Google and the Mystery of the Penny

one-penny-thumbnailSo OK, I’ve been doing the mobile development thing for about a year now and I’m finally starting to see some money being generated by my apps. Throughout 2009, the coins would add up. Five cents here, 10 cents there… whoa… $2.09 from a book sale… the cash would accumulate in my account. I was holding off on redeeming my earnings because Google Checkout wanted my bank account number. Suddenly, it was no longer a fun game with arcade like scoring. No, once I cashed out the money, there would be real world consequences… like income tax forms and trips to the mall. Hey, wait a minute, I like buying stuff… so Google, where’s my money? Before I could get paid, there was the little matter of account verification.

You give Google… the “don’t be evil” company… your bank account number. Umm… OK… I suppose that I can trust Google… even though I didn’t get paid hundreds of dollars in AdSense money. I’m still a little bit jaded from last Spring. My Android app was making a lot of money, but then Google decided that they didn’t want to pay me. I was using AdSense ads in an Android app. Apparently, that’s a no-no. Alright, I can be a forgiving person. I decided to give Google another chance… a bigger chance apparently. Instead of just screwing with my earnings, now Google had the potential to mess with my savings and my credit score.

After you give Google your bank account number, you wait. Within two business days, they’re going to make  a deposit into your account. In order to verify your account, you have to tell Google how much was deposited. It’s almost like charades, but with your money and personal information.

A penny… that’s 1¢… or $0.01… appeared in my account. It had begun. The link to Google and my checking account was almost complete. I logged into Google Checkout and confirmed the deposit of one cent. That opened the flood gates and a rush of deposits came gushing in from Google. I was pleased. But hey… wait… what about the penny?

I assumed that Google would deduct the penny from a future deposit. Why would Google just give me a penny? Considering how I felt jipped from the events of last Spring, how could I expect Google to let this penny go? There must be thousands, maybe millions, of Google Checkout accounts. Aren’t they all verified this way? What if other accounts received more than a penny? Wouldn’t that be a lot of money lost for Google? They could use that money to research solar power data centers or adding Street View search for the craters on Mars.

I expected that this was some sort of oversight and it would be corrected. I was tempted to ignore it. But hey, I know how banks work. Even just one penny can result in a huge overdraft fee. That fee spirals into other overdraft fees as checks bounce like dominoes. I didn’t want to have to remember to leave a penny in my account from now until the end of time. My brain has more important things to focus on. So, I tried to contact Google.

I actually received a response.

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your email.

We do not debit amounts sent for test deposit from future payments. It is for verification only and is a free test deposit.

Feel free to reply to this email if you have additional questions or concerns. Sincerely,

The Google Checkout Team

Wow… a free penny from Google… that almost makes up for the hundreds of dollars that I lost last Spring. Seriously, it almost does. Sometimes, I’m like Columbo. I keep going back and ask oddball questions. It’s not so much the questions that matter, only how the person answers it. The real question is, “Can I trust Google or will they disappoint me again?” So far, this seems encouraging. The process is working. I’m getting paid.

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