September 2017 Complaint Roundup: New Slamming Scam, Bogus Appointments, And A Disabled Veteran Speaks Out

What Are Other Merchants Saying?

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© Depositphotos – James Steidl
Here at CPO, we review every comment that we receive from our readers, and sometimes we see merchants mention a topic that isn't covered in our reviews. To help you stay on top of the trends and issues in the credit card processing industry, we've gathered the following merchant complaints posted to CPO during August and September. If you would like to respond or add your thoughts to any of these comments, please follow the links to the original comments and reply to them directly, or leave a comment of your own below the appropriate company's review.

A New Twist On An Old Scam

Jaron's September 5 comment on our Small Business Growth Alliance review states the following:

These guys are experts at “slamming.” They called one of my clients and stated they were with “Merchant Services” and proceeded to tell them that because they don’t have a copy of their PCI compliance certificate on file, their rates were going to increase by close of business that day. But, they could avoid a rate increase and lot in their pricing by renewing their pricing agreement for 3 years. They then sent over a new merchant agreement.

My client instinctively called me freaking out about her rates going up, and I explained to her that her account was with Elavon, not SBGA. I further explained to her what slamming was and how this was a sales technique. After reviewing what they sent her, they were going to lock her into a 3 year contract with a $495 cancellation fee and liquidated damages.

What does it say about a company that has to acquire clients in this manner?

We receive a lot of complaints about processors engaging in slamming, but this is the first complaint in recent memory in which an agent tells the merchant that “because they don’t have a copy of their PCI compliance certificate on file, their rates were going to increase by close of business that day.” It's understandable for the merchant to be concerned, but this new slamming pitch is about as laughable as they come.

Interchange rates aren't related to PCI compliance certifications. Providers may independently charge PCI non-compliance fees to merchants who refuse to become PCI compliant, but there is no instantaneous rate increase that applies just because a merchant forgets to provide paperwork. Moreover, the agent's suggestion that renewing their contract for three more years would somehow protect the merchant from PCI issues is completely nonsensical. How would that correct the fact that they don't have PCI compliance paperwork on file?

In this case, the merchant did the right thing and called their current processor to ask about the call. Hopefully, other merchants will be able to resist sneaky tactics like this one by learning from this example and applying common sense.

Just Say No

We received two good examples of how to shut down a suspicious sales pitch in the past month. The first comes from Brandon's August 25 comment on our United Card Solutions review:

I received a call from Ariel and was given the same scripted pitch that I have seen in other posts. I asked that they email me something to review with the other partners of the business and was told it would be sent right away and she scheduled a call for the next morning. The next morning she called and I informed her I had not received the information requested and was NOT interested in doing business with them. Told her to remove me from her list and hung up.
1 minute later I received a call from Mark who claimed to be Ariel’s manager. Mark immediately started yelling at me and did not let me get a word in. I did say “if this is how you conduct business I will NEVER do business with you or your company”. This all took place 30 mins ago. Let’s see how many more calls I get.

The second comes from Curtis Highbridge's September 7 comment on our Talus Payments review:

We invited Talus in for a payment processing review and 30 mins later invited them to leave.
Believe in asking people to buy but it is a process and advised the closer who was called by the on site visitor we would review the proposal and information he had gathered and would decided if we wanted to change. He persisted without merit so we hung up and told the visitor we weren’t interested. The visitor was polite and thanked us for our time and left with out further word.

These merchants made several smart decisions that probably saved them a lot of money. Brandon refused to proceed with the sales process until the appropriate information was provided, while Curtis correctly sensed that the sales manager was trying to close the sale before anyone could review the full offer. Most importantly, though, both merchants were wise enough to know when it was time to just hang up the phone. If a sales agent won't respect your time, then you don't need to respect theirs. Just step away from the process, and if you have second thoughts tomorrow, you can always call them back.

Anybody Home?

Cody's September 11 comment on our Intrepid Payment Processing review states the following:

I was out of work and found out about this company. Seemed pretty good to work for so I gave it a shot.
On my first day out, I was given 3 locations to visit for a sales call. The first location was a house/towing company that no one was present at. I called my rep to ask about it, and he “placed me on hold” while he spoke with the owner and came back and said that the owner was “unexpectedly out of town and wouldn’t be back for a week”. I went to the next location, a wrecker company. When I introduced myself, the owner yelled at me for 5 minutes about how Intrepid had been harassing him for months about getting the card readers and didn’t know why they kept bothering him. I apologized and explained it was my first day and I was just told to do my pitch. I called my rep again to let him know what happened and said “since this is your first day, I’ll let that slide but you’re not supposed to leave when they say no. Call first,” even though I had just had my ass chewed out. The last location was nicer, but the owner politely declined my pitch.

The very next day, my rep gave me a new location to go to. When I entered the address on google, the result came up that the company had closed down. I decided to give the benefit of the doubt, and went anyway. It was an electronics department store, locally owned, in a really rundown part of town. The door was chained shut, windows were busted out, and it looked like no one had been there in years. Very clearly, it supported the google result I had earlier. I called my rep and told him. He once again “put me on hold” to speak with the owner, and then said that the owner had told him I was lying and the business was still open. Which was obviously false.

I quit the very next day. This place is a scam and it’s unreal that they can still be in business when they’re sending their sales agents on bogus, fake calls. They should be shut down immediately.

Unfortunately, this sales approach has been the status quo in the industry for a long time. Independent sales agents are routinely taught that they're “not supposed to leave when [the merchants] say no,” even if a merchant says that the agent's employer “had been harassing him for months about getting the card readers and didn’t know why they kept bothering him.” Sales agents are regularly threatened with termination if they fail to reach their sales targets, and a huge percentage of them drop out of the industry within a few months. They're often desperate just to interact with a real, live business owner, and they'll be especially persistent with one who's willing to hear them out.

It's no wonder, then, that merchants have such negative encounters with independent agents. If you can, spare a thought for sales reps who work for companies like this. You don't have to buy their products or even listen to their pitches, but you might prevent the situation from getting ugly if you can accept that they're victims just like you.

What's In A Name?

Bernie's August 24 comment on our Stripe review states the following:

We have no idea who this company is but they took $44.20 from our account in June and July. I have called the number associated with the entry on our account and left a message. No replies.
My husband tried a home email business called ‘myinbox’, which is bogus, and this must somehow be connected to that site.

This appears to be a complaint from a customer rather than a business owner, but it illustrates a common problem that merchants may encounter when processing through Stripe, Square, and other merchant account aggregators. Many of these services offer merchants the option to customize the name that appears on customers' credit card statements (e.g. “MIKE'S HARDWARE STORE”). If merchants choose not to use this option, then the charges they make to their customers' cards will be itemized in their customers' monthly statements as coming directly from the processor (“STRIPE” or “SQUARE INC.”).

If you do not ensure that your business's name appears on your customers' statements, then you are exposing yourself to chargebacks. As the above comment indicates, customers get confused when Stripe or Square appear on their credit card statements because they never actually purchase anything directly from Stripe or Square. This leads them to call their credit card issuer to dispute the payments they made to you, resulting in a chargeback that can shut down your account. Of course, if you are actually scamming customers, as this particular commenter alleges, then you deserve whatever comes to you.

If It Seems Too Good To Be True…

Jon Pienkowski's August 21 comment on our Prestige Payment Systems review states the following:

They said I would get 0% on most transactions and that I only had to pay $70 a month for the machine lease, processing fee and they would take care of all PCI compliance needs (which they are supposed to take care of and say they will do for you). It’s all BS. I pay about $100-$150 a month PLUS processing.
Then I have had PCI issues for over 2 years. So after a YEAR of them saying it was fixed (but wasn’t) I finally worked with TransArmor directly myself and found out they had my account setup wrong and that’s why I was having PCI test issues.
They are simple sales company and it’s all a SCAM/SHAM.
Unless you are processing $1000 orders, just get a regular square/mobile swiper.
Customer support is a phrase that does not exist in their world.
One of the last times I called to work out my PCI issue, one of their service reps put me on hold for 45min to try and make me go away. Called back and she answered immediately and just demanded a supervisor; equally as bad. TERRIBLE COMPANY! RUN FAR FAR AWAY!

This is an increasingly common tactic in which a processor promises very low per-transaction rates in exchange for a high monthly equipment lease payment. Processors do this because their margins on the equipment leases are huge, and they can also sneak in one-time fees and non-qualified rates to ensure that they make money on transactions. However, there's one red flag here that every merchant should be skeptical of no matter what: “0% on most transactions.”

If a provider charges 0% on a transaction, they will lose money on that transaction no matter what. In other words, they'll go out of business very quickly unless they compensate by making massive profits elsewhere in their agreement. As a general rule, you shouldn't ever trust a rate quote of 0% because it indicates that the processor is trying to lure you in based on rates alone. You may not be sure how they're able to offer it, but you can be sure that they aren't about to lose money on your account.

A Disabled Vet's Experience With First Data

Randy A. Breeden's August 30 comment on our First Data review states the following:

I was previously employed by First Data and left the company on good terms. I left to start my own business and was told that if I ever wished to return to First Data, they would look forward to that day. It is now some years later, and I had always admired First Data and had decided to re-employment at their organization. I recently applied for one of the many vacant customer service positions at First Data. About three months passed during which I heard nothing in from the company. The other week I finally received an email thanking me for my application “However, the company is seeking better-qualified candidates for open customer service positions?

My experience in customer service is significant by way of measure. I have been a successful manager, senior customer service representative, business owner and as noted prior, a First Data CSR, in good standing. Since having left First Data some years ago, I have completed one college degree in Accounting and am about to finish a second Accounting degree, 3.9611 GPA.

The firms rejection and undervaluation of my qualifications, left me to ponder what went wrong. I performed very well for the company, in the past. I spoke highly of First Data, even used them faithfully for 20 plus years, as the credit card processor for my own business. Other processors would try and lure me away from First Data, yet I remained loyal to the firm even when their processing charges, were higher. So what went wrong, why did First Data reject what otherwise appear as an excellent, even stellar skill set?

I received word from several anonymous sources as to where I may have erred in reapplying to First Data. I disclosed a qualification in my reapply to First Data that I did not hold when I initially worked for the company. The latter qualification is one of my being a service connected disabled U.S. Veteran, Honorably Discharged. I made sure to make First Data aware that my military service connected disabilities in no way hinder my ability to function and that I required no special workplace mods. I have since been told though, that I should not have disclosed my service connected Veteran Status because First Data and other large corporations praise disabled Veterans publicly but frown upon them in private. So, a note to all disabled Veterans, keep your service connected Veteran status under wraps when applying to companies such as First Data Merchant Services, it will get your application, rejected.

We can't comment on whether Randy's sources are correct in their assessment of First Data's hiring process. We also can't evaluate whether Randy was qualified for the position he applied for because he did not name that position in his comment. However, this is precisely the type of outside-of-the-box comment that we like to highlight in these monthly roundups, and we'll let readers judge it on its merits.

Have you had an experience that you would like to share with these commenters? Reply to their comments and you may be featured in next month's complaint roundup!

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