Archive for Sunday, March 24, 1996

QUICK CASH OFFERS LAWRENCE FAST DOUGH

March 24, 1996

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Wallet empty? A new Lawrence business is providing quick cash -- for a price.

Del Tolbert has never had a bank account or owned a book of checks.

"Why (have an account)?" the 23-year-old Lawrence man asked. "I spend my money as fast as I get it. I've got bills to pay."

While he normally has no trouble paying his bills with money orders, Tolbert admits it's sometimes a little harder to cash his paycheck.

He ran into a little trouble Friday because his check was written for more than the store he usually patronizes would cash. So, he turned to Quik Cash, a check cashing business that opened earlier this month at 1401 W. Sixth. Although he's used a Kansas City Quik Cash before, it was his first visit to the Lawrence store.

It took Tolbert about five minutes to fill out a customer information card, hand over his check and walk away with his cash. The store kept 3 percent of his check as its fee.

"It is more than I would have to pay at Dillons," he said of the fee. "(But) it's not much. For people without a bank account who make more money than the stores can cash, it's a nice spot to have in Lawrence."

What it is

That's what Mary Lou Andersen, general operations manager for Q.C. Financial Services, likes to hear. The Kansas City, Kan.-based company owns 28 Quik Cash stores in Kansas, Missouri and Mississippi.

"The people who come in to cash checks are the 20 to 30 percent of the population who don't have checking accounts," she said. "We hope to have a bright, open, safe place where people can come with extended hours."

In addition to cashing checks, the store makes small "payday loans" of $50 or $100, accepts payments for Southwestern Bell, and sells money orders, phone cards, cigarettes and pagers.

Andersen said her company opened its Lawrence store primarily because of the city's location between Topeka and Kansas City -- two markets they already serve. She said the fact Southwestern Bell needed a collection agent in Lawrence also influenced the decision.

"It just looked like an area that could use our services," she said.

Those services do come at a price, however.

Check cashing fees range from 3 to 15 percent, depending on the type of check and whether the person has identification, Andersen said.

The payday loans, which are extended for no more than a month, cost $15 for a $100 loan and $12.50 for a $50 loan.

There is a 50 cent charge for accepting payment on a phone bill.

"We really do stress good customer service," Andersen said, explaining that past experience indicates people like the convenience the store provides.

"We have people who come in every week to cash their paychecks," she said. "It kind of becomes like the corner grocery store. The people come in and cash their paychecks. They get to know the tellers, and the tellers get to know them."

Watch those dollars

Karen Hiller, executive director of Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., in Topeka, sees businesses such as Quik Cash in a slightly different light. Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., also runs the Consumer Credit Counseling Services in Lawrence.

While she acknowledges Quik Cash is filling a need in the community by cashing checks that banks and grocery stores won't touch, the payday loan service sets off warning bells in her head.

"It's sort of the pawn shop mentality," she said. "You're short of money, we're willing to loan you money, to take the risk on you, but it's going to cost you.

"People get stuck and go to places like this. In many cases, they don't have their money under control. When they get stuck, it costs so much (and) they don't have any money anyway. It doesn't have to be that way."

Hiller suggests that before people turn to short-term, high-interest loans they take some time to analyze when their money comes in and when their bills are due.

"Once you know that, you can begin to work with that and get ahead of it," she said. "It's hard. Life's hard out there, especially for people with limited funds. It's remarkable what people can do with limited funds and still get every penny for themselves instead of giving it away."

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