Based in the UK, there are a very limited number of merchant account providers I can use. What’s more, for startup Internet ventures finding a provider that won’t double over with laughter when you make your application is even harder.
When I first started out on the Internet years ago, though, I didn’t yet know this fact.
Instead I blindly applied for a merchant account assuming that as I had a viable business plan, stock waiting to be sold and a reasonable to good credit rating, I wouldn’t have too many problems.
Unfortunately I was mistaken. This article is the story of exactly what happened to me in those days both in the hope you don’t have similar problems, and also to illustrate how important accurate information is before you start investing large sums of money and time on the wrong thing.
You see, the problem with merchant account providers is that they rarely give you all the relevant information before you take the plunge. On the other hand, they rarely give you that information after, either!
The company to whom I applied, which will remain nameless, had an excellent reputation and a quality, professional-looking website. In short, they were a company I felt I could trust. Furthermore they promised a fast, easy application procedure which took my fancy.
The application involved three parts, however it wasn’t clear from the website what these three parts were.
Firstly one filled in a vast array of online forms which gives a “provisional” acceptance whereupon you are led onto stage 2.
Stage two in the process is the paying of a non-refundable application fee.
Lastly, stage three involved downloading and printing a range of offline forms that should be posted to the company in question to support your online application.
Unfortunately it wasn’t clear from the website that the online and offline forms had to both be filled in.
The website seemed to suggest you filled in either one or the other. As a result, I paid my non-refundable deposit and printed out all the forms, filled them in and posted them off.
Then I waited…
And finally, after a period of about two weeks I telephoned to ask whether they were still running their fast, easy application service. Apparently, and somewhat surprisingly, they said they were.
I was informed that as I hadn’t filled in the online forms too they could go no further with my application, even if they had banked my money (which they had).
I enquired that as the forms I had sent them contained almost my whole life history and that of my business, couldn’t they have contacted me to let me know what was going on – either by post, email or phone (all of which were provided) to tell me there was a problem?
Apparently not, but then again, doing this would involve some customer service wouldn’t it?
So I filled in the online forms too and waited again. And some more.
Finally I rang them again (it was, by now, over three weeks since my initial application) and asked what the delay was now.
I was told they’d take a look straight away then call me back.
To their credit, they did. However the news was less than satisfactory.
My business plan was buying up computers at auction then selling them on, via the Internet. This meant I could be half the price of the competition but still offer very high quality products that some large corporation just wanted rid of.
The fact that I offered a guarantee on my products apparently made things all the worse.
In short, I was told these computers constituted a “high-risk” venture and so I had three options, and only three.
Firstly I could be paid every three months rather than every few weeks which would make running my business virtually impossible to run if I had no more cash income for 12 weeks.
Option two was to stop selling computers completely (which clearly was the whole aim of the business) or the third option was to lump it and be refused a merchant account by them. Either way I lost a lot of money and time.
As you can imagine by this time I was livid. Any of the three options would essentially put me out of business before it even began trading.
After some thought I emailed them with my sentiments.
In short, I felt deceived. I had applied in good faith, no mention having been made on their website of computer sales being a “high-risk” venture and I wasn’t impressed at all the money and time I’d invested just to get absolutely nothing at the end.
The only thing I could do was refuse their terms and conditions, and consequently accept that I wouldn’t gain a merchant account.
So I told them as much, then followed up by emailing and telephoning so repeatedly that they finally agreed to give me 100% of my money back. Finally.
It may have taken two weeks of non-stop campaigning but the moral of the story is if you think you’ve been “had” by an unscrupulous company, make a fuss – a big fuss. Don’t make it bribery, but state how disgusted you are and how you’ll never recommend their services to anyone. My experience proves this will work in some situations.
So the end result was a huge waste of my time and energy, though I did succeed in getting my money back in full.
At that time, we were also acting as an affiliate for the company, sending potential clients their way and so on receiving our refund, immediately cancelled our affiliate contract and dropped them from the very prominent position they’d formerly had on our website. I’m sorry but I refuse to recommend a company when we’ve had such problems with them. Fair?!
This is just one of several similar experiences that caused me to set up this site. For legal reasons, we are unable to mention some of the bad companies (though some are mentioned by name). However, those with a good reputation are named. I can’t stress to you enough how important it is for your own sanity and business success to use one of the reputable, reliable companies we personally recommend.
Not to mention that all the full-blown merchant accounts we recommend offer a free application rather than making you pay upfront. And all third party processors recommended have a 100% money back guarantee.
So your cash is safe either way.
This article proves we’ve been through the trenches – don’t remake our mistakes!