Why Use a Third Party Merchant Account?

After over a decade online, I still use a third party merchant account. I know people wonder why a "professional organization" would do that, since it is considered by some to be UNprofessional. So, I'll tell you!

When I opened my first website, I researched regular online merchant accounts. Talk about a headache! It was gruesome. There was SO much difference in what they offered – there was SO much hype – and, it was expensive for someone just starting out.

I decided I would wait until my new business was two years old (that was the requirement), and just get a merchant account with my own bank. When the time came, I checked it out, and found that I would still be paying over twice the amount I was paying a third party merchant account to process payments.

That didn't make good business sense to me! And, by that time, I had heard the horror stories of having your own merchant account for an online business. There are major problems.

The main problems are fraud issues. Affiliate programs are especially susceptible to fraud. Any expensive products that can be resold are also at risk.

If you have your own merchant account, you will be expected to check every order for fraud. By this, I mean some thief using stolen credit card numbers. If fraud gets by you, you will be liable to return the money to your merchant account provider, since they paid you. And, you may not have it by the time the fraud is discovered.

Then, what happens?

Your merchant account provider places a "freeze" on your checking account! I've heard of providers leaving this freeze on bank accounts for up to NINE (9) months. You will also lose your merchant account – as if you committed the fraud!

Now, mind you, you may have funds in that account over and above the amounts of the fraudulent transactions. Doesn't matter. They freeze the entire bank account at least until they have every cent of their money back – PLUS the time it takes them to release your account. I've heard of the freeze staying in place for six months, even if they got all their money back in the first 30 days!

Do not believe for a minute they give a damn about any other funds they have tied up. They don't! How are you going to operate your business without money? In fact, how are you going to live without the money they tie up?

I know people who have been completely wiped out because they spent money paid into their bank by the merchant account provider. Then, months down the line, it becomes apparent that fraudulent transactions accounted for some huge amount of the sales, and they had to cough up thousands of dollars – already spent.

Thieves Checking for Good Credit Card Numbers

Then, you have the credit card scammers using your order page to check for good credit card numbers! They use some routine to input random numbers – just like the telemarketers dial random telephone numbers.

They may only put through sales of one dollar, or less. All they are doing is noting which numbers go through. Those they know are valid credit card numbers to be used in one scam, or another.

How does that hurt you? You are paying your merchant account provider a fee for every transaction! When the thieves are running through hundreds, or even thousands, of numbers, that can add up fast.

Do you think your merchant account provider will refund those fees to you when it becomes apparent what's going on? If you guessed yes – guess again! They don't care! The transaction happened – you PAY!

Not So With a Third Party Merchant Account!

Now, I can't actually vouch all third party merchant accounts. And, I'll be honest and tell you that, in two years, I went through four of them that didn't work out. But, since then, I've had the same one - and it works beautifully.

They check for fraud! They have people on staff who do nothing else. If someone started running numbers through, they'd catch it in a flash. We do NOT pay for bad transactions!

They even send us a warning if the machine check flags a transaction., i.e., name doesn't match address, comes from a country known for fraud, etc. They warn us not to deliver until they have checked it out, always within 24 hours – usually much faster.

Now, it's true – they deposit money into my bank account once a week, rather than every day. But, so what? Do I need it every day? Nope. And, for all this protection, I pay less than half what I would pay for a merchant account that gives me no protection whatsoever!

And, last, but certainly not least, the third party merchant account company takes care of all Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) requirements. I never have to lift a finger!

So, while I watch many of my good friends online pulling their hair out, paying for fraudulent transactions, paying for the scumbags to check credit card numbers, so they can look "professional" - I rest well at night. I'm also protecting my business, my reputation, and my money!

Sometimes, it just pays to outsource certain services! And, your merchant account is one of them!

Yes, I will tell you which third party merchant account I use. Look here:


Silence is Acceptance

It's an unfortunate fact that, when times get economically tough, more people than usual come out of the woodwork to take advantage of others.

I'm sure you've heard the statement, "Silence is acceptance." I think they use it on the anti-drug commercials. And, I'm pretty sure they stole it from me. But, that's okay. At least I know I could be sitting on Madison Avenue instead of in front of this lousy computer.

Ever think about that statement? Ever think about how many things it could apply to in our lives? Ever really think about the number of things we accept by our silence simply because we don't want to make waves? Hey! What's a little wave?

Let's look at it another way. Ever think about the really mammoth size waves we create by our silence? I'm talking tsunami here!

Someone may not want to make waves over the suspicion that a kid is using drugs. What kind of a wave do they have when the kid ODs? Tsunami? You bet! That's what silence will get us.

A tsunami is exactly what is sweeping the Internet. We have a wave of unprofessional businesses drowning the rest of us in the murky water of their race to get-rich-quick. It's a wave of online companies with no concern for the customer other than how to get their money in the quickest way possible.

It isn't just the new online business owner - who may still be an inexperienced amateur. It's even the giant corporations. In the past, they handled their business professionally. They bent over backward to make customer service a top priority. I guess when you can market to the whole world you don't need to bother to take care of the individual customer, eh?

How did this become a tsunami? How did it get out of hand? You guessed it! We've gone along with it - especially if we were new to the Internet - because we didn't want to make waves! We've accepted it by our silence.

Every business owner on the Internet is also a customer on the Internet. If you're struggling to run a professional company, I know darn well you keep running into service - or product - providers who don't appreciate your business. They often act like they don't even need the customer in order to their keep their company afloat.

Fair enough. If that's what they think - let's tell other potential customers about it. These companies will no doubt thank us when they NEVER have to think about another customer!

It's time to stop staying silent. In fact, it's past time! Let's spread the word. Maybe a little pressure will push back that tsunami that's threatening to drown us all. Maybe a little pressure will encourage some of these people to start running their companies in a more professional manner.

We have several ways to do that ...

First, we need to pay attention. Never mind what their PR says - never mind what their affiliates say - are you getting what you're paying for? And, are you being treated like a VALUED customer, as you should be?

If not, we can begin - by stopping. STOP accepting unacceptable treatment from online companies. STOP doing business with those who promise one thing and deliver something less. STOP doing business with those who have no regard for considerate customer service.

And finally, we can start. START realizing that silence truly is acceptance! START telling everyone you know why you stopped doing business with these companies.

Here's where they think they have us. They think we're afraid to do anything other than stay silent. Me? I knew years ago that silence is acceptance. It's time we all made some noise!

How "Guidelines" Become Law

This article is to help both online business owners, those thinking about selling online AND online consumers! I'm putting to rest some questions and arguments, once and for all.

If you were to start a business down on Main Street, you would - without question - find out what the legal ramifications are, and do whatever is necessary to cover your butt.

I continue to fail to see WHY folks think that should be different if they have a business on the Web. It still seems as if way too many online business owners think they can cut corners just by the very fact that they DO operate online.

This is an erroneous idea that gets people into trouble!

I DO understand you can start an online business for FAR less capital than it takes down on Main Street. This is a GREAT thing for those losing jobs or needing additional income. I whole-heartedly recommend it!

However ... Are you in business - or not? The Web isn't a playpen, and it should be taken seriously if you plan to make a living on it!

Who do YOU do Business With?

Consumers ARE finally becoming more savvy about who they choose to do business with. They look for physical contact information - including a telephone number.

But, they are ALSO learning to look for the legal documents that protect them. True: it's becoming more complicated. At one time, it was mostly just a Privacy Statement they expected.

So many scammers have now brought consumers to the point for knowing to look for more protection. Can you blame them?

I shop online constantly, and you'd better believe I'm VERY careful to be sure the companies I patronize have the proper legal documents! I want to be SURE I'm dealing with a professional - and legal - business!

Which Brings Us to My Point ...

I RARELY join an affiliate program. If I did it for one iCop member, I'd feel like I had to do it for all of them. No time.

But, I DID join the AutoWebLaw Pro program when it first came out. Why? Because this is a product that can do nothing but help every single online business owner!

In fact, it's a NECESSARY product to doing legitimate business online. I truly believe in it for several reasons - not the least of which is the money business owners can save by using it instead of running to a business attorney every time some regulatory guideline changes.

And, by the way, the words "guidlelines" and "regulations" ARE used interchangeably by the regulatory institutions!

In another life, and for 15 years, I dealt with legal documents, and business laws in particular, for the businesses I represented in keeping them out of bankruptcy. There isn't much I don't know about how the legal system works for business.

So, you can believe me when I tell you the documents in AutoWebLaw Pro are TOP-NOTCH. And, I'll guarantee you - I wouldn't promote them for a single minute if they weren't!

It isn't just the current FTC new "guidelines." The AutoWebLaw Pro package is full of more legal advice than you can shake a stick at! All you have to do to gain that advice is READ all the documents.

Now, I know the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or a similar agency in other countries, isn't going gunning for every small business owner online. They don't have the staff for that.

But, let a couple of consumers report you for something, and see what happens! Once a red flag goes up, an investigation can start while you're blissfully drinking your coffee and counting your money.

You won't know anything about it until someone arrives on your door step with a subpoena!

“Well, (Boo-Hoo) it's only a guideline!”

“Yeah, Pal, it's a guideline today, but as soon as we take you to court, and win - which we will - it sets a precedent that makes it part of the LAW. We refine the “law” as we go along!”

The BASIC law simply says, “No deceptive advertising.” But, what constitutes deceptive advertising is determined by the courts!

You should also know - if you don't live in the USA and your payment processor IS in the USA, all U.S. FTC laws also apply to you. Refuse to comply and you can lose your payment processor!

Two Final Tips

  • Consumers are absolutely RIGHT to look for, and read, legal documents on a website. And, not lay down a single penny until they do!
  • Every online business owner is ALSO an online consumer. Legal documents apply to you from BOTH sides!

How to Get Your Newsletter Read

I'm a HUGE believer in email marketing - always have been. I don't believe it will EVER be replaced - not by blogs, RSS, social networks or anything else.

Problem is, due to the spam filters, things have changed in the world of email. It appears to be very difficult to get your email delivered. It's why so many folks have given up on sending ezines.

BAD mistake!

I learned a couple of things in just one week of using a blog ONLY. I wanted to be able to stop concerning myself with whether every issue got by the spam filters - especially when I refuse to word-check for the ISPs.

When I gave that further thought, I remembered something I already knew. I use an email service that has a 99% delivery. Mail-List.com has a reputation with the ISPs that relieves me of that worry.

If I need to make adjustments, Mark McCreary, owner of Mail-List.com, lets me know. This man is a pro - not a rinky-dink internet marketer list service. I know it, and the ISPs know it. So, I get delivered.

What Do Subscribers Want?

This is the question that blows me away. I will soon have 11 years of weekly ezine publishing. There isn't much I haven't tried in that period of time, so I feel like an expert on the subject.

I've done multiple surveys on the issue of how subscribers wish to read. When asked, they'll say they prefer to read it online - every time.

However, when given a choice of either reading online, or requesting an autoresponder for the full issue, response level falls off. Usually, only those who want to keep issues ever click for the autoresponder.

But, surprisingly, very few subs go to the website, either. It may be a matter of thinking, “I'll read it when I have a few minutes ...” and we all know how that goes!

Even sending a notice with a Table of Contents - or a “teaser” - via email, with a link to an online version, cuts my response rate.

When given the choice of having the full issue delivered - with a link to an online version - I get the greatest response. Why?

Because, no matter what folks think they want, they are actually most apt to read a full issue once it's put in right in front of them in their email inbox!

I know this for a fact! I can check the site stats and see how few go to the online version, yet my over-all response is greater than any other type of delivery when I just provide a link in a FULL email version of the newsletter.

Of course, I COULD prove that by sending the issue in HTML. Then, I could count how many are “opened.” Even though many companies do this, Mark tells me the ISPs still tell HIM they block HTML at a much greater rate than text messages. So, why lower my delivery rate?

Why did I bother to put up a blog? It seems to have become necessary for article marketing.

When I write the Journal as an email issue, I feel like I'm just writing a letter to friends - because I am. On the blog, I feel I need to write in a more formal manner because of the strangers who will come along and read it.

Four Things to do for Best Response to an Ezine

  • Use an EXCELLENT delivery service with at LEAST a 98% delivery rate
  • Send a full issue via email - in TEXT
  • Add a link at the top to an online version
  • Be personal so your readers will grow to know you
That's it! It IS that simple! You might want to check your text for filter trigger words. But, if you use a reputable enough email service, it isn't really necessary.

Which Brings Us to RSS

I've never had any use for RSS. I've used RSS many times to be notified of someone's blog updates. All that happens is the updates go to my bookmarks.

Weeks or months later, while in the bookmarks, I see the blog has 50 entries I never knew about! They were silently placed in my bookmarks.

Do I read them all to catch up? Absolutely not!

You may have noticed, although everyone seems to have a blog, they nearly ALWAYS send you a direct email when they're selling something. Why do you think that is?

NOTHING beats email for response rate!

Article Copyrights

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To re-publish articles by jl scott from this site, please include the following byline - with live links - after each article you use.

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* dr. jl scott is the Founder of Chamber of Commerce - on the Web™ http://www.ChamberofCommerce-ontheWeb.com - and also the publisher of the Online Business Trade Journal™ - the blog that keeps you up to date with online business coming of age. Visit: http://www.OnlineBusinessTradeJournal.com

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