Friday, November 25, 2005

On Gel Pens, Myths

In reply to a discussion on gel pens (originally pirates), I realized that I probably have enough stuff to say on the topic to write an entire blog, so here it is.

Question: Are gel pens really safer for writing checks?

My Answer by Asking More Questions: Safer than what? Than paying over the internet? Paying in cash? Why are we writing checks?

First off: In what way is gel ink safer than your average ball point pen? Well, you can check it out in a press release that discusses this very topic. But.... while you're at it, why don't we just say that writing checks is safer with the Uni-ball 207 gel pen? This is the one that Frank Abagnale is probably being paid to endorse, and it doesn't say that all gel pens are created equal. Well, apparently, these 207 gel pens prevent against check washing. I'm not exactly sure how much check washing goes on these days, but okay, so maybe it is safer, if you're paying by check.

Next topic: Why are you paying by check? At least for me, paying by check is getting to be somewhat outdated. In the world of debit cards and credit cards, automatic bill payment, online bill payment, why are people paying with checks? Okay... I guess I can understand it. There are some people who think that credit cards are evil. There are also some who believe that debit cards are unsafe. Similarly, with hackers and viruses, any computerized mechanism storing one's credit card/bank information isn't safe. Maybe so. But maybe carrying around my checkbook isn't safe. I confess that I occasionally use my checkbook, but in these cases, it's because I'm paying for a professional service in an office, such as going to the dentist. Sometimes I pay with checks for charitable causes, but I always know that the organization is valid prior to giving them money.

Someone who says it's not safer, but actually annoying: I recall reading somewhere that it actually isn't safer to use gel pens. Supposedly, a credit union had had a hard time reading the ink when it was scanned in. I couldn't remember where I had read that, but I'm being contradictory in this blog, so what I have to say is, what color of gel pen was this person using? Was it a dark gel pen or was it something like a pretty metallic pink or silver? I can understand why those wouldn't show up. In fact, it has been my experience that some brands of gel pens actually have a really hard time flowing correctly onto the paper. But, maybe that's the way I hold my pen when I'm trying to write. Maybe I don't write correctly, and the pens are made for people who write correctly.

My suggestions:
Don't pay by check if you can avoid it. But, you probably already have opinions regarding check payment, so whatever I say probably won't change that, nor should it, perhaps.

In the world of gel pens, my gel pen of choice is the Pilot G-2. I prefer a more fine tip, so go with the 0.7. I also prefer black ink. But... if we're trying to prevent check washing, why don't we all use permanent markers? My choice for permanent markers would be Sharpies. The come in a variety of colors and sizes. I believe that they even make small key chain-esque markers.

I also suggest doing what is probably more important than using gel pens: Don't leave your checks in positions in which they could be stolen and altered by individuals. I recognize that in some cases, this action can not be avoided, such as my paying the dentist bill or charitable organizations by check. You can't help if there is a dishonest person working at these establishments or if they leave your checks in locations that compromise the security of the checks.

Don't be annoying: And lastly, let's not annoy each other by creating chain e-mails purporting the virtues of gel pens, especially if it contains a line that indicates that if we really care about people, we would pass the e-mail on or something to that effect. ...but that is an entirely different topic.


tearese said...

HeY! My favorite is the Pilot G-2 as well. I definitely hold pens "wrong" and this is the only Gel Pen that will work for more than a few minutes when I use it. I enjoy the blue, though the black is nice. too.
Sharpies bleed through the paper too much.
My cats breath smells like cat food.

banana said...

Off the topic, I noticed that you have one of your thankful things as "I am not married". Following a Thanksgiving where I was the only married sibling to show up, I wonder if you have some type of complaint about our behavior. Was it as bad as those two students in the hall this morning that hadn't had a chance to make-out-between-classes for four straight days, so they had to make up for lost time before the bell rang? I hope not. I think that is disgusting.

I only use gel pens for journal writing and list making. Although I wonder if gel pens would work well for grading.

Cardine said...

Yes, I have noticed that the Pilot G-2 is one of the most fantastic pens around. I'm glad that you've discovered that, too.

Banana - Although I don't think that being married is a horrible thing (in fact, most people I know seem quite happy being married), I am still happy about my being single. That's gross about the students making out for all to see.

My cat's name is Mittens.

Rob said...

...and stop writing checks in the grocery store. Especially when there are 20 people trying to check out of 2 lines. For me, the Papermate widepoint works great. Maybe with some kind of squishy grip. You should try it some time. It's a rush.

Cash said...

Check washing still happens these days. We studied it the other day in my forensics class.

tearese said...

my mom writes checks because she thinks debit cards are dangerous, and credit cards are a bad idea.
I only agree with the second part.

warnser said...

It's unanimous the Pilot G-@ is by far the best. And no I don't know any stats about how safe it is, but that is my favourite disposable pen too.

Though I have been thinking that a good finetip sharpie might even be safer.

I'm not sure that there are really any safe ways to have or spend money these days. And if there are, someone is busy figuring out how to make them less safe. Still I like your edition of the Gel Pen Blog.

And yes some gel pens are really annoying, and hard to read.

but some bills (such as rent)
usually require a check.

And some towns (such as this)
sometimes don't let the old school (check writing) fade away.

So checks I think are still quite used.