From the Department of Fantasy Fulfillment…
Patrick Combs actually did something that most of us have only imagined doing: he deposited one of the phony, “not negotiable” checks included in the junkmail that swells our recycling… And the check cleared.
As he explains in the Financial Times,
It was a cheque, made out in my name, for $95,093.35 and it came in a junk-mail letter from a get-rich-quick company. It was worthless, meant only as a financial tease, a lip-licking come-on. “This is how much money you could soon be making.” What it was never meant for was deposit. But that’s exactly what made the thought of depositing it so irresistibly funny. What could possibly be funnier than depositing a perfectly ridiculous, obviously false, fake cheque? (Did I mention it had “non-negotiable” clearly written on it?) So, as a joke, I deposited the fake cheque into my bank’s ATM. I felt like a million bucks doing so. I’d never had so much fun at my bank. Come to think of it, I’d never had any fun at my bank until the moment I endorsed the back of this “cheque” with a smiley face and slipped the Monopoly-like money into the mouth of the hungry ATM. For the first time ever, I walked away from my bank laughing.
What I expected to happen next was a short phone call from my bank. Or a letter informing me of what I already knew, that the cheque I deposited was not real. Admittedly, I also hoped for a compliment on my refined sense of humour. A “Mr Combs, what you deposited was not real but very funny, especially considering your real bank account balance history” (an account always bouncing into overdraft).But the call or the letter never came and I forgot about my joke. Then, five days later, I returned to withdraw some cash from the ATM, and noticed a much higher than usual bank balance. $95,093.35 higher! The bank had credited my account with the fake, false, stupid cheque!…
As we reconsider those sweepstakes mailings, we might spare a carefully-regulated thought for Edmond “According to…” Hoyle; he died on this date in 1769. An expert on whist– all the rage in the 18th Century– Hoyle tutored members of high society on the game. He converted his notes into a books, which became a best seller, then moved on to other games (backgammon, piquet, chess, and quadrille). Hoyle never actually wrote an encyclopedic rule book. But as his name had become synonymous with canonical reference, “Hoyle’s Rules of Games” became a standard title (as “Webster’s” later did in the lexicographical sphere), and “according to Hoyle” passed into use as a testament to its subject’s adherence to rules or concordance with highest authority.