I'm a writer, and like most of my peers I have spent a huge amount of time trying to support my career by taking jobs in industries that I might not have initially been drawn to. For me, the financial industry held no particular allure. My relationship with banks has often been adversarial, to say the least. And credit card corporations, well, let's just say that we have not always been on friendly terms. Yet, as many other writers will also tell of themselves, I have a rather inquisitive nature and I always want to know why things are the way they are.
A few years back I had been gainfully employed as a film and video producer. In fact, I spent over twenty years working in the entertainment industry and had strong relationships with many small business owners who worked as vendors for my productions. A period of "runaway production" cost me a lot of jobs when the productions were taken across borders and I watched many associated small businesses suffer and ultimately close their doors. It was a difficult time for a lot of people and the following recession did not help. With my production career in the proverbial doldrums, I had many occasions to chat with small business owners about their bottom line. Complaint after complaint came in regarding their cost of processing credit cards. It seemed like highway robbery. And, as I later found, it often was.
So, as much out of curiosity as of a means to keep my pockets from feeling empty, I began to explore ways to help my merchant friends and as a byproduct the community in which I lived and worked. I signed up online with a merchant services company that purported to offer free education about the industry and a road to a career as an independent merchant services representative. Their claims of integrity, honesty and a "merchant first" ethic all sounded great to me, even too good to be true. And it was too good to be true, which is why I am no longer associated with that company, though ultimately it was an important part of the experience to learn what so much of this industry is about and why the role of the sales representative is key to understand.
I do not claim to be the ultimate expert or insider on the entire industry, but I have worked with a minimum of four different processing companies and several supporting affiliated companies as well. Each step of the way I have tried to learn more about what works and why, where savings can actually be generated and, perhaps most importantly, how different entities try to screw the merchant in order to pad their own pockets. I've heard countless stories from business owners, many of whom wanted to kick me out of their store when they heard what I was there for but were quickly won over by my candor and wit. (That's how I like to tell it, anyway.) Lately I have realized how often I repeat the stories I've been told and embellish them with advice for avoiding the same pitfalls or scams. And therein lies the genesis for this blog.
Now you know. Enjoy the read.