Paper Checks, A Modern Fable


I walked into the small deli just after the lunch rush. I was hoping to hit up the owner with my pitch during the afternoon lull which you could set your watch to. As luck would have it, shortly after being seated, he strolled by with a dishpan heading to the kitchen. I stopped him briefly in his passing and asked if I could have a few minutes of his time. With his obvious “can’t you see we are busy” look on his face, I did a hard sell and said, “I think I can help you make more money”.

I am not sure if it was genuine interest or just the desire to sit for a few minutes, but the old man screeched the chair back across the tile floor and fell into a heap on its uneven legs. I launched into my spiel on a digital point-of-sale (POS) for his place that would eliminate their use of writing kitchen orders on paper checks. I covered everything from cost savings, accuracy, inventory management, promotions, upselling contests for wait staff, detailed food cost analysis, and tons of other features that a POS system provides. All of which I was certain he had some knowledge of as all the other places in the neighborhood had one. Even his uncle, three blocks over had one at his pizza place. I had assumed that the only thing holding him back may have been the cost. But this was his lucky day.

With small business money readily available through government support funds during the pandemic, our huge discounts to have his business, and free installation and training, it would be virtually cost free to him. This was a win-win-win. He gets a free POS and the cost savings that go with it, I get my usual commission check, and my boss gets to tally up another sale for his territory.

He listened intently through my whole speech. Only, occasionally, turning to look at the door when the old brass bell above it chimed a customer’s entry or exit. I tried to wait patiently for his emphatic yes. He looked at me somewhat sheepishly and said, “Do you know why I use paper checks and always have? I only report half of my sales as income to the IRS. When you can save me that kind of money with your contraption, I encourage you to stop me and let me know. But I do appreciate the break.” He rose, grabbed the dishpan, and deftly slid the chair back in its place with one foot, then continued towards the kitchen.

I learned, that if you are looking to facilitate changing the way someone does something, it is best to fully understand why they do it the way they do. Something being better is a narrowly directional view.


24 Responses to “Paper Checks, A Modern Fable”
  1. I did not see that coming! What a great story!

  2. beth says:

    what a great lesson! the moment when the teacher becomes the student. I always there was something charming about paper checks and now I find them even more charming.

    • Brad Osborne says:

      I find them beautifully quaint too Beth. It makes me feel like I am buying something from a person not a business. Enjoy your Sunday and thank you!

      • beth says:

        yes, I agree. we have a local gas station that still pumps our gas, and gives us those kind of receipts and is unflinchingly honest when fixing our cars. they’ll often say, just go to the auto parts store and buy that wingding or whatever for 5$ and we’ll put it in for you.

      • Brad Osborne says:

        I want one of those places too…

      • beth says:

        and of course run by someone affectionately known as ‘old man malleck,’ the best

  3. Francisco Bravo Cabrera says:

    A most valuable lesson learned! Loved it!

  4. Jim Borden says:

    on the one hand, you have to admire his honesty in telling you his reason for using paper checks, but then on the other hand, you have to question his honesty when it comes to his taxes…

    fun story to read…

  5. petespringerauthor says:

    I enjoyed that, Brad. I can’t help but think of certain aspects of technology that were designed to improve our lives and make things easier but have further muddied the waters.

  6. Wonderful fable, wonderfully told.

  7. kristianw84 says:

    Such a lovely, lesson, my friend!

  8. jonicaggiano says:

    Very cleaver Brad. Great story with a very useful and wise lesson. Well written as always. I could see the man patiently sitting while sweat ran down his brow and the shock on the young man’s face when he told him why he used paper.
    Big hugs and a lovely blue silk cloth covering a dozen gardenias, coming you way as well. Love ❤️ Jonikins

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