Merchant services nightmare

I have been through the worst series of misrepresentations and
frustrations I have ever suffered at the hands of any company during
my entire professional career trying to get a credit card processing
system. I would love to steer others away from this company and
protect them from what I went through. I am afraid to post their
name. Anyone who wants more info can e-mail me. I think the problem
was mostly that the salesman told me what he thought I wanted to
hear and then after I was signed on he did not follow through. I
have complained repeatedly to the company but they don’t seem
interested in doing anything about the misrepresentations–costing
me fees and frustration that were unnecessary.

By the way, I think I had reason to have hired an attorney and I
didn’t because it would have cost me more than I lost. Is there any
government body or other place a person can complain to? A national
small claims court?

J. S. Ellington (Sue)

Hey, Sue- Sorry to hear about this- I know how frustrating it is to
be jerked around by an unscrupulous business.

Your local Better Business Bureau might be a good starting place.
You can also try identifying the CEO of the offending company and
corresponding with him/her directly. You can go here$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01

to file a complaint with the FTC, but they don’t intervene in
individual consumer complaints. Your info will, however, be made
available to law enforcement officials if the company’s conduct is
bad enough and widespread enough to subject them to criminal

Did you pay these miscreants by credit card? If so, you can contact
your credit card company to dispute the charges.

Have you searched the internet by company name and with an
additional term such as complaint, rip-off, etc? Angry consumers
have sometimes banded together and put up webpages about such
companies. You may get helpful info or at least support from such a

It sounds like the primary problem you may have in fighting this
company is that the misrepresentations appear to have been verbal.
Unless you can substantiate the misrepresentations somehow (e.g.,
you also got it in writing, a third party was present and agrees to
sign an affadavit, you taped the salesperson, etc) you may have a
problem fighting this, as it is your word against the salespersons.

If this was the company in Simi Valley Calif, I had a terrible time
with a sales person who lied to us, and we went through a nightmare
situation. $300 to stop doing business with them, Have to do it in
writing, and they still didn’t honor their own policy. Many
complaints to Better Business Bureau. The company doen’t give a x%&#
about their customers. Always check to see what the penalty is for
terminating. I shut down my bank account so they could not charge
me, they put it on my credit report, and I contested and I won! It
took time, but they lied and cheated, and they pissed me off.
Richard in Denver

I totally related to your Merchant Service Nightmare! I have been
calling the group I went through my Credit Card system to lower my
fees after having an account for several years. The jerk there will
not even return my calls. When I called NOVA the company that
actually processes my charges they said there is nothing I can do but
break my contract with the Merchant Account jerks and then start over
again with their internal customer service dept. That would mean I
would have to pay of these start fees again- blah blah.

They really have you by the balls and it totally SUCKS!


I am going to suggest something here for all of you people who take
credit cards. Unfortunately today’s marketplace has made most people
believe that if they can get a better deal on something than they
should go for it, regardless of the consequences. It has become an
imbedded part of our economy. However when it comes to merchant
credit card companies let me clear up a few misunderstandings:

  1. You must examine all of the costs associated with the offers
    rather than just the % they are taking.

  2. You must realize that your local bank, with whom you have your
    checking accounts, almost always offer to be credit card merchants.

  3. You must realize that if you are working with your local bank,
    with whom you have other banking business, they will be much more
    willing to respond to any complaints or problems.

  4. You must realize that even if it costs you an extra $100/year
    (and believe me, for most of you, the savings you reach by working
    with some nonbank merchant businesses won’t even approach this
    figure) to work with your local bank, the aggravation you save
    yourself will be worth every penny.

We are approached constantly with offers from various companies.
The savings, when you add in all their extras (and incidentally, they
quite purposefully add in all these extra charges–like a nickel per
transaction–{after quoting what sounds like an incredibly low
percentage} specifically so you can’t accurately compare costs) are
usually virtually nonexistent. They also offer little, if any,
customer support as they aren’t really set up to do that–they are
simply middle men in the process. Your local bank, however, usually
wants your business and is set up specifically for customer service.
The other thing that you should know is that none of the rates at
your bank are set in stone. Whenever we get a legitimately lower
offer on our credit card account, we go in to our bank, show them the
offer, and ask them to match it. They will almost always come down a
little in the rates they charge.

Just as you wouldn’t want to buy your fine jewelry based solely on
price, don’t buy your credit card merchant solely on price.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Why not tell us who this “service” provider is? They can’t sue you
for libel if it’s true! If they do, countersue. A lot of lawyers
would take that case! (for a percentage, of course)

Mark Thomas Ruby
SunSpirit Designs
Loveland, CO
970 622-9500 studio
970 622-9510 fax

Thanks, Daniel, for your post regarding merchant card services
through your bank. You said what I was going to say. This is
exactly why I got my merchant card account through the bank that
handles both my personal and business checking. Not only did I get a
little bit of a deal because I have my accounts with them but I also
got the piece of mind that they weren’t some fly-by-night company
that would take me for more than I expected and never answer my

I have heard many, many stories like the one posted here about
unscrupulous and inattentive merchant card account companies. I’m
not sure what anyone involved with a company like this can do. The
Better Business Bureau is a waste of time (at least here in Las Vegas
it is). Nothing gets resolved and no business is afraid of them (or
what a bad rating will do to their reputation) anyway. The police
aren’t likely to do anything unless it can be proven that the company
is a scam not just bad at customer service. Yet, with all the horror
stories I’ve heard, it’s a wonder that these companies are allowed to
continue to do business. I’m just thankful that I went straight to
my bank and wasn’t tempted by the “savings.”

Nancy Stinnett
Geosoul Arts
(702) 436-7685

For all of you who’ve had bad experiences with credit card
processors, here’s a good lead:

I have a small jewelry kiosk in south Florida and my credit cards
processor is Automated Merchant Services, INC in Coral Springs, FL.
My rep is Cathy Reich at (954) 752-0999. If you call her tell her
Doug Dreyfus @ White Buffalo gave you her name.

A few weeks ago, on the Friday before Mother’s Day Weekend, my
credit card machine died. Kathy spent a lot of time helping, tried to
get a loaner overnighted to me, but by that time it was too late. Her
office and my store is about an hour away from one another, so she
drove half-way, met me at a gas station, gave me a loaner free of
charge, and then instructed me where to get my machine repaired (for
$75.00) instead of selling me a new machine, which I would have done
without her advice regarding having the machine repaired.

Cathy is very professional and returns telephone calls!

Doug Dreyfus

I wanted to let all that are interest know that there is now a new
twist to the debacle that I posted about merchant services
nightmare. After three months of arguing that I am getting charged
fees that were not appropriate, etc., I have discovered that someone
(the salesman, I think) substituted an agreement for the one I
signed, evidently copying my signature from the agreement I did sign
and then discarding the original agreement. I think it will be
fairly obvious to anyone that the signature is forged although it is
a reasonable facsimile to my signature. I guess he either traced it
or copied it off the original agreement I signed. I would like to
post their name and warn everyone directly not to go with their
company, but I don’t know about my liability?

When I finally got a faxed copy of the fraudulent agreement and told
them I did not sign this agreement, they said I would have to get an
attorney and would not take my word for it.

J.S. (Sue) Ellington

  When I finally got a faxed copy of the fraudulent agreement and
told them I did not sign this agreement, they said I would have to
get an attorney and would not take my word for it. 

An attorney is a perfect solution…an attorney general… Forgery
is illegal.

Eagle Idaho

I had a similar nightmare with another company representing I am a
partner in. This outfit is, very highly recommended by my
ISP. After signing the contract and paying 500.00 in advance for the
terminal, what we received was not what we thought we were getting.
We attempted to return the terminal- unused- to which the outfit
replied they were not in the business of making refunds and they
were actually the middlemen in the matter. The same scenario occurred
which you describe, except that the firm never sent us a contract but
claimed that they had a copy of it on file. When I called to request
a copy of the contract the “manager” said he would instead “upgrade”
the terminal and the service to what we needed, for an additional
800.00! To this date we have never received this “contract”, which
they admitted was a different document and had been included in the
box with the terminal. After that I was never able to get hold of
this person again…

After this we decided to write the terminal off as a loss and cancel
our agreements with and their processing company,
iPayment. We have not been charged any fees except the fee for the
terminal itself, but we never used it and I warned the company that
our attorney was looking over the documentation we had received from
them. Our credit card company informed us that they were pretty much
powerless to do anything about the 500.00 we paid for the terminal as
it was not defective, just not what we thought we were getting.

I am naming names because I have all this documented,
and I don’t want to see another individual or company get swindled.
Beware the online or “just for people like you” pitches- it seems to
be much like buying a used car from the guy in the trailer on the
side of the road and paying by the week- ie: you pay a huge premium,
there is a dizzying array of undisclosed charges accompanying the
contract, and if you actually use the product the terms of the
contract bind you. Luckily, we never used the terminal (despite the
urging of the company, of couse) and simply got stuck with a piece of
equipment we can’t use. It could have been much worse if we had
actually used it, because then the processing company charges a
25.00-75.00 per month “minimum discount” which will come regardless
of whether you have used the terminal that month or not.

Hope this helps
Clyde Gilbert
Greenwood Studio

Hi Friends, I’m feeling quite lucky about my credit card arrangement
after having read these horror stories. Their responsiveness in
switching systems at my request wasn’t what I had hoped, but my
expectations may not have been realistic. Aside from that, the
service has always been trouble-free and professional.

I don’t know a great deal about credit card processing, which is how
I want it to be. I just want it to work without requiring a lot of
attention from my part. The rates sound very reasonable… except
that I usually don’t have enough transactions to meet the monthly
minimum processing fee of $25. It does make many of my customers
(especially e-commerce) more comfortable being able to take advantage
of the buyer’s protection a credit card provides.

The problem many of us will have in trying to establish credit card
service is the lack of a brick-and-mortar storefront. The bank that
handles your business checking account probably won’t provide this
service to a home based or e-commerce business. That’s what leaves an
opening for scoundrels.

My vendor is:

Cardservice International
P.O. Box 2310
Agoura Hills, CA 91376-2310
Phone: 800-456-5989, 818-878-8000

If you’re having problems with your vendor, or setting up a new
account, I would definitely give these folks an endorsement. Standard
disclaimer… I receive no benefit from recommending them, just
comfort in the fact that I might have helped someone avoid nightmares
like those described.

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Folks, If you are in business go to your bank and talk to them about
a merchant account. Not too many years ago it was very difficult for
business without storefronts to get a merchant account from the
banks but the internet has changed all of that. Many banks will now
set up accounts for non storefront businesses especially if you are
already a business customer. When I went in to open a new business
account my bank offered to set up a merchant account at the same
time with out me even having to ask about it. I was concerned
because we do not have a retail storefront and they said not to
worry. It was painless and at fairly good discount rate. So go to
your bank.


Get a lawyer and talk to your bank, they might be able to hellp you
out with their fraud department, if you put the carges on your VISA
or some other card, they have a dept. just to do that for you. it is
your money, don’t let some jerk steal it

Aaron A Tracy

The horror stories about credit card services make me very happy I
went with my gut feeling recently when I finally broke down and got
cc services, even though I don’t do very many shows.

I got a bunch of recommendations, and checked on offers online, but
I also talked to my local bank (BankOne) where I have all my
accounts. My bank wasn’t quite the best price, but I went with them
anyway, since my family has a LOT of accounts there, and they have
motivation to keep me happy. Plus I prefer to do business locally
when I can. So far, so good, no surprizes. Moral: check with the
guys you know when you’re shopping. They’re more likwely to do right
by you if they have to look you in the eye at the grocery store.


My vendor is: 
Cardservice International
P.O. Box 2310
Agoura Hills, CA 91376-2310
Phone: 800-456-5989, 818-878-8000

Dear Dave, Find out what their policy is if you want to switch. This
is the very same company that the salesmen lied to us. They have many
complaints against them at the BBB. We were told we could switch at
any time without a penalty. When you try to change, you have a two
week window, their termination policy is confusing, and they didn’t
honor it. Those are the complaints from myself and others. I was
told by them that I was a high risk and that is why I was being
treated crappy (implied, not stated, but a clear message}. I have
been in business for 12 years, have solid credit, listed in JBT. This
company was about the forth credit card co. I have used and they
were the worst. They absolutely and unequivocally did not try to help
in any way or shape right after we signed up, when we found out that
their policy differed from what we told by the sales person. I am
talking about addressing the problem within two weeks of signing up.
Hopefully you will have a better experience. Or start saving for
the $300 you will have to pay to switch. Richard in Denver

My vendor is: Cardservice International 

This is the very same company that the salesmen lied to us. They
have many complaints against them at the BBB. Perhaps the quality
of the credit card company depends more on the local sales office.
We’ve been using Cardservice International for about a year with no
problems. Our sales guy patiently went over the contract, personally
delivered the terminal to our home, gave us instructions on use,
answers questions over the phone and delivered an additional
terminal to the mall when we opened at a second location. Donna in VA

    I got a bunch of recommendations, and checked on offers
online, but I also talked to my local bank (BankOne) where I have
all my accounts. My bank wasn't quite the best price, but I went
with them anyway, since my family has a LOT of accounts there, and
they have motivation to keep me happy. Plus I prefer to do business
locally when I can. 

I felt the same way, and I got a better rate at my small local bank
which isn’t affiliated with a giant chain than I could going to any
of the big chain banks by me. This was even though I had a business
account with the big bank for years and other family accounts too.
Check around, I know there aren’t a lot of small banks left but those
that are can offer excellent service.


I realize that most of you have a much higher volume of sales than
do we, but for those of you who don’t own a storefront, and do a
nominal amount of business via credit cards, the following company
seems to be a pretty good solution. It is Credit Card Processing
Services and they offer a program called “Touchtone Merchant
Account”. There is no monthly fee, no statement fee, no batch
transaction fee - only a single per-transaction fee of about 3.5%.
You also do not need to purchase a terminal, it can all be done from
a touchtone phone - i.e., a cell phone, which most of us have anyway.
There is a $100 deposit, and if you wish to purchase a knucklebuster,
you can do that as well. I’ve found out, however, that if you don’t
wish to use one, you don’t have to. In addition, if at some point in
the future you need to upgrade, it can be done easily. My account was
approved in less than 24 hours, and my start-up package arrived
within 2 days of application. So far, so good - I’m impressed with

Just thought you might like to know of an alternative solution.


INTRODUCTION: I am a silversmith (Mokume, Photo-Etched,
Hollowware,Forging, Fabrication) and not a jeweler like most of you.
I have lurked for

7 months and you are all great. I have learned a lot of valuable
from all of you Orchidians. Maybe I can help some of
you with this subject. First let me say that I agree with most of
the comments made by Daniel Spirer and Jim Binnion–good sound

After over 20 years as a government banking regulator I believe I
can offer some help with this problem. You do have several options.
Some are long, time consuming and probably will not produce the
results you are seeking— mainly some help. Most third party
merchants merely contract for services through a credit card
processor (Mapp, Global, Nova, others). Rarely is Visa,
MasterCard, Discover, Amex directly involved with third party
merchants. There is generally a clearing bank hidden somewhere in
the process. Most banks have an agreement with the above listed
credit card companies stating that you cannot cancel their charges
(debits to your account for clearing fees) for a spcified length of
time. Those are generally Ok but it is those third party invisible
fees that run processing charges up (per item, help, batch closing,
etc). The third party merchant does not have that direct agreement
with your bank thereby putting that merchant at risk. Your solution
may be as simple as directing your bank to stop any direct debits to
your account by said merchant. Your bank may argue that the
agreement with the companies is binding even though a third party is
involved. For those of you that have fraud involved got to your
bank and ask for an officer (Vice President or Higher). Do not talk
to the Cashier or person in charge of merchant accounts because you
will get nowhere.

If that merchant is depositing the daily clearings in a bank before
transferring to your account you have this option. Find out the
name of the bank and call them–if that fails write a complaint letter
to the respective regulatory agency for the bank (FDIC, OCC, State).

What is the monthly fee charged by the merchant clearing services if
you process zero dollars? If there is no charge then just switch
services. Some charge a $10.00 statement fee whether you process or
not. Pay the monthly fee until the contract runs and in the meantime
get another service. We have enough headaches without this

I have one comment about David’s post concerning rates. The bank is
getting BD percent or more of the charges you are paying and will
negotiate the rate not the processing fees.

Jim Binnion and David Spirer said it well–if you do not know what is
out there or what to look for–or the deal is simply too good —then
go to your bank. I will be glad to answer any questions I can off
line. Personally, I use processe through Nova direct. They have
great service–always fix my problems–24/7, a bit pricey but worth
it. Usual disclaimer, not associated with–just a satisfied

Castle Rock, Colorado