Saturday, June 30, 2001

Checkcashers clear bank-hours hurdle

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's 12:30 a.m. on a Wednesday and Rick Honebrink is behind the counter at the Ohio Checkcashers office at Peebles Corner in Walnut Hills. Three people are in line.

        One man is picking up money wired through Western Union from San Diego by a friend. A man and woman, who just finished working a second—shift job, are there to cash their paychecks.

        “It's convenient for me,” says Shelton Overton, 52, of Walnut Hills, who had just cashed his check."

[photo] Tim Urwin, general manager of Ohio Checkcashers, does paperwork while waiting to cash paychecks.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Walnut Hills Ohio Checkcashers location, one of six in Cincinnati, went to 24-hour operation within recent months, but has yet to advertise the change.

        “I live down the street. I saw the sign” in the window, Mr. Overton said.

        A couple of hours earlier, 16-year-old Rodney Johnson of Evanston made a brief stop at the check-cashing office.

        “I worked real late and all the other check cashing places are closed,”Rodney said, just after he cashed his Montgomery Inn paycheck. “I can come here and do it quick.”

        Rodney is typical of the customers who have made late-night visits to the store, says the 47-year-old Mr. Honebrink, who works an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift.

        “We're picking up a lot of people in the restaurant business,” he said. Round-the-clock availability of Western Union service also attracts late-night customers.

        “People come all the way in from Dayton to use Western Union,” Mr. Honebrink said.

        “There's a guy from St. Louis that owes me $10,” he recalled from behind the bulletproof teller window.

        The customer came to pick up money wired to him at the office to pay for a bus ticket for him and his girlfriend. But he didn't have enough money for cab fare from the bus station.

        Late-night check-cashing services are enjoying brisk business nationwide.

        “It's a trend in other cities, and it's worked,” said Tim Urwin, the 41-year-old Cincinnati area general manager for Ohio Checkcashers Inc., whose parent company in based in Chicago. “They tell me they've been very successful going 24 hours.”

        The Walnut Hills office, which has been open more than 15 years, is open 24 hours only from 8 a.m. Monday to 8 p.m. Saturdays.

        “In the near future we're going to go 24-7,” Mr. Urwin said.

        Although the store sells money orders, makes payday advances and offers Western Union service, check cashing “by far is its main money-maker. The average fee for cashing a check is about 2.8 percent of the check amount, Mr. Urwin said.

        Mr. Honebrink passes his down time by reading, doing crossword puzzles and listening to music.

        “I go to the library at least once a week and pick up a couple of books and CDs,” he said.

        On this particular night he's listening to some blues from Taj Mahal. At various points during the night the relative solitude is interrupted by a phone call or visit from a nonpaying customer.

        “Can I get $5 worth of change please,” asks one woman, who is waiting for a bus nearby.

        It's not unusual for an occasional intoxicated customer to wander in, Mr. Honebrink said.

        “I had one guy give me a $20 bill,” he said. “What he wanted in change was five $10 bills.”

        But it's all in a night's work for Mr. Honebrink.

        “I tended bar for over 20 years so I'm used to this shift and dealing with people at 3 o'clock in the morning.”

       If you have a suggestion for Night watch, call William A. Weathers at 768-8390; fax 768-8340.

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