself to be a risk. But I go to a store, gather up 128 and 178 dollars worth of merchandise (respectively), am asked for my driver's license, the poor helpful clerk makes a phone call, and both times I am declined by your system.

Both times I asked to speak to the managers, who, while apologetic, explain that there is nothing they can do (ah, corporate America), offer to hold the merchandise (what? so I can slink in later with cash to prove I have the money?), and generally I am made to feel like a potential thief.
I called the number myself, where I finally talked to a person, who said their computer says it is a risky purchase (!!!!)! My check numbers are somewhere in the 900's, I have mortgages on a home and a commercial property, and am a thoroughly upstanding literature professor who does not seem to fit into any of the risky categories (I don't spend 1500 dollars in checks in a few days, which manager # 2 thought might make that computer suspicious).

Here's the thing. I know you don't need me. But, by God, I want to know what is going on. First my credit card is at risk, simply because I used it at your stores. Then when I try to make purchases with a check, I am treated like a pariah. Frankly, I have had it. You have got to explain and make it right with me. I don't care if you don't have the information to explain--you should get it. When I spoke to customer service after the first check decline, the man simply parroted what the guy at Certegy said ("we don't have anymore information; all we know is that it is a risky purchase").

I also know you customer service folks work hard and don't need me either, but I burst into tears in both stores. It actually hurt my feelings that a company I have been so loyal to would treat me so badly. That's how "risky" I am.

There is a long term employee in the State College store who I have chatted with for several years about his family, his workday, and what he plans for holidays. He is a bit shy but a kindly man; since he did not wait on me the day my check was declined, I had to see him at the next checkout as I was sent on my way, looking embarrassed and sad that I would turn out to be a thief.

Dr. Sara Postlethwaite
Lock Haven University
Lock Haven, PA


  • La
    Lara Why Sep 04, 2007

    Okay, you are a doctor--we get it. As if pHDs do not ever bounce checks. Whatever. All that aside, let me remind you that a store is not under any obligation to accept checks--they are not legal tender. TJ Maxx is probably doing this to protect you. Your personal information may have been compromised by their system and now their new system I am guessing is trying to prevent subsequent fraudulent transactions. You mentioned this happened twice--why on earth didn't you just pay with cash after the first incident? Especially after you "burst into tears?" Put things into perspective: aren't you even grateful that you have "suffered no ill effects" after possibly having your information stolen? I cannot believe someone can be such a drama queen, to complain about something like this. I have solutions for you! 1.) Don't shop at TJ Maxx. 2.) Pay with cash. It is so simple. No more holding up the line, no more crying fits in public. I am having a hard time figuring out why you even need to shop at TJ Maxx, you have a pHD so obviously you can afford to pay full retail right? Also: I wouldn't be so quick to claim that you have "suffered no ill effects." It is suspicious that your checks are all of a sudden being declined. I would investigate with the three credit bureaus.

    I must admit, I don't know how anyone can manage to spend as much money as you do at TJ Maxx. I've been to one a couple of times and I can find nothing worth buying--99.9% crap. I think I might have bought a pair of socks once.

    Another thought: TJ Maxx is a large company, and if you aren't spending your "couple of thousands of dollars" at their stores they are not going to be hurting. I can spend that much buying 2 handbags at one time. That kind of loss is not going to hurt them. Just get over it.

    Not A pHD, Just A BS

    -1 Votes
  • Ao
    aokil Nov 28, 2018

    @Lara Why Lara, I just had the same thing happen to me that happened to Sara. Obviously, you have a little resentment against her. Just for your information, any store that uses Certegy will now decline my checks. I have (probably now "had") a credit score of 830, never wrote a bad check and worked very hard to have excellent credit. I'm 72 years old and I did nothing to deserve this and yet, will suffer the consequence of a company that profiles data to decide their actions without knowing anything about me.

    2 Votes
  • De
    Dean Dec 08, 2007

    This guy is making his feeling hurt, it don't matter if he is a phd or what ever, he is a customer like you and I and don't like to be screwed.

    On the other hand its idiots like you that enjoy seeing people get screwed, "I could spend that on 2 handbags" what a ###ed comment that was.

    You make me sick, I would go hang out on eBay if I was you, with the rest of the worlds ###.

    3 Votes
  • De
    Dean Dec 08, 2007

    Hurt = Heard!

    0 Votes
  • La
    Lara Why Mar 26, 2008

    Ok Dean the Brainiac, if you bothered to read the OP, you would have realized that it was written by a woman, not a "guy, " or a "he." Unless you are seriously calling women "guys"...but judging from the grammar and usage in your post I would not be surprised. I suggest you go get a GED, then come back and post something coherent ("..hang out on Ebay..?" What the heck are you talking about?). So tell me how was the good Dr Postlethwaite "screwed"? I repeat: checks are NOT legal tender, retailers do NOT have to accept them. Yes, her feelings were hurt, but how does that translate into TJ Maxx being wrong and a terrible evil institution in this matter? She would have had no problems whatsoever had she just used cash. I guess she was too busy being mortified to figure that one out. Dean, I agree with you on one thing though, it "don't" (LOL) matter whether she is a PhD or not, and THAT WAS MY POINT. Nowhere in my previous post did I say she deserved unjust treatment because she had a PhD. You misunderstood almost everything I said. It was was the OP herself who emphasized that she is PhD, implying that somehow her checks should be trusted more than people sans PhDs. I stated that the contrary was true. You directing your bitterness at the wrong person, so therefore you Dean, are the idiot/###/###. You can't even read something and comprehend it correctly. How unfortunate for you.

    0 Votes
  • Ju
    justin Jul 02, 2008

    Lol - Owned

    1 Votes
  • Ir
    iris Jul 25, 2008

    Laura... you sound judgemental and childish... If only we could all be as smart as you and make decisions of your caliber. Wow. Because I don't want to be judgemental, I'm going to assume that I am the one taking you're comments out of context, and hope that you are actually a reasonable person. In peace and solidarity- have a good day!

    0 Votes
  • Ja
    jay Aug 08, 2008

    there is nothing tjmaxx can do when a check is declined, we cant just make it work, those are issues with certegy and your bank, if certegy says no then thats where it stops

    1 Votes
  • Ao
    aokil Nov 29, 2018

    @jay Actually, according to Certegy, it is the store manager that makes the final decision. Certegy makes the recommendation according to their specific profiling data. So, if you move, open a new account, have a low check start number this may be enough to flag the check. The store nor Certegy will not tell you why.

    -1 Votes
  • Sa
    Sara Postlethwaite Sep 13, 2008

    Goodness. Now I know why I don't generally blog. The terms people use to describe people they don't know simply amaze me. While I disagree with Laura, I would not be so unkind as to suggest she is ###. By the way, the term "###" is doubly unkind since mental ###ation refers to people in our society who have some limitations in mental capacity--I refer interested people to the website of the THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION ON INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES (AAIDD).

    An update is in order. I got a very sincere apology from T J Maxx, a 30.00 gift card, and the assurance my checks would not be refused again.

    As consumers, we should have the power to protest unfair treatment. Note that my original letter did not attack the stores personally, but demanded to know why my check should be singled out for refusal by the new system (and also that I used checks because my credit card info was stolen previously by thieves who infiltrated their credit card info).

    Like many Americans, I don't carry much cash. I still believe that checks are good currency if you don't have a record of bouncing, and have a 500.00 check coverage by my bank even if I did. I don't use credit cards, which I wouldn't use at TJ Maxx anyhow.

    One of the hazards of the big box stores is that we can be reduced to a number in a system when we are just people who pay their bills. Part of my emotional distress, which I believe is valid, is that I went to school at Penn State, scene of the most distressing incident, for about 17 years and during that time became part of the community, with several long term retail positions in local stores. I also saw how local stores lost business, and I mean a lot of business, when the chains came to town. As a retail employee, I witnessed the cash/check/credit card dilemnia first hand. I worked my way through school. I have many personal and professional ties in the community. Therefore, declining my checks felt personal. As I noted, the shy man who I chat with at the counter is part of my community and it was very hurtful to imagine his reaction. Even if others don't, I still value those connections. In a rapidly growing place like Penn State, those connections mean a lot to a small town woman.

    Professor positions are very hard to find, literature does not pay as well as some people seem to think, and like everyone else these days, my gas and heating bills limit my spending.

    As for why I did not take cash the second time, I thought the first time was an aberration. Since I knew I had much more in the account than I was purchasing, I did not think twice about writing a check. Why should I kow-tow to some conglomerate? Frankly, they should be happy to kow-tow to me (not for the pittance I spend in their stores, but because I represent their average customer (I learned this as a retail grunt).

    0 Votes
  • La
    Laura Sep 18, 2008

    Doc Postlethwaite,

    You are right, it was wrong of me to assume just because you have a phd you make decent money. I only have a BS, and went to professional school (1 year internship) for national licensing for what I do and I now make six figures, and I have time for al ife. I have friends who went the masters and phd route who are now toiling in thankless, boring research jobs barely making $60k... and they have no lives. Thank god I decided not to go for the phd. Besides, we all know phd really means: "piled higher (and) deeper." MD, MBA, pharmD...that is the way to go. But a $30 TJ Maxx gift card--that was well worth the tears and heartache!!


    At least I am articulate enough to have an actual opinion. If you want to call that judgemental, then fine, so be it. I don't want to be the person who just sits there and reads other people's opinions and churns out some weak, lame comment. Come back and post when you have something worthwhile to say. By the way, the word I think you meant to use in one of your sentences is "your, " not "you're." Please talk with Doc Postlethwaite, she sounds very intelligent and could probably help you with your usage problems.

    0 Votes
  • La
    Laura Reed Oct 16, 2008

    As a long time retail employee it never fails to amaze me that it is the store causing stress and embarrassment when the customers check or credit card is declined, like the clerk is the one making the decission. My favorite is that they expect a manager to force it through for them. Checks, as someone pointed out, are not legal tender, and the riskiest form of payment for an establishment to accept, and there is no obligation to do so.

    1 Votes
  • Ga
    Gator Apr 12, 2009

    First, I have to respond to Laura Reed's comment; Laura, a check is legal tender, if it were not a legal tender it would not be accepted as such. Second, if you are using checks as your choice of tender please be aware writing a check is a privelege and not a RIGHT. Any person or company has a right to refuse a check for any reason, especially if a third party who guarantees your check is "good" tells them it is not good. Third, when your check is declined by a retailer it does not indicate you have a check returned with that particular retailer, it means you have a check returned with a retailer within the network of the certifying company or have outstanding checks (uncleared checks) that could possibly cause your account to be overdrawn. If you are writing checks pending a future deposit, it is called "Kiting" and it is considered bank fraud, a federal offense, even if you anticipate a deposit within the next twenty-four hours. Lastly, who still writes checks in a place of business???? Checks are the easiest ways for common criminals, including the businesses employees, to steal your bank account information. Get a debit/credit card; while debit cards may have their risks, they are less risky than a book of checks floating around and yes, I know there have been issues with identity theft due to credit card numbers being stolen from computer intrusions and such, but there are so many other ways to get your information and credit card companies do credit your account for fraudulent charges, but a bank will not automatically credit your account for stolen checks.

    Lastly, people need to stop being to so quick to blame everyone for their problems, embarassments and short-comings. Take responsibility for your actions or lack of action, admit you may have over-extended your credit limit, your bank account or whatever else you may have done to cause your check or credit card to be declined. I cannot believe how much I see adults become spoiled brats with the mentality of a five-year old kid in stores, on television reality shows and so on. People always want to save face by blaming someone else and do not even consider the consequences that someone may lose their job, a promotion, or some other repurcusions due to a customers distorted or plain dishonest complaint.

    0 Votes
  • Am
    amazome Jun 07, 2009

    Get a debit card instead, checks are obsolete and waste everyone's time.

    -1 Votes
  • De
    Denied1 Feb 18, 2013

    Old thread but a quite stupid TJ Maxx " policy".? They turn down checks for no good reason. In fact, I'm the same age bracket and geographic location ( Altoona, PA) as the poster...simply a few years later. 700 bucks or so in the account for an 85 dollar purchase, valid PA ID, no reason to deny. They give some horse crap bad check pattern blah blah blah. With current technology, the check transaction should be immediately confirmable. I think it's completely TJ policy and not the confirmation service they use.

    0 Votes
  • No
    Notahappycustomer1 Apr 17, 2018

    This same exact thing happened to me yesterday at TJ MAXX. I wasn’t given a Real reason as to why my check would not go through, even after calling certegy. All they could tell me was that it wasn’t accepted due to TJ Maxx’s new policy. I called the bank to make sure everything was okay. Everything was fine. My husband and I are both very hard workers and this is the type of treatment we get for it?! Very sad. We have saved and saved. What on earth type of program would anyone have that would deny somone who clearly has more than sufficient funds. I don’t get it. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that an addict can come in with stolen credit card and buy $500 worth of merchandise but my $80 check will not clear?! It wasn’t even about being embarrassed for me. I could have cared less about that. I felt wronged, I felt almost as if this were unfair treatment. As if I had been discriminated against for some unfair uneducated reason. This opens my minds up to other questions and poses a real concern for how these agencies will collect and share my information. Since I’ve been denied through one service, will that result in other denials? Before anyone responds with the absurd question of “why didn’t you pay cash or card?” I obviously didn’t have any other form or I would have used it. Any help with this would be appreciated. For the record after I left TJ Maxx, I went straight over to ROSS and ended up purchasing almost everything there that I had picked out at TJ MAXX only ROSS had better prices and that accepted my check so graciously💜.

    0 Votes

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