Billing problems at bookstore cause overdraft fees

Sarah Thiele

Computer problems at the bookstore during the first week of classes gave some ISU students overdraft fees late into September.

TeleCommunication Systems Inc. is a nationwide carrier of multiple credit card companies and is the clearing house of all credit card purchases made at the University Book Store.

When the entire TCS network went down nationally during the first week of classes at Iowa State, the bookstore was left in a bad position.

James Brock, sophomore in business-undeclared, was unaware the bookstore hadn’t charged him for his books, and he received overdraft fees because of the delayed charge.

“They just ran my card through and I signed it as if it had gone through right then. They just ran it as if nothing was wrong,” Brock said.

Brock bought his books during the first week of August and said a charge did not occur until Sept. 29. This led to $112 worth of overdraft charges when the charge went through.

Brock said he wants the bookstore to take care of the overdraft charges.

Lynette Seymour, manager of the University Book Store, said the store actually had to shut down for part of the day.

“It went down midday and was down for just a few hours, but of course it was the busiest time of the day,” Seymour said. “Initially, we just had to shut the store down and could not do sales.”

Later in the day, Seymour said the bookstore was given the OK to charge credit cards again by TCS. The charges would be made and then sent in batches to TCS that evening to be processed. However, not all batches got through to TCS.

“What happened was when the batch was sent, a lot of these [charges] didn’t get captured and so there was a delay. Then we had to try to figure out which [charges] went and which didn’t go and then getting those sent in again,” Seymour said.

Seymour said 38 transactions didn’t initially get processed by TCS. The process of finding those 38 took a while because they had to be uncovered in approximately 8,000 other transactions that occurred that day at the bookstore.

“It was a matter of individually going through each one of those sales and confirming whether it had or had not gone through,” Seymour said. “We only had 38 it didn’t go through for, but we initially had to pick through thousands of pieces of data to find those and confirm those.”

Seymour said some students were concerned that they weren’t charged at all for their books while others complained that they had been charged twice.

Seymour said the University Book Store is sorry the mischarges happened to students. She said gift cards are being sent to the 38 people involved.

“We really do regret that it has caused some confusion, and we’ve been working very hard to get all of this settled,” Seymour said.

Doug Borkowski, clinic director of the Financial Counseling Clinic and lecturer of human development and family studies, said the best way for students to avoid overdraft charges is to keep good records.

“With good record keeping, it should have already been figured into the records that they had spent this money,” Borkowski said.

Borkowski said it’s important to not just look at your balance and spend based off of it alone.

“It is ultimately the responsibility of the person who spent the money,” he said.