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No More Checks Accepted For That $2.88 Burger-And-Fries Bill

December 31, 1989

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ McDonald’s customers in Minnesota are losing a privilege dating from a kinder, gentler time that is unheard-of for fast-food customers in most states: paying for their burger and fries with a personal check.

Starting Monday, company-owned outlets of the fast-food chain throughout the state will stop accepting checks. But it’s not bad checks, it’s the high cost of living that’s to blame.

The decision was prompted by the mounting cost of check processing, said Steve Kopel, operations manager for McDonald’s regional office in Bloomington.

″We’re a high-volume, penny-profit business,″ he said. Processing can cost 6 to 10 cents, depending on where the bank is located, and while losses from bad checks are part of the problem, ″we really haven’t seen a great increase,″ he said.

Company officials said the idea of paying by check for a $3 Big Mac meal has been unheard-of in other states. Other national fast-food retailers said Minnesota is one of the few states where they will take checks.

Though company-owned McDonald’s are nixing checks, restaurants operated by independent licensees can set their own check policies, said Kopel. Some already have banned them, he said.

Consumer reaction to the policy will be closely monitored by company executives through January. ″We’re going to certainly apply some common sense to this,″ Kopel said.

Some of McDonald’s competition, such as the company-owned White Castle and Burger King restaurants, have long refused to accept checks, even in Minnesota. Company-owned Taco Bells in Minnesota recently quit taking checks.

Minnesota remains one of the few places in the country where other major fast food chains, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Arby’s, continue to accept them.

″The problem here is if you don’t accept checks, people will walk away,″ said Judy Cook, president of the Minnesota Retail Merchants Association. Minnesotans assume it’s their right to pay by check rather than cash, even for the smallest amount, she said.

By contrast, she said, ″people on the East and West coasts don’t write checks for under $10.″

″It may be that Minnesota is a more trusting community,″ Cook added.

But not everyone can be trusted. Some merchants complain that the number of worthless checks coming their way has increased over the past few years, she said.

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