By ED HOWELL
Daily Mountain Eagle
As Christmas bonuses and holiday gift time approaches, Chamber Checks will be available again to businesses and individuals as gift certificates to keep people …
By ED HOWELL
Daily Mountain Eagle
As Christmas bonuses and holiday gift time approaches, Chamber Checks will be available again to businesses and individuals as gift certificates to keep people spending their dollars in Walker County.
Officials at the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County were busy Tuesday working on double checking the list of participating businesses as they anticipate businesses to arrange for a number of checks to go out to Christmas employees. Linda Lewis, the executive director of the chamber, said a large majority of the retail businesses in the chamber are participating.
Lewis said last year more than $25,000 in chamber checks was issued in a two-month period by the chamber.
“That is keeping $25,000 local. They are not shopping Amazon. They are shopping local,” Lewis said.
She said they can also be purchased throughout the year for birthdays, anniversaries, Father’s or Mother’s Day or any other event.
However, she said over the 10-year life of the program, they have become particularly known for being a bonus check handed out at Christmas, adding that no taxes are deducted from employees and that the money stays in the county. More of the checks are distributed during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, she said. The chamber makes no money off the purchases, as what revenue comes in from purchases goes out as well.
One business giving Chamber Checks as a bonus is the Daily Mountain Eagle.
“Our employees have received Chamber Checks for a Christmas bonus since 2012, and they will be receiving them again this year,” Publisher James Phillips said. “It is a great way that we can say ‘thank you’ to our employees, and the checks allow them to get the full amount of their bonuses. The flexibility in how and where the Chamber Checks can be used makes it a perfect fit for our employee bonuses.”
Based on lists compiled as of Tuesday, Chamber Checks can be reimbursed with 150 chamber members in the county, a list of which is provided to anyone who gets the checks.
The checks, a list of participating businesses and instructions are provided in a narrow folder labeled with the program and with contact information for the chamber.
Lewis said the chamber is always willing to add new chamber members to the list of participating merchants, and that at least one long-time Jasper business approached the chamber this year and joined in on the program.
Some unique services are on the list, such as the Daily Mountain Eagle (where one can buy subscriptions, for example) and Alabama Power (where one can pay their electricity bill).
At Bevill State Community College, one can take the checks to pay for classes on campus. Jasper Water Works is also on the list.
A list of the business services served by the program includes veterinarian services, sign service, furniture, clothing, attorney services, body shop services, car wash, pharmacies, real estate, insurance, restaurants, car dealerships, pest control, industrial supply, oil change, shipping, tire service, grocery stores, mortgage, accountants, auto parts, sports equipment, air conditioning services, arts and crafts, electric motors, hearing center, industrial maintenance, mini-storage, flea market and antique mall, hardware, funeral services, cabins and RV’s, glass service, truck stop, engineering, medical equipment, roofing service, spa service, nail services, pet supplies, printing, vinyl, plumbing, fly and tackle, cleaning services, shoe stores, landscaping, greeting cards, jewelry and jewelry repair, lawn and farm equipment, micro-brewery, office supply, cemetery, eye center, dental implants, pregnancy test center, and heavy equipment.
“It keeps people shopping with our chamber members,” Lewis said Tuesday. “This is a great program we offer our community,” as it gives the recipient more places to shop in the community.
“Say if you want to purchase your ham for Thanksgiving or Christmas,” Lewis said. “There are several grocery stores you can shop at, and then use your other money to buy other types of retail, whether it is clothing, jewelry, or pay your power bill or your vet bill.” She noted people going out of town for the holidays can use the checks to pay the vets to house their pets while they are gone.
Lewis said the checks are great to give when one doesn’t know what to buy their parents or friends. “I give chamber checks to my beautician and the people who do my nails,” she said. “I’ll issue $50 worth of chamber checks to them and they can then use that money however they want to. It doesn’t just have to be employers.”
Anyone can come in to order the checks, which come in $10 and $20 increments, for a total of however much the buyer desires, she said. Lewis said if an item is $14 and a $20 Chamber Check is used, $6 in cash will be given.
“You get the full value of the check,” she said.
However, she said normally checks are used to purchase more than the face value of the check, as multiple items are usually bought at the same time.
The checks — which do look like regular checks, down to having an account number — have a Chamber Check logo in the corner and it notes that the checks are drawn off the Bank of Walker County. The date that the checks are distributed to employees is written in by the chamber.
The checks are void after 90 days.
The amount of the check ($10 or $20) is printed on the check, and the business distributing the check to the employee is written in by the chamber on the memo area. Lewis’ signature is reproduced as signing the checks, which are numbered. It notes the checks can be redeemed only at chamber member businesses; a separate note at the bottom says to see the list of participating businesses.
The “pay to the order of” area is left blank for the employee or recipient to fill in the chamber business they are purchasing from, she said.
Lewis said as soon as the checks are purchased by an individual or business, she deposits the money in the Bank of Walker County. “I want to make sure these checks are cleared,” she said.
She said it has taken a while for the bugs to be worked out of the system, and for people to trust the system, too.
“In this day and time, there are so many scams out there,” she said, noting the checks do not say which store they will be made out to, as that has to be written in. “So a lot of times when people see a check like this, a lot of times people will think maybe it is a scam.”
Lewis has been making the rounds of new chamber businesses to sign them up for the program and to make sure that the businesses understand to make their employees aware of the program. A sample is sometimes given to them to educate employees.
Older businesses usually understand the program by now, but sometimes they call her and ask whether the check is alright.
“I will say this: If anybody has any issue over those chamber checks, if someone who is on the list does not accept them, give me a call at the chamber and I will contact that business,” Lewis said. They may also call the Bank of Walker County, which can look at the account number on the check.
She said some of them may be new businesses who may still need more education on the program, adding a number of new ones have been added this time.
“All the stores in the Jasper Mall, with the exception of just a couple, are signed up this year,” she said. “That is helping the mall and keeping our money local.”
Feedback from the public has been very good over the years. Among those who have purchased checks for their employees in the past are the Eagle, the City of Jasper, Jasper Water Works, Honda of Jasper and Kilgore-Green Funeral Home, some having done it for multiple years.
Lewis urged those purchasing Chamber Checks for Christmas purposes to contact the chamber through the end of the business day on Monday, Dec. 18.
She also encouraged anyone with any questions to call the chamber at 205-384-4571 or come by the chamber office at the Jasper Civic Center. Lewis’ email address is email@example.com.