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 At least for me, paying by check is getting to be somewhat outdated.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.
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.