In March 1992 a man living in Newtown near Boston Massachusetts received a bill for his
as yet unused credit card stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it away. In
April he received another and threw that one away too. The following month the credit card
company sent him a very nasty note stating they were going to cancel his card if he didn't
send them $0.00 by return of post. He called them, talked to them, they said it was a
computer error and told him they'd take care of it.
The following month he decided that it was about time that he tried out the troublesome
credit card figuring that if there were purchases on his account it would put an end to
his ridiculous predicament. However, in the first store that he produced his credit card
in payment for his purchases he found that his card had been canceled. He called the
credit card company who apologized for the computer error once again and said that they
would take care of it. The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that payment was now
overdue. Assuming that having spoken to the credit card company only the previous day the
latest bill was yet another mistake he ignored it, trusting that the company would be as
good as their word and sort the problem out.
The next month he got a bill for $0.00 stating that he had 10 days to pay his account
or the company would have to take steps to recover the debt. Finally giving in, he thought
he would play the company at their own game and mailed them a check for $0.00. The
computer duly processed his account and returned a statement to the effect that he now
owed the credit card company nothing at all.
A week later, the man's bank called him asking him what he was doing writing a check
for $0.00. After a lengthy explanation the bank replied that the $0.00 check had caused
their check processing software to fail. The bank could not now process ANY checks from
ANY of their customers that day because the check for $0.00 was causing the computer to
The following month the man received a letter from the credit card company claiming
that his check had bounced and that he now owed them $0.00 and unless he sent a check by
return of post they would be taking steps to recover the debt.
The man, who had been considering buying his wife a computer for her birthday, bought
her a typewriter instead.