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Betzy Centeno, the lead sales store checker at the Rhein-Main Air Base commissary, learns how to properly stamp checks for the new returned check process beginning this month.
Betzy Centeno, the lead sales store checker at the Rhein-Main Air Base commissary, learns how to properly stamp checks for the new returned check process beginning this month. (Jessica Iñigo / S&S)

DARMSTADT, Germany — Shoppers who bounce checks at the commissary could soon see money disappear from their bank accounts on payday.

By the end of February, the Defense Commissary Agency plans to begin using a new process to collect money owed on customers’ returned checks.

Commissaries in Europe receive 550 to 600 returned checks a month, according to Gerri Young, a DECA spokeswoman. Currently, the commissary system has to wait as long as two months to recover funds from a bounced check, as officials make two attempts to collect the money through the individual’s bank.

Under the new system, however, the commissary will send the check to the bank once. If that fails, the money owed will be automatically deducted from the customer’s bank account on military paydays through a collection agency called Solutran, according to Young.

If still no money is available in the account on payday, then the request for money will be sent to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to get money owed from the servicemember through the chain of command, according to Betzy Centeno, lead sales store checker at the Rhein-Main Air Base commissary.

Though a date has not been set, DECA-Europe will be the first region to switch entirely to the new process. Young said she expects the final approval to come before the end of the month.

Five commissaries in the States have been test locations and more will soon be added, according to a DECA news release, eventually bringing the entire commissary system under the process.

Young said that of the roughly 950,000 customer transactions per month, less than 1 percent are done by customers who write bad checks.

For those customers who have payment problems, commissaries have three customer service liaisons available in Germany to assist during normal business hours. They are Zahra Fraga at 0631-3523-312, Shaina Williams at 0631-3523-310, and Clifford Middleton at 0631-3523-307.

Additionally, in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy, customers can call toll-free at 00800-6541-2398, without a country prefix, for more information.

A new brochure titled “What happens if my personal check bounces at the commissary?” also answers customer questions.

This brochure will be available at all stores as needed or may be requested by e-mailing: linda.matthews@deca.mil.

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