Manufactured Spending

This is Why we Can’t Have Nice Things

After a nearly 2-month hiatus, I went to my local Walmart on Saturday and was reminded of the importance of practicing good manufactured spending etiquette. I don’t always do it right – but I try to follow the rules. If they want me to fill out paperwork, I do it. If there’s a daily limit on buying money orders, I don’t try to circumvent it. I’m in this for the long haul, so I don’t want to run afoul all the different authority figures I have to deal with in order to continue churning gift cards. We’re all polluting the river to some degree, but some of us are casual litterers and others are BP – they recklessly unload barrels of oil into pristine waters, ruining it for everyone.

When I was standing in line to buy money orders, the cashier was helping someone. She made a few remarks to me about “a new process” because “this guy ruined it for everyone.” That caught my attention. When I made it to the front of the line, she explained that a long-term MS’er had effectively been banned after he began showing up twice a day to buy money orders. He would walk in every morning and then again in the evening, following a shift change. Every time, he bought $10,000 worth of money orders. He also filled out the required paperwork each time…with incorrect information.

Needless to say, that was reckless in more ways than one. For starters, the information provided on the form is entered into a computer. Filling it out twice is a surefire way to get on Asset Protection’s radar. Providing invalid information? That can get you into more serious trouble than getting banned from a store.

The cashier had worked both shifts and remembered the guy in question had been there in the morning. She told him he could only buy $10,000 worth of money orders per day and his response was, “I thought it was $10,000 per visit”. This prompted her to review his paperwork and it turns out he had entered an invalid social security number on all his forms. That’s dangerous territory because Walmart is legally required to report all money order purchases over $3,000. She reported him and he’s been banned from the store. But going forward, this Walmart location will require those who purchase $3,000 worth of money orders to present their social security cards.

Most people don’t carry their social security cards around on a daily basis, so I imagine this is going to make some people uncomfortable. Everyone at this store knows me and I’ve been buying money orders there for years. Because they trust me, I’m exempt from presenting my social security card. Or maybe the staff has my SSN memorized from seeing it so many times. Regardless, I want to highlight this as an example of how one person’s irresponsible behavior can make things more difficult for people who follow the rules. Moral of the story: Follow the rules and don’t lie on your paperwork. The long-term consequences are not worth it.

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  1. Consider yourself lucky! No money orders at all on vgc at my three local Walmarts!

    • Yep, I just entered into the fray on Saturday and did my very first MO purchase for $450 and was lucky and allowed to buy it with my VGC. Then I went in on Sunday for another under $500 MO and they said that they cannot accept VGC for MOs anymore. No problem, I went to another WM 10 miles away and sadly was told the same thing there as well. Ugh, so now I have to spend down the remaining $1500 worth of VGCs. Not a problem, but glad I don’t have $10K worth. Thanks a lot that sketchy MS’er who raised red flags. Grr.

      • Jerry Mandel

        Prepay utilities, cable, cell, and more. You get it back from no monthly payments for a number of months.

        • Thanks for the spend down suggestions @Jerry. I actually went back to Walmart a few days later and tried to get another MO for $490-ish and it worked just fine. I’m now moving at a snails pace to liquidate my VGCs, but better slow than not at all. =)

  2. Agree this guy shouldn’t have done what he did but I do have a problem with stores taking our SSN and writing it down in an unsecured looseleaf binder. Anyone steals that binder and it’s a treasure trove for identity theft. I don’t know if Walmart does this but a supermarket definitely does.

    • I get it – and I’m not comfortable with it at most stores. At mine, they black out the forms after entering the info into a computer. But I think there’s risk involved and if you want to do large amounts of MS you either accept that risk and provide your info or you don’t do it at all.

  3. I had a bunch to get rid of one day and out came the book to record my transactions, along with SS #. They only asked for my DL. I have since resigned myself to doing only $2K per day. If I have a bunch more then I drive about 45 minutes to where there are a bunch of WM’s. The folks at my local WM know me. They see me buying groceries, and are always very nice to me, and me likewise. I can do about $4K per day at my local little bank without funds being held. That is about my limit without adding another bank. The real problem for me is that GCM and GC limit the amount I can purchase. I love the GCM because the cards come already validated and come requiring signature. I have 2 accounts with them, but only 1 account works.

    • if GCM cards come already validated and come requiring signature, doesn’t that make them credit-based instead of Debit Cards requiring PINs?

  4. You were lucky that they just banned the guy instead of no allowing MOs with GCs anymore or, only allowing a max of $1,000 MO per day, which is the case in my area because of some a-holes who abused the system.

  5. Cashier at my WM felt so bad that I couldn’t get a small MO with my GCs because one guy just recently ruined it for everyone. She told me to try another WM, and hopefully they could help me. I hate greedy people.

  6. My WM wants to protect my info so they have me use my passport # instead of soc#. I feel much better about that due to them leaving that book out on the counter.

  7. I got rejected twice by 2 of my local Walmart stores when I tried to use a super generic looking VGC (purchased from a grocery store) to buy a $450 MO. Do you guys think I would have more success if I ordered a VISA debit card that has my name and pretty artwork on it?

  8. I must be one of the lucky ones. For transactions $3K or more, the register prompts for last 4 of my social. This is after cashier checks my DL which I don’t mind. I feel more secure with entering just the last 4 instead of the full 9 digits. At my go to WM, I do b/p for less than $2K, another $2K MO and two loads of $1K each to reloadable prepaids with only the first two transactions done at MC and the last two done at regular registers.

    • @Bar – how can you do $3k or more with 4 debit swipes? I never heard of the prompt popping up unless you buy $3k or more in a single transaction…is this something particular to the wm you go to?

      • I use a chipped debit card for one swipe to fulfill offers on rewards DC from my CU. For other B/P I do up to $2K max with 4 swipes, including the $1 fee. I don’t do back to back B/P to avoid issues of freezing the register but I buy $2K MO and it doesn’t freeze the system. Then I go to the garden center or jewelry to load my prepaid card(s) so I don’t inconvinience anyone since those registers are rarely busy.

    • I feel like one of my local WM’s used to do it that way a long time ago. I hope they do more of that in the future – having people enter that info directly instead of putting it on a form.

  9. @Ariana – isn’t the new max $20k/day based on the updated WM MO guidelines and not $10k? Not sure where you are located but next time you go to the store ask the Money Center rep to read the MSR. I have been doing the same for a few weeks now, $10k in the morning and $10k after work and have not had any problems. I understand the point of providing false info but the stores in my area have resolved this by asking to see original DL and SS card….

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