Small Business Growth Alliance Overview
A Possible DBA of Merchant Services, Inc.
The Small Business Growth Alliance (SBGA) is a merchant account provider that claims to be headquartered in Henderson, Nevada. However, there is a great deal of evidence indicating that the SBGA is simply a DBA or subsidiary of Merchant Services, Inc. In addition to providing merchant accounts, the company advertises Clover as a POS solution.
Small Growth Business Alliance Headquarters and Ownership
Merchant Services, Inc., is a registered ISO of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, California, while the SBGA is located at 10624 S Eastern Ave #360, Henderson, Nevada 89052. It should be noted that this address appears to be a UPS Store, which means that the physical company is probably located elsewhere. The SBGA website states that its electronic payments are provided by Merchant Services, Inc., and 2 executive-level employees of Merchant Services, Inc.—Jason Moore and Robert Parisi—are the president and director, respectively, of SBGA.
Small Business Growth Alliance Review Table of Contents
- Costs & Contract: Small Business Growth Alliance appears to offer a three-year contract with an early termination fee of $495.
- Complaints & Service: Small Business Growth Alliance has received more than 50 public complaints.
- BBB Rating: Small Business Growth Alliance has an “A+” rating and has received 42 complaints and 31 reviews in the past 3 years. The company has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2013.
- Sales & Marketing: Small Business Growth Alliance appears to hire independent sales agents and has received a moderate-to-high number of complaints about its sales practices.
- Rates & Fees: How Merchants Got The Best Rates With Small Business Growth Alliance
Types of Businesses Served
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Small Business Growth Alliance Rates, Fees, and Costs
|Swiped Rate||1.00% - 4.99%|
|Keyed-in Rate||1.00% - 4.99%|
|Virtual Terminal Rate||1.00% - 4.99%|
|Payment Gateway Fee||Undisclosed|
|Early Termination Fee||$495|
|Data Protection Fee||$134|
|Monthly Minimum Fee||$75|
|PCI Non-Compliance Fee||$19.95 Per Month|
|Statement Fee||$7.50 Per Month|
|Equipment Lease Cost||$186 Per Month|
|Equipment Lease Terms||48 Month (locked)|
According to the SBGA website, the company’s electronic payments are provided by Merchant Services, Inc. Merchant complaints indicate that the standard Merchant Services, Inc. contract is a three-year agreement with a $495 early termination fee, a $134 “data protection” fee, a monthly minimum fee that can rise as high as $75 per month, a monthly PCI non-compliance fee of $19.95, a monthly statement fee of $7.50, and other various fees. Merchants (and employees) also mention long-term equipment leases through Northern Leasing Systems that ultimately cost thousands of dollars over the life of the lease. Merchants are advised to purchase equipment rather than lease whenever possible.
Virtual Terminal and Payment Gateway Pricing
In addition to its storefront payment processing services, SBGA also dedicates a portion of its website that advertises its virtual terminal and payment gateway. However, like Merchant Services, Inc., pricing on either of those services is not disclosed. Additional rates and fees, including gateway fees, technical support fees, batch fees, and additional transaction rates typically apply to these e-commerce services.
SBGA’s contract terms appear to lock merchants into long-term agreements that overcharge them for the products and services they receive. In general, the knowledge we have about SBGA’s contract terms prevents us from classifying the company as a low-cost merchant account provider.Are you happy with your Small Business Growth Alliance fees? Tell us about them before your go!
Small Business Growth Alliance Complaints & Customer Reviews
|Total Online Complaints||50+|
|Live Customer Support||Yes|
|Most Common Complaint||Sales Tactics|
Many Severe Complaints
There are currently over 50 negative Small Business Growth Alliance reviews online, many of which accuse the company of being a scam. Common complaints include deceptive telesales practices, nondisclosure of contract terms, expensive contract terms, and poor customer service. These complaints are more or less identical to the complaints that we have seen filed against Merchant Services, Inc.
SBGA Complaint Response
The SBGA has responded to two of its complaints on Ripoff Report by paying Ripoff Report for arbitration, which essentially expunges parts of the complaints deemed to be untruthful. It does not appear to have directly responded to the other complaints. Merchants who are unable to obtain relief through the company’s customer service team are encouraged to cancel their merchant accounts without paying a fee.
Small Business Growth Alliance Lawsuits
The Small Business Growth Alliance’s parent company, Merchant Services, Inc. was the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed in 2010 that contained the following allegations:
Plaintiffs allege that Settling Defendants misrepresented and omitted the costs, term, early termination penalties, and other provisions of the processing agreements and leases and unlawfully collected commissions, cancellation fees and other amounts via automatic withdrawals from merchant bank accounts. Plaintiffs also allege that Settling Defendants forged signatures and modified contracts and authorization forms for electronic debits after those contracts and forms had been signed. Plaintiffs additionally contend that Settling Defendants’ sales practices violated rules of MasterCard. Plaintiffs further assert that if customers defaulted on payment, Settling Defendants engaged in improper collection efforts by making unlawful credit inquiries on the personal credit reports of the personal guarantors who signed the agreements.
The claims against Merchant Services, Inc. were settled in 2013 with each member of the settling class receiving up to $350. Merchant Services, Inc. remains an active business, but the company agreed per the terms of the settlement to make the following changes:
By December 20, 2013, the Settling Defendants have agreed to make a variety of changes to their marketing materials to ensure future customers have additional disclosures. They agreed to register any fictitious business names that they intend to use, such as “Merchant Services.” In addition, if they continue to use cost comparison forms, such as the rate estimation comparison sheet, they agreed that document shall contain preprinted information listing or designated areas in which the following information shall be written: the name of the registered independent sales organization involved in the transaction; the entity through which bankcard processing services would be provided; the entity through which leasing services (if any) would be provided; the fact that processing rates are estimated and that higher rates may apply depending on the type of card, including mileage and rewards cards; the fact that equipment leasing is optional; and the fact that a cancellation fee will apply for early termination. Finally, the Settling Defendants agreed to have sales representatives leave with the prospective customer a copy of the above document and a current business card containing his or her current business address, phone number, and email address.
Small Business Growth Alliance Customer Service Options
The company’s website does not specify whether it offers direct phone support on its website. One especially illuminating comment from an employee can be seen in this comment thread. The appointment setter’s comments include the following:
“Owners like you give us ‘telemarketers’ a bad rap, what aren’t you interested in? why are you hanging up on me when i introduce myself? I was taught proper telephone etiquette, did you miss that day in class? if this is the way you handle your business with a customer perhaps you should consider the estimated life of said business.”
Merchants reviewing their options for payment processing services would be better suited with a company offering great customer service.
Small Business Growth Alliance BBB Rating Summary
Key Points - BBB
|Product & Service Complaints||10|
|Billing & Collection Complaints||6|
|Advertising & Sales Complaints||26|
|Guarantee & Warranty Complaints||0|
Note: We have adjusted this company’s BBB rating according to our own standards. To better understand why we adjust BBB ratings, please see our Rating Criteria.
Over 40 Complaints
Small Business Growth Alliance is listed as SBGA Inc with the Better Business Bureau and currently has an “A+” rating and has been accredited by the BBB since 2013. The company has received 42 complaints to its BBB profile in the past 36 months. 26 complaints are related to advertising or sales issues, 6 have to do with billing, and 10 stem from product or service problems. 17 complaints have been resolved to the satisfaction of the merchant, while the other 25 either were resolved to the merchant’s dissatisfaction or did not receive a final response from the merchant.
What Merchants Say
The SBGA has also received 31 informal reviews, 16 of which were positive in tone and 15 of which were negative in tone. The most recent negative review describes deceptive sales tactics:
I will preface this that my business provides payment processing- They contacted one of my customers stating that Verifone terminals are not calculating fees correctly and to send them a statement so they can calculate the money they are owed- My client was confused, asked for their number and told them they would have their current processor “me” will contact them. I called Daniel and introduced myself as the processor for the X company he just called. He stated they are a consulting company and not looking to change my client to their processing. All they wanted to do was to provide a free consult- I asked point blank questions. it was amazing how he either did not tell the truth or avoided the questions- When I said Daniel I have been a merchant processor for 10 plus years and you are not telling the truth- I said maybe you were trained the information you provide is true but please understand it is not and you will not be helping anyone you call- The next day my client received a call from someone else at the company telling them MC and Visa has made calculation errors- WOW! If this was true… I would think it would make national news- Unethical companies makes my job a lot harder-
These kinds of sales tactics are emblematic of slamming a deceptive and unethical sales practice in which a merchant provider poses as another company. Merchants who encounter this behavior may want to consider reporting the sales agent to the relevant authorities.
A “C” Performance Overall
In light of the company’s complaint total and resolution ratio, and taking into account the BBB profile for Merchant Services, Inc., we have adjusted the BBB’s rating to a “C” for our purposes.
Truth In Marketing & Advertising
|Employs Independent Resellers||Yes|
|Advertises Deceptive Rates||No|
|Discloses All Important Terms||No|
Not What It Appears To Be
The Small Business Growth Alliance presents itself as a membership-based organization that “provide[s] our members with essential products, services and educational resources that allow you to successfully address your most essential business needs.” However, reports from both employees and merchants strongly suggest that the SBGA is primarily in the business of selling merchant services, and that it uses its name and branding to convince merchants that it serves in some kind of merchant advocacy role. Unlike a true fee reduction service, SBGA’s first priority is to switch merchants over to one of its merchant account contracts.
SBGA Telemarketing Complaints
This 800notes thread details an instance in which an SBGA representative “called and told my customer service rep that they were ‘confirming’ an appt for tomorrow at 10am with me (the owner) to review our credit card charges and determine the amount of a refund we were due for overcharges for our merchant services […] Only problem is, I didn’t call SBGA for any merchant services help or consultation and I am angry that they used a lie to gain access to me and my time through my company customer service rep who would not have known any better.” Another complaint states that “Jennifer called on my work line acting like it was urgent for me to return call. Said she was from ‘Merchant Services’ (what business????) and that we may have had some increases in our fees and she needed to speak to me immediately about that.” These types of sales calls, which verge on “slamming,” are cited repeatedly in complaints about the SBGA.
Insiders Speak Out
Complaints from employees only confirm the merchant reports. This complaint claims that “the recruiters lie like hell, they tell you it is a ‘business consulting’ job working with small businesses, but in truth you’re selling and pushing one thing, payment card processing and all the other things in your bag are just total BS products and services.” Another SBGA complaint from a recruiter at the company states that “we as recruiters tell [the agents] that they receive ‘lead generation support’ which comes in the form of a call center rep setting up bogus appointment s that most of the time the store owner didn’t agree upon […] It’s a bait n switch scenario, they get customers signed up for multiple services, lease them hardware and make the merchant pay ridiculous fee for getting out of s processing contract.” These reports seem to describe a standard hiring mill within the credit card industry.
Poor Hiring Practices
SBGA employs a large team of telephone appointment setters and independent sales agents (called “independent business consultants” within the organization), which may explain why agents would resort to less-than-straightforward tactics to land accounts. Considering the reports we have found and the history of Merchant Services, Inc., we have assigned the SBGA a “D” rating in this section.
Small Business Growth Alliance Marketing Example
About Phillip Parker
Thank you for reading my review. I hope that it has helped you with your research.
Why I'm Qualified to Write About Credit Card Processing and Merchant Account Services
I'm a former credit card processing sales director who left the industry because I didn't like how it takes advantage of small business owners. It feeds like a leech on businesses and thrives by imposing fees that are nearly impossible to comprehend. Seeing a need for change, I left and built this website help business owners better understand the industry, research merchant services providers, and get refunds of excessive merchant account fees. My experience of working "behind the curtain" in the industry, and using that knowledge for good, has resulted in millions of dollars returned to hard-working small business owners as well as enterprise-level companies.
From the time that I starting working in the merchant services industry to when I left to create this website, I've been on the pulse of payments for nearly 15 years. It didn't seem fair to keep this "insider" knowledge to myself. To lift the fog, I've reviewed hundreds of companies, read thousands of user reviews, and learned the pricing tricks of every provider. If you have questions about credit card processing, you can find the answers on this website.