search  current discussion  categories  business - sales & marketing 

credit card scanners/story for joan

updated sun 31 aug 97


Cheryl Shoemaker on mon 18 aug 97

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>Hi everyone..been following the credit card discussion with interest.(Is
>that a pun?!) I have checked around here in northern Wisconsin and have
>been unable to find a bank that would set me up for charge cards without a
>fee- the lowest quote I got was $800! I'm amazed at how easy some people
>have found, i am wondering if the "Central Bank" is a place I might
>contact , or do I need to find a local bank? It seems like some sort of
>exclusive club around here! I don't do huge volumes of business at this

I had the same problem a few years ago. Not wanting to deal with some
outfit picked out of a magazine i went off to the local banks. First stop
was my bank of several years which was really a Credit Union. They didn t'
have merchant programs but directed me to "a member who handled that for
them." The guy was barely reachable by phone and I pictured him sitting in
some dark basement. He was insistent that I rent the most up-to-date
processors from him. I insisted I needed to start out with a manual
machine. It felt all wrong. I couldn't imagine him being of any help
should a problem arise ... if I could even get ahold of him.

Bank two had me fill out a painfully long form in which i had to promise my
life away ... I had to wait WEEKS ... finally I marched into the office of
the overly crisp bank manager who just didn t' have the kindness of heart to
tell me up front that no-how no-way were they going to give me a merchant
account since i didn t' have a "real storefront". I had to drag the reason
out of her and she had to let somebody else (who knows where) stamp my
application denied. I think it was the first time in my life I'd
experienced a true hint of discrimination. Had i walked in that office in a
suit declaring my intention to open a small architectural firm they'd have
probably THROWN money at me.

So ... on to bank three. This time I made an appointment. This time I
pointedly asked if not having a true retail storefront would be a problem.
Was told maybe (which seemed more honest). Explained my situation and
received the absolute most unbelievable form I'd ever seen, 7 pages of COA
notes. When I had read all the fine print I could not believe it but i
signed the thing and sent it in. Absolutely the most outrageous one sided
contract I've witnessed to date. Waited. .. and was turned down due to lack
of store front.

I was truly irritated at this point. I felt I was being treated as if I
were some unscrupulous con-artist. A friend told me to find a local bank
that only had one branch and try them. Another friend confided that the
bank did not know she accepted charges "off-site". Maybe total honesty was
not good? That seemed the be the big problem, that i admitted I was going
to go off to art shows and accept charge cards and didnt' have a "store

Bank four. Small local bank, one branch. I made an appointment with the
bank manager. I decided to drag out my small leather briefcase which had
been gathering dust ... wondered if I should play the expected roll and drag
out a business suit. Decided against it as I had grown tired of playing
roles and dressed decently but NOT in a suit. Driving to the appointment I
was trying to decide between my natural total honesty route and otherwise.
Literally I had been trying to get a merchant account for months at this
point, trying one bank at a time. I took my business licence. A booth
slide obviously taken at a show. Slides of my work. A photo of my work
space. I got nervous when TWO people were meeting with me trying to size me
up. Then I gave in and decided to just lay the cards on the table. I made
no attempt to conceal anything. I told them I'd been to 3 other banks, had
signed outrageous agreements, been forced to wait for weeks for response and
been turned down flat each time due to lack of store front. That I'd be
taking charge cards at art shows if they let me have the account. That I
was tired of jumping thru hoops and having to wait for weeks on end just to
be rejected and if it was not their policy to allow such things to please
tell me now as I didn t' have the energy to go thru another charade. They
looked at each other. I thought it was all over. They looked at my images
and paperwork. Then one asked what i thought my volume would be. I knew
they were trying to decide if I was worth the effort. I flatly stated that
I had no idea, that at first it'd probably be very low and slowly grow so if
they were trying to figure out what percent to charge me to go ahead and set
it at the maximum allowable and rip me for as long as i had low volume and
maybe we could adjust later. There was a dreadful pause as I resignedly sat
in my seat waiting to have hope dashed. Then they both bust out laughing.
I had their approval then and there. No sending forms off to some dark
cubicle to stamp "denied". I didn t' even have to sign a contract. They
did the paperwork, smiled and bid me good day. I sat there dumbfounded.
Finally I said I was having trouble believing this was true, all coming so
easily ... were there no hidden tortures they wanted to inflict on me?
They did have to come out to my shop to see me in it, I was chuckling at
this point wondering what sort of person would go thru all of this to set up
sham. The manager herself was to come out on the weekend. It was a long
way to my shop from where she lived and i had a small show scheduled near
her so she came to the show instead. Initially they told me "no phone in
orders." I followed all of their directions faithfully for a couple years
(and still do) and then when I got the occasional phone order we worked out
how i was to handle it. The folks who were so nice to me originally have
long since moved on, the bank bought out or merged, but I remain a loyal
customer as they seem to run the bank the same as before. I've told any
artist who asked me about them and it seems they don't think it odd to deal
with small accounts. They've been good to everyone I've sent. They even
give my dog biscuits when I pull thru the drive thru window.

Try to find a small (hopefully one branch) local bank with people who make
the final decisions on site. Ask local artists who they have merchant
charge accounts with and are they happy. Target some possibilities. Make
an appointment with the manager or whoever handles merchant accounts. Clean
the clay out of your hair before you show up, put on some decent clothes.
Take everything you can think of to prove you are truly in business.
Business license - slides of your work/workspace - awards/news
clippings/financial records if you've got them. BTW don't believe all banks
***require*** electronic deposits. Mine still takes paper, you can pick up
used manual machines for next to nothing now at used business equipment
places and the bank most likely has some. If you just can't find a local
bank to work with, try some banks you've heard of on the list or look thru
artist oriented magazines for ads for merchant accounts with banks that deal
with artists. I can't personally recommend any of them because I prefer to
deal with people I can meet face to face but if you look hard enough long
enough you'll find a way to get an account. Once you have had an account
for awhile it seems anyone will work with you as you have a history to show
by then. I type this lengthy tale because i remember how frustrating it
was to get the account. Seems funny to me now ... years later.

Cheryl Shoemaker

The Slack-DeBrock Family on wed 20 aug 97

Cheryl thanks for the lengthy summary of your history with the credit
world. I really appreciate the many people ask to charge that it
seems worth the time and energy to investigate it. I'll be advised so much
better now that I've heard your experiences. Thank you so much! joan