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North Iowa man exercises first amendment right Tuesday

This news story was published on September 18, 2012.
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A home made sign brought to Mason City on Tuesday by John Choate of rural Manly, Iowa.

by Matt Marquardt –

MASON CITY – John Choate wasn’t happy with how he was treated at U.S. Bank, so he decided to do something about it.

Choate has been telling everyone who will listen about his trouble at  U.S Bank.  Choate says that he took a check for $850 from a U.S. Bank customer into a U.S. Bank branch and the bank only wanted to give him $845 back.

“I  couldn’t believe it,” Choate explained Tuesday afternoon outside a downtown U.S. Bank location.

“This is supposed to be a bank, not some check-cashing service,” he said.  “It seems that this big ole bank is preying on those who can afford it the least. Well they have angered me to the point that I will be driving a mobile billboard around next week explaining what happened to me.”

“Isn’t the very basis of having a checking account that this one piece of paper called a check is as good as cash?” Choate asked. “It is some sort of ransom or extortion, I did not cave into there demand for payment, I deposited the check in my own account.”

John Choate, of rural Manly, Iowa, explains his sign blasting U.S. Bank for check-cashing fees.

To show his frustration, Choate brought a home made sign, which says “US BANK = RIP OFF $” from his home near Manly to Mason City on Tuesday afternoon and stood in front of the U.S. Bank branch on South Washington Avenue, waiving at people passing by.  Some honked, some stopped to chat, others seemed oblivious to Choate’s protest.

One older couple in a white van stopped and asked “what’s going on?”

“Oh, the bank is trying to overcharge people and tried to rip me off, so I’m just kinda telling everybody about it,” Choate told them.

“The bank’s been ripping off a lot of people,” a woman in the van said.

Choate also talked about the millions that U.S. Bancorp took in bailout money and asked why they needed more.

According to online figures, U.S. Bancorp took $6,599,000,000 in bailout dollars form the U.S. government and turned $334,220,416 in profit after paying the bailout dollars back.

“I will never, ever again accept a check from U.S. Bank,” Choate declared.

Choates will be at this same location Friday, when people are cashing their paychecks and he encourages people to “Google” US Bank and look under complaints. “There are tons of them,” he said.

A call was made to US Bank at 124 N. Washington. They said corporate was the only ones that give out press releases and their number is 1-800-USBanks. This number was called. After all the button pushing, trying to get someone on the line, it finally said, “To speak with someone just stay on the line.” The phone call was then ended on the other end.

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62 Responses to North Iowa man exercises first amendment right Tuesday

  1. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I think I like the credit union way of doing it. I got a check from my grandma to help with car repairs to the tune of five hundred dollars. They wouldn’t let me cashbit but put it in my account for three days tip it cleared. No problems and no fee.

  2. Watchdog Reply Report comment

    September 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Reading these comments tell me there are plenty of people out there who are willing to be sheep herded off the side of the cliff to die without saying a word. No respect for money!

    $5.00 is $5.00. It is ridiculous for a bank to expect $5.00 from someones and have not done a thing to earn it. The customer who has the checking account pays the bank for the check cashing service. The banks do not deserve to charge twice for the same service.

    I admire this fellow for speaking out about usury and financial injustice.

    • Bank regulations Reply Report comment

      September 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Guess I’d have to know what regulations a bank has to comply with to do transactions like this. The banks are being hit with so many regulations (due to govt). The labor involved in complying has to be paid for somehow.

  3. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 21, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Some people have no idea how the banking industry works. Banks must honor their own checks, it does not matter who is cashing it, customer or not. If you give me a check, your bank has to allow me to cash it, without fees. As a landlord I do this often if I decide to accept a check for deposit and first months rent, to ensure it does not bounce. If I deposit it at my bank, I may not know for two weeks if it bounces, and by then the new tenent is moved in.

  4. Jill Symonds Reply Report comment

    September 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    It cost more then $5 to make the sign I am sure! How can a man take off work and stand there with this sign and not get paid for it? All banks do this! Why would you not put it in your account unless you were not wanting someone to know you were depositing it!

    • Katie Reply Report comment

      September 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Jill, my thoughts exactly. I think it’s really strange that someone would go to a bank where he didn’t do business to cash a check unless he thought the check might not be any good. And if he was worried about that, $5 would be a small price to pay to make certain he got his money. However, if this was a reportable transaction that he was trying to avoid running through his own bank in any way, I hope the person who wrote the check remembers to send him a 1099 next January.

      • ConcernedCitizen Reply Report comment

        September 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm

        If you don’t have a bank you can most times go to the bank where the check writer banks and get it cashed for free or go to a check cashing place or Hy-Vee, etc. and they usually charge a percentage of the check as a check-cashing fee which can be fairly large just to cash the check.

        Why do this when you can simply take the check to the place where this person’s money is located and it can be verified that they have it in their bank. As well, if he needed the money right away, he wouldn’t be able to use the funds until up to three days later depending on the bank.

        Funny thing is, it’s actually faster to take the check to the issuer’s bank, get immediate cash and then take that cash across the street to your bank. Then, magically you have done their work for them and you don’t have to wait. As for me, for the last five years, I’ve done everything electronically, auto deposit, use ATM card everywhere I go, etc. It is a very, very rare occasion that I physically have cash.

      • anonymous Reply Report comment

        September 22, 2012 at 11:56 am

        Stick up for the bank and accuse him of being a crook. Now thats a true conservative!

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        September 24, 2012 at 7:51 am

        @Katie Why would Romney spend millions to make six figures a year this election? Weird huh?

    • Polio Loco Reply Report comment

      September 20, 2012 at 11:46 pm

      Farmers State Bank doesn’t.

  5. Jake Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    The Size of the Bank Bailout: $29 Trillion. I would say while he may not be a owner, the bail outs for these banks makes him a stakeholder.

  6. ConcernedCitizen Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I’ll reiterate what another commentor stated earlier, because many of you are still not getting it! The check writer banked at US Bank. The check casher did not bank at US Bank. This creates absolutely NO risk to the bank in wondering if the check writer has the funds available to cash the check!

    Check writer walks into the bank with $700 check in hand. He signs it. Hands it over to the bank teller. Provides proof of identity including photo ID, verify and compare signatures on the ID,two forms of ID, fingerprint, blood, DNA, or whatever other proof is necessary to be 100% sure this is the person the check was written to.

    K, now here’s where it gets really tricky so listen very closely. Bank teller looks up the account on the check, verifies the $700 is in the account, and cashes the check. This is actually a service in kind to the check writer. How many of you have realized how quickly a check can be withdrawn out of your account? The so called “float time” is not what it used to be. You can’t write a check the day before payday and trust that it won’t bounce because it’s all electronic and can be reversed just as quickly. The banks create their own float time when it’s in their favor.

    Hopefully this explains a little to those who didn’t understand it the first time. I am available to draw pictures for anyone who still does not understand. With intelligent citizens like this in the community it’s no wonder we have $40,000 worth of statues downtown while families are unemployed two blocks away.

    • Disagree Reply Report comment

      September 20, 2012 at 9:53 am

      They have two forms of ID, which could be the actual person’s SS card (provides no picture) and a drivers license (which could be false identification). They do not have blood work, a finger print database to go off of, etc. Therefore it justifies a hedge in case of fraud on the part of the check casher.

      I don’t agree that it should be that ridiculous to cash a check, but there are valid reasons for doing things that way. People are slowly beginning to do this kind of stuff even in small town Iowa. I think that you will see more and more banks going to these methods as we move forward- and it will be because they got burned or because they heard about another bank getting burned.

      • anonymous Reply Report comment

        September 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm

        Its because they are greedy. You think a thief is not going to cash the check because of the five dollar fee!

    • Hi J Reply Report comment

      September 20, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      It agree with 100 percent don’t these people know when he goes to the bank the check is drawn on it is either good or not good. The bank is not out anything either way. Now I know why my tax money is paying for the art all around town oh silly me the tax payers didn’t pay for them I forgot!!! I keep forgetting it wasn’t the tax payers money but I’d love to see who signed the check to the artist

  7. mike henry Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    thats my cousin way to go, you should have to listen to any people on this comment thing that are hating on you. they need to stop be jealous and get a life.

  8. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I agree with John!! If I get a check for 700.00 cash it at my bank and it is no good I am out the 700.00 until if or when I ever get the money from the guy. If I go to his or her bank and the money isn’t in the account I’m not stuck having to pay back the 700.00 Makes sense to me. I know why the older generation don’t speak well of banks.

  9. ConcernedCitizen Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 10:52 am

    This is so much like area businesses who are starting to charge for swiping an ATM or credit card at their place of business because their rates have gone up. Much like the risks the bank is taking on collecting funds, these businesses are “taking a risk” on accepting credit cards and ATM cards. However, what the unintelligent public does not realize is that regardless of the fee amount this is a TAX DEDUCTIBLE FEE! With the need for interest rates to be so low, the banks are making up for this loss of income by getting you coming and going. They will charge a monthly fee for the ATM use, fee for using other ATM’s to withdraw your money, NSF fees have gone up… basically anything they can charge you for, they will even though it is your money to do with how you please. It’s almost the same as Hy-Vee charging a fee because you are a regular customer of Fareway! Is it fair, no! Why do they do it? Because we keep allowing them to and continue to say, well all the other banks are doing it, so it must be right.

    • Katie Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Please show me the IRS code that says ATM or credit card fees the consumer pays are tax deductible. To my knowledge, the only ones that are tax deductible are the ones associated with paying your income tax by credit card.

      • ConcernedCitizen Reply Report comment

        September 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        @Katie: I should have clarified… the ATM fees that the local businesses pay for customers use are tax deductible by the business as a “cost of doing business”.

    • Katie Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Oh, perhaps you meant that the credit card fees are tax deductible to the businesses that have to pay them. Yes, they are, but they are a huge expense. The business I work for could hire another full-time employee for what it pays in credit card fees each month and it only has 8 full-time employees, if you average them out. I’ll bet it’s the same with most businesses. It hurts to see that money go out the door just to ensure one gets paid. And remember that tax deductible doesn’t mean you get it all back. You only save tax on it, and in the case of a small business, that means 46.85%

  10. Joseph Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Good job John!! It takes alot of time and effort to show the community that US Bank is in the business of pilfering. I know for a fact they ask for 2 forms of ID when a non-customer goes into THEIR BANK to cash a check written to them by one of THEIR CUSTOMERS. One quick check of THEIR CUSTOMERS’ account balance and THEY HAVE NO RISK OF LOSS. Does anyone know the definition of a check anymore? I would say anyone complaining about you standing up for yourself and others is clueless, or an employee, or relative of an employee. Most likely all of the above. Ill be swinging by with lunch for you, maybe even a bull-horn too. Protesting is hard work!

  11. MrsS Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

    US Bank has ripped people off for years & I admire this man for standing up & saying something about it. I have had a savings account there since I was a newborn, back when it was Pioneer, then opened a checking account when I was 18, added my husband to my checking account when I was 25. Then applied for a loan when I was 28, do you think I got it? NOPE! Banked there for almost 30 years & they wouldn’t give me a loan! Went to NICCU & was approved immediately with no hassle. Opened an account there & tried to close US Bank account, they kept saying my husband & I had to be together to sign off account & close it. My husband & I work opposite shifts so this was almost impossible. FINALLY, 2 months later we managed to get to the bank together & close account – they had me sign & handed me the money & said he didn’t even have to be there. All that hassle & for what? Just to jerk around the middle working class I guess. My husband said we should have done what Mr. Choate did & I laughed & said that by the time US Bank was done with us we couldn’t afford to even make a sign & get a trailer. Screw US Bank & all of it’s snobby employees & ridonkulous policies!!!!!

  12. Mark Tomlinson Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 6:59 am

    His protest is more on principal then on the $5. I know John, have for a long time and he’s a good guy. He would do anything for anybody and like many Americans is getting tired of getting the shaft from big business and big government. I for one respect his decision to voice his displeasure, he is doing it it in a peaceful manor and educating the public about why he feels he was wronged. US Bank if this is embarrassing for you then change your policy, if not and you feel strongly about your policy put it out there why you need to charge this fee.

  13. Deb Reply Report comment

    September 19, 2012 at 4:08 am

    He is right if you take a check to the person’s bank and the money is there.. why should there be a charge to cash it. However in this day and age.. who’s to say it wasn’t a bogus check with this person’s information on it.
    I do have a bit of a problem with him making a big stink over $5. I guess I have lived in New England too long.. because here we would probably get a $50 charge. However.. $5 we would just pay it move on with our lives.

  14. Management Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Imagine a non-customer wants to cash a check for $850.00 this a red flag. A typical customer will deposit the check in their own bank. Secondly, you don’t want this guy in your place of business he is one of those “crazies” Lastly, I called the credit union and First Citizens…they actually charge a fee also. Maybe move on…this isn’t a big business move this is risk management. I hope he doesn’t end up being sued.

    • LMAO Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 12:13 am

      Sue him for what? Surely your intelligently constructed comment would include something LEGAL.

      • James John Reply Report comment

        September 19, 2012 at 12:15 am

        Sued for telling the truth??? Yeah, right.

    • anonymous Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 1:44 am

      The bank is providing a service to their customers so they do not have to carry around alot of cash. When one of their customers checks come in they should cash it with proper ID. Before you take a check from a bank that charges for this service add the five dollar fee on to the bill. Then maybe people will move their accounts to a better bank.

  15. Katie Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Hmmm. I wonder how Mr. Choate would feel if U.S. Bank exercised its 1st Amendment rights against him.

    • anonymous Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 1:30 am

      So you don’t beleive in the constitution? Just because you don’t agree with him he should shut up and go away. He is not hurting anyone and has the right to protest his cause. If more people spoke up instead of bending over this would be a better country.

    • Not Anonymous Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 7:12 am

      I would like to see them try! Maybe an ad on NIT could read something like “North Iowa man brings check to the same bank that issued it and demands 100% payout! Bigger fees for “struggling” banks”.

  16. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Hey John there’s an easy way to avoid these fees, don’t take checks. You also don’t take the chance of getting a bad one. All this over $5.00 you must have alot ot time on your hands.

  17. Disagree Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    He can exercise his rights all he wants, but I disagree with what he was ‘wronged’ over.

    The bank has never seen him before, never heard his name, they have no information on file about him whatsoever.

    Yes, he gave them identification, but what if that was false identification? If it was, and they cash the check, the BANK is out that money. They have to eat the $850. Charging a fee is their way of hedging against the people who scam them.

    • Elefant Man Reply Report comment

      September 18, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      You don’t get it. This check is from a customer of someone who already banks at US Bank. The teller would have to look at the balance of the account to be able to pay the check or say, “Not Today.” Joe Blow could walk in and do this, if the account holder doesn’t have the money in the account, the check is given back to the Payee.

      • Katie Reply Report comment

        September 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm

        However, the person cashing the check is NOT a customer. If the person cashing the check had been a customer, there probably would not have been a fee. I’m wondering why Mr. Choate did not take this check to his own bank to deposit it. He could have deposited it and withdrawn cash. No problem. Why not run it through his own bank? That is the question I’d be asking.

      • James John Reply Report comment

        September 19, 2012 at 12:14 am

        Two of my employees, for whatever reasons, don’t have checking accounts. Every payday, they take their hard earned checks to my bank (F$B) and they hand it to them in exchange for cash. There’s no $5 fee there, because the check is drawn on MY bank, just like the check that Mr. Choate tried to cash. My employees have never said that my bank charges a fee or makes them show 4 forms of ID or a thumbprint. They sign the checks and get their money.

      • LMAO Reply Report comment

        September 19, 2012 at 12:17 am

        So what if it wasn’t his own bank! Maybe his bank is in another town and while running errands he decided to do his business where he was at. United Bank & Trust with branches in Sheffield, Hampton, Alden, Dows, and Dougherty will allow non-customers to cash checks at their branches drawn off of their own customers. Why? Because its the right thing to do and as a small bank their customers demand better service. I switched from Wells Fargo two years ago and I have never had a bank go out of the way to earn my business as they have, and I don’t get raped by fees.

      • Disagree Reply Report comment

        September 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

        YOU dont get it. I’m telling you what happens when ‘John’ cashes a check with a fake ID. Once the customer/the real John realizes that this has happened then the bank is required to put the funds back in the person’s account. They are out that money.

    • Disagree Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 8:12 am

      Maybe you or your customers do cash non-customer checks for free. A lot of the smaller banks still do, including the one I bank at. While this is fine and all, they are setting themselves up for losses when someone eventually pulls off a stunt with fake identification.

      I would estimate that all but the small, individual banks in the smaller towns will charge for non-customer checks within a couple of years, its just the way things are trending.

    • umm Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Banks are more willing to cash payroll checks drawn on them to noncustomers if that business has their payroll accounts with them. For example, at my job, we have a business that makes their deposits but doesn’t have their payroll accounts with us, they have them at some larger banks, we will no longer be able to cash those payroll checks because if they were to get returned, we would be out that money.

  18. fancyfree15 Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Way to go, John Choate! “I agree with this guy” said it best. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  19. NIT witD4 Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    USB needs the $$$ to read stories on NIT.

  20. i agree with this guy Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    If the check was for $750, that’s what he should have received from the bank.

    I gotta admire this kind of activism; when fed up people get fired up, things can change. If no one says anything, those with the power can continue to stick to everybody on an individual basis.

    Rock on middle class.

  21. Hmmmmm Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Would you care for some cheese with that whine?

    On this day, not a crap was given.

  22. umm Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Why dont you take the check and deposit it in your own damn bank account? and if it gets returnded for non sufficient funds, charge $30 for a bad check! This is ridiculous! I went to Wells Fargo to cash a check drawn on them and I had to wait 40 minutes to get to a personal banker to verify funds, provide 2 IDs and give a fingerprint! you don’t see me rioting outside of Wells Fargo! GROW THE F UP!

    • Tom Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 6:44 am

      maybe it is because you have no spine and like getting charged for something you should not.

    • Tom Reply Report comment

      September 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

      rioting? it that what you think this is? it is a simple exercise of his constitutional right to free speech. maybe this will cause US Bank to rethink their fee schedule or maybe not. maybe it will bring forward others that feel they were wrongfully charged and maybe their customers will consider changing banks.

      • umm Reply Report comment

        September 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

        I bet his sign cost more than $5 to make. Instead of wasting his money on that sign, he could have gotten his check cashed. haha. It’s funny, because this isn’t the only bank that charges.

  23. anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    The $5 fee is stupid. I have a small home based business and I bank at a credit union, but there are many times I have checks from other banks such as Wells Fargo, Clear Lake B&T, etc. I have never been charged a fee from any of these banks to cash a check that was written from an account holder. Get with the program US Bank, customer service is more important than five bucks.

  24. ConcernedCitizen Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Whether you agree or disagree, I commend this gentleman for exercising his right to freedom of speech. Unlike some of the others we’ve seen, he’s respectable, took a shower, and dressed presentable to gain respect for his position. More power to you!

    Imagine what our city might be like if we all actually went outside our houses away from blogs and exercised our right to free speech!

  25. MC Resident Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I’m not a big fan of Bank of America either. I hate these big banks. They were all in line to get the government bail out, then stick it to the customer who paid the taxes to bail them out.

  26. anne Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    i totally agree with this gentleman, if more people stood up again this kind of crap corp and ect. would think twice about adding in all these rip off fees. at my bank it’s 2.50 to use and atm other than theres and then they add 2 for a fee to that for me to get out my own money. it is a big deal when they do it to 1,000 of people a day. that’s what this country was built on, people sticking up for themselves and not getting screwed by the big wheels.

  27. Polio Loco Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Lots of people have issues with US Bank…hmmm.

  28. Cindy a former employee Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Mason city US Bank caters only to the rich…they don’t care about the small guy!

  29. Rockwell gramma Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Proud to see a real American out there sticking it to the banks.

  30. joe Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    “yeah honey ill show them! try to charge me 5bucks im gonna make a craigs list add, and a sign put on my suit and waste a couple days in mason to tell everyone how they tryed to charge me 5bucks to cash a check!” hahahahaa what a joke, what is wrong with him? hahahaha

  31. dave Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    all of this over $5 and he didnt even have a acount with them, seemd a little dramatic

  32. anonymous Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    A lot of places act like this now. Verizon wirelesd has given me the run around about a defective Cell phone i purchased through them. They refused to replace the phone or credit my account stating that they are having 4g issues And i have to deal with it.

    • MC Resident Reply Report comment

      September 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Verizon sucks. Their insurance is a scam. They hype the insurance up to sell it to you, telling you the phone will be 3 times as much to replace and a bunch of other BS.

      • maybe Reply Report comment

        September 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        Verizon told my mother that her contract was up so she switched to US cellular, so she gets a bill in the mail for breaking her contract. Apparetly her contract was up in october not the july like they told us. They will not do anything about it.

  33. Polio Loco Reply Report comment

    September 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Go get ’em John!!!!