Online Merchant Accounts – Review of Merchant Inc

This review is long due of a company called Merchant Inc.

Let me start by explaining what my circumstances were.

As an owner of an online company, we live and breathe by the ability to accept credit card payments for customers.  For the 14+ years we have been in business, we have used PayPal for all of our transaction needs.  It is relatively easy for our customers to get their invoice by e-mail – then go to the PayPal page to either login to their account – or put in their card details.

As of this writing, PayPal’s fees are approximately 30 cents plus 2.9% per transaction.  Not bad considering there are NO OTHER FEES – no monthly fees, no batch fees, nothing.  Merchant accounts have all kinds of other fees – as described below.

Well, I had a customer put in a charge back against me.  This customer was a fraudulent scammer to say the least – as they paid us to create two websites for them.  We created the websites, they approved of both of them, and then decided to call their credit card company and say that our charges were not authorized.  This was the first time I ever had to deal with this in my business and was shocked.

So PayPal had no other choice than to take the funds from our account.  Any merchant account would do this as well.  So I got online – like anyone else would – and started seeing how it was to deal with PayPal and working to provide my side of the story.  PayPal does have a nice system where you can go in and upload and provide all of the documentation regarding the claim.  However, based on a lot of reviews I was reading, everyone was indicating that PayPal would do absolutely nothing regarding these charge backs and wouldn’t fight on their customer’s behalf (completely false after I won the case).  Long story short – after a couple of months, PayPal did go to bat for me – and I got 100% of the chargeback funds back in my account after the decision was overturned.

In the meantime, I went to a website – PayPalSucks.com – and started reading all kinds of people’s reviews on there as well.  I felt like I was going to just lose the funds and all the time that I put into the customer’s websites.

Well, the PayPalSucks.com website really touts a company called Merchant Inc as a payment alternative to PayPal.  They were the only provider that PayPalSucks.com would recommend for US customers.

One of the first things I did was to post a topic on the PayPalSucks.com website asking others about their experiences and reading Merchant Inc reviews.  I also posted a huge review of Merchant Inc on there as well.  Well – my post was NEVER approved and never posted to the site.  Imagine that.  So what I thought is probably true – the same company/person that created the PayPalSucks.com website most likely runs Merchant Inc as well.  That is why they have banners and advertisements all over the site for Merchant Inc – and is why that is the only provider they recommend for US customers.

So – now for the review of Merchant Inc.

Customer Service

Very responsive chat-based customer service that I was very happy with.  Do note that there are three different customer service departments that you will deal with though – which is noted below.  The one time using iPayment’s customer service seemed OK – and the one time using Authorize.net’s customer service also seemed OK – although it took their department 4-5 days to get my logo uploaded to my payment form.

In about 24 hours, I got the approval.  This whole thing with a merchant account can be very perplexing.

How Many Hands in the Pot?

#1 – You have Merchant Inc themselves.  They basically are a reseller for Authorize.net.

#2 – You have Authorize.net.  They are the front-end that the customers and visitors see when making payments.  They are the payment gateway that ties Internet payments with an actual credit card processor.

#3 – You have iPayment.  I’ve read some VERY nasty things about iPayment that definitely scared me.  iPayment is the actual processor that talks with the card networks and does the deposits into your account when someone pays.

That is how the whole system works.  This makes matters that much more confusing with so many different hands in the pot.

Fees

Well, this is the part where you need to read the fine print.  On the Merchant Inc website, everything looks very nice and the prices reasonable.

$7.95 a month
1.9% plus 25 cents per transaction

Looks good doesn’t it?  I absolutely thought so when comparing them to the cost of the prices listed on Authorize.net ($20 per month, $99 setup fee, 10 cent transaction fee).  I thought hey – all I have to do is about $800 a month in sales and I’ll break even with what I was paying with PayPal (since their fee is about 1% less – 1% of $800 is $8.00).

So, got all signed up and was happy after I programmed my site to interface with the Authorize.net sandbox/developer stuff and it worked perfect.

I then started doing some research because I wasn’t sure what iPayment was all about.  Well, turns out, there are some very unhappy iPayment customers – where they noted that iPayment was taking high fees from their checking accounts, blocking funds, and other stuff – you know, stuff that PayPal does (supposedly).  Several others also noted that iPayment requires a “reserve” account in case of charge backs or other issues.  Some people noted that their “reserve” account was $10,000+ that they had no access to.

The Fine Print

Very concerned, I started a chat with the Merchant Inc folks.  They told me that the only fees there were are what is shown on the application.  Sure enough, I noticed a $2.50 per month reserve account fee.  The person I spoke with said that I do not have a reserve account, and therefore that charge was not applicable.  In the end, I wasn’t charged that and didn’t have a reserve account so that was positive.

Next was a “batch” fee.  What is this?  This fee is incurred any time that you have a payment submitted to you.  As I was told, this is only incurred when payments are accepted – not declined and this fee is daily when there are transactions.  So, if you get a payment every day of the month, you are looking at an EXTRA $7.00 to $7.75 A MONTH.

Next – and this was only uncovered in the fine print.

iPayment apparently has to verify your “business entity”.  So, there is a one-time $25 charge for that which is done in the first 30 days.  This certainly wasn’t clearly stated – and didn’t expect that.  What are they going to verify?  Nothing if you ask me – I bet it is just a fee for them to pocket.

And lastly – there is an IRS fee EVERY MONTH.  Again, noted only in the fine print.  Cost is another $4.95 a month.  For what?  I guess so they can report to the IRS monthly what is brought into the merchant account?  Who knows – but that works out to another $59.40 every year.  Sure, I guess sending information to the IRS so you pay your fair share of taxes is needed – but another $60 a year is ridiculous.  You would think a processor would be able to mass print reports at the end of the year and mail them out.  Heck, everything is probably sent electronically so there isn’t any manpower needed or postage.  I’m sure they do – but they are then charging another $60 to do it.

Lastly, don’t forget about the PCI Compliance fee which is yearly.  That is $160 a year.  If you do not certify as PCI Compliant, you are whipped with another $30 A MONTH charge until you get compliant.  I used the CIM – hosted-form solution at Authorize.net so I didn’t take any credit card data on my site.  In those cases, there shouldn’t even be a fee (PayPal doesn’t charge for that).

So, when it is all said and done, Merchant Inc. is much more expensive than one may think.

Let’s put this down into real terms for comparison here

Costs for Merchant Inc.

– No Setup or Application Fee
– BUT there is a $25 charge to verify your ‘business entity’ and charged within 30 days
– 1.9% per transaction plus 25 cents plus 2 cents for an acquirer fee
– 25 cents DAILY for days with successful payments
– $7.95 per month – $6.95 a month goes to Authorize.net and the $1.00 goes to Merchant Inc (I guess? – they call it a $1 a month billing charge)
– $4.95 per month – for regulation charges
– $160 per YEAR for PCI Compliance
– $30 per month if not PCI Compliant

There might be others that I didn’t uncover – but this is what was in the application itself.

Let’s say you have 20 days of payments each month.

Approximate Total MONTHLY Cost:  $17.90 before PCI Compliance, $31.23 with PCI Compliance (doesn’t include the per-transaction fees).

Qualified Versus Unqualified Rates

Another “got ya!” moment is the rate that Merchant Inc quotes on their site.  They quote 1.9% per transaction. No asterisk or star next to that number with a disclosure – so that means you should be charged 1.9%.  But be prepared.  That is NOT the case the majority of the time.  If your customers are using business cards, reward cards, or American Express, be prepared!  That 1.9% can quickly turn into 3.5% or higher.  That alone is higher than PayPal’s fees.  During my time with Merchant Inc, about 75% of my transactions were not getting the qualified rate.  Why?  Because most of our customers are businesses.  So immediately, this rate is higher than PayPal and the cost can be higher.

Costs for PayPal:

– 2.9% plus 30 cents
– Inability to directly fight claims – must use their department to act as a liasons (but this worked out well and I won my case)
– PayPal calls the shots and can block/suspend your account whenever

So if shopping around, PayPal absolutely looks like the better alternative than a merchant account if you don’t do more than $3,000 or so per month in transactions AND you manage to get the qualified rate of 1.9% per transaction.

Hopefully this review of Merchant Inc will be helpful to those doing a search for it.  Be aware that the PayPalSucks.com website is definitely loaded with false information and their forum appears to be run by the website owner – and they appear to only post negative topics about PayPal with nothing positive to say.  They do this so you are in the mindset of leaving PayPal and going to Merchant Inc.

We had our Merchant Inc account for about four months before cancelling.  Once our PayPal claim was overturned, shortly afterwards is when we discontinued the account at Merchant Inc.  We didn’t have any reason to continue paying for it.  We also ensured to cancel before we got hit with the PCI Security Compliance fee – which is done around May of each year.

In the end, there was one month out of four where we actually saved money using Merchant Inc – but it was less than a $5 savings.  All of the other months – because of the high non-qualified rates, batch fees, and all of the other fees involved – ended up costing us quite a bit higher than PayPal.

Lettuce Picked – Second Time!

Just got done picking another round of lettuce from the garden this evening!  I’ve only picked about 1/3 of the lettuce so far today as it is getting washed right now.

Lettuce Harvest

There still is plenty to pick as this photo shows:

Lettuce Plants

You’ll notice at the bottom that the sweet basil has sprouted and is doing well.  It sprouted about two weeks ago and it is starting to take off now.

The carrots are doing fantastic as well – although there are some weeds that I need to get out of there.

Carrot Bed

Over in the side garden, the potatoes are doing very well.  The Cascadia Snap Peas are leaving more to be desired this year.  I certainly would have thought that with it being cooler than average this year – that the peas would have been doing better.

Side Garden

Behind the garage, it is the same story with the peas.  They are doing better back here though – compared to against the house.  That is just backwards compared to how it has been in previous years.  That tomato plants are struggling to grow well in this cool weather as wel.  I did have to buy a f ew more tomato cages this year because the ones I had previously were too small – and in very bad shape.

Back Garden

Moving to the front yard – where the Varsity Onions are doing well.  I had to go through and weed the front garden earlier this week – took a good 45 minutes to go through and get all of the weeds out.

Varsity Onions

Speaking of onions – look what I found down by the garden bed by the road!  A very TALL onion!  Apparently I must have missed one last year – and those puppy has sprouted up.  It appears that it is going to put a seed head on it – although I’m not sure if I will want to save the seed from the plant or not.  I might save some if I can – and just see what happens with it.

Onion Bolting

The rest of the front garden is looking pretty miserable actually.  The cauliflower and broccoli plants just didn’t take off very well.  Heck, I may not even get much of an broccoli this year.  Out of six cauliflower, only two of them have curds on them.  At least it looks like the green beans are growing well.  The California Wonder peppers are not looking too great either.

Front Garden

Here is a closer picture of one of the Snow Crown Cauliflower curds.

Snow Crown Cauliflower Curd

Right by the driveway, our colorful pink peonies have finally opened up.  On Sunday, they were not open – but throughout this week, they have finally opened up.  A bit later in the year for them as well – but it has been cooler.

Pink Peonies

And down by the road – the potatoes really like their new environment.  I’ve not covered them up yet – so here’s to hoping that the deer will leave them alone!

Kennebec Potatoes

And lastly – the Ventura Celery.  They are growing well.  I also re-planted some Easter Egg radishes in place of those where I pulled some a couple weeks ago.  They are also growing well.  I did leave a few radish plants in from the previous planting – and need to thin them out.  I wanted to keep a few so they would put on some seed pods for me.

Ventura Celery

It has been a very crazy year.  The year has been blessed with rain though.  Just today, we had another storm come through that really put down a good pouring of rain.  Last night it was the same way.  We seem to be getting rain every three to four days on average.  I’ve only had to water the garden a few times – but nature is taking care of it for us!  It is nice to have a completely full rain barrel system on standby – but with the rain on a good basis, it certainly saves me at least an hour – if not more – per week of my time with no watering.

Garden Growth Has Picked Up

The warmer temperatures we’ve experience recently has really caused the plants to grow very quickly!  It was almost 90 degrees a couple of days ago – but for the most part, the temperatures have been steady in the 70’s and low 80’s.

I missed the weekly posting last week – so I wanted to get this one done when I could.

The lettuce has really grown.  We most likely will be ready to pick some lettuce this week.

Lettuce

The carrots have been doing very well too.  I had to go through and weed them out last week – and there are already more that need to be plucked out.

Carrot Bed

The side garden is going well with the potatoes.  The Cascadia Snap Peas are not doing well at all this year beside the house.  Seems that maybe 50% of them came up.

Side Garden

Behind the garage – the peas are doing much better – even though they don’t get as much sunlight.  Odd.  The tomatoes are also doing OK.

Back Garden

Going to the front yard.  The Varsity Onions have really grown – seems they have at least doubled in size in the past week alone!

Varsity Onions

Unfortunately though – the peppers and broccoli still haven’t caught on.  I am not sure if the broccoli will even bounce back to have any produce out of them.  That would be the first year for that – so I still am hoping for the best.  You can also see two rows of green beans coming up.

Front Garden

Over on the opposite side of the front garden are the Snow Crown Cauliflower along with some more peppers.  Same thing here – only a few of the cauliflower plants have been doing well – and the others haven’t.  Might be lucky to get two out of six cauliflower plants with produce.

Snow Crown Cauliflower

Making our way over to the old strawberry pyramids – the Ventura Celery is doing quite well.  The radishes – well, the majority of them were actually picked on Sunday.

Ventura Celery

Closer look of one of the Easter Egg radishes.  It was ready to be pulled!

Easter Egg Radish

Look at the grape vines!  They are loaded with grape clusters this year.  If all of them bear fruit, that is going to keep the birds busy when the grapes are ripened.  I tried to get a view that shows that even way back in the background – there are clusters formed on those as well.

Grape Clusters

And the potatoes by the road.  They were mulched with the leaves I saved up front last year to help keep moisture in – and prevent the potatoes from turning green if they are made above the level of the ground.  Mulching was done on Sunday and the picture below was taken on Saturday.  I need to get netting over them soon before the deer decide to come and eat it all.

Kennebec Potatoes

And lastly – the radish harvest.  There was at least a pound or more of radishes.

Easter Egg Radishes

After they were all cut up and cleaned, they were ready to eat!  I’ve already cut up a few of them and used them on salads.

Easter Egg Radishes

Once they were all picked, I then re-seeded with more radishes.  I’m not sure if they’ll have time to mature before it gets too hot for them, but time will tell.

Hosting Companies – Don’t Lose Your Website!

We get calls and inquiries from customers almost on a daily basis.  Many of them are looking for an affordable website design.  Others are just looking for logo design – and some just for website hosting.

The reasons are many that people are looking to have a more stable design business work for them.  Whether it be due to a previous designer no completing their site, a previous designer being extremely slow and not completing the work in a timely basis, or someone needing to have maintenance done to their website and the previous designer is no where to be found.  These are all good reasons to choose an actual business rather than a person that advertises for website services.  Not only is it usually under-the-table money, but they could be here one day and gone the next.

But the larger problem we often hear about – is someone’s website being completely lost.  Gone.  What happened?  Well, they forgot to renew their website hosting account.  When it comes to website hosting, it is important that you choose a business that is also thinking ahead for these specific moments.

Most of the larger website hosting companies that charge very little for website hosting have a myriad of problems – whether they are not as reliable or they load thousands of customers on the same server which makes your website load extremely slow.  But more imporantly – are website backups.

BsnTech does require our users to set backups – or even do manual backups of their website.  It is done automatically.  We keep a rolling seven-day backup of both your website AND any e-mail accounts that you may have.  We cannot tell you how many times this has saved our customers.  Whether they deleted an e-mail that they didn’t mean to delete – or they made a change on their website that brought their website down.

In the event that our customers discontinue website hosting services – or forget to pay their invoice in a timely manner, we don’t go to the extreme of immediately closing out your hosting account and deleting all of your files that make up your website in addition to your e-mail accounts.

While the website may be suspended after non-payment, the website and the hosting account still exists – and will for up to an additional month.  That way if a customer simply forgot to pay the invoice, then they can submit payment within that month window and get the website turned back on quickly.

What is even better – is if the month period fully lapses, the website still is not permantently deleted on our hosting servers.  Our systems will automatically create a full website backup and then close out the account.

Many customers have taken advantage of this as well.  They may have a seasonal business and don’t need website hosting for the full year.  So they may have their site up for six months – then have it down for six months.  When they are ready to have it restored, we simply obtain the payment for the web hosting services from them – and we’ll go in and restore the website just like nothing happened.

So, be careful when you choose a web hosting company.  Many of them have very stringent and not-so-forgiving policies that could leave you without your website.  Especially like a person that just called us a few days ago – they paid thousands for their website – to have it be completely deleted – with no backup – because the credit card on their hosting account had expired and their site was deleted.

Transplating Outside

More rain this week.  A lot more rain.  All day Saturday and Sunday, it was a light rain.

At least we had some great temperatures.  It was in the 80’s a few days this week – then of course, for the weekend – rain and colder.

The warm weather really helped to get the plants growing and there are some big changes from last week.

First up is the carrot bed and potato bin.  The potatoes are peeking through.  I had to go through the carrot bed and thin many out since I just sprinkled the seed in – instead of painstakingly going through and lining them all out.  That does mean less carrots this year since there are many spots where there could have been seed – but sometimes you have to weigh the time taken with the output.

Carrot Bed

The back garden had some work done on Sunday.  Several tomato plants were transplanted – and the Cascadia Snap Peas are still growing – but ever so slowly.  The pictures are not all that great because at about 7:30 pm on Sunday, I said “Oh wow, I forgot to take pictures!”  So it was getting dark – and I had the flash shut off on the camera.

Back Garden

The side garden beside the house – the potatoes are really going strong!  I also put in some PVC pipe next to the peas for watering purposes.  I’ve been pretty slow with getting the drip irrigation system out this year – but that was the first piece done.  I need to follow-up with that and put the irrigation in behind the garage (picture above) and in the front garden as well.  A couple of tomato plants were also planted in the side garden this year since I didn’t have enough space behind the garage.

Side Garden

The lettuce has really taken off with the weather and hopefully in a couple more weeks, we can start using some.  Simpson Elite is shown on the left, Red Salad Bowl in the middle, and New Red Fire on the right.

Lettuce Garden

The Ventura celery is doing well – and so are the Easter Egg Radishes.  Wow – that just reminded me – I didn’t plant any more radishes yesterday.  I need to get another batch started so we’ll have a continual supply of them.

Ventura Celery

The picture of the front garden is really bad – blurry.  Varsity Onions continue to grow – along with the broccoli and cauliflower.  It does appear that I’ve lost at least one – if not two – of the Snow Crown Cauliflower.  One was pulled up by a deer before I got the fencing in – and the other one – just didn’t seem to transplant very well.

Front Garden

Down on both sides of the front garden, I planted the California Wonder Peppers between the cauliflower and broccoli – a total of eight with four being on each side of the garden patch.  Below is a photo of two of them – with the Snow Crown Cauliflower plant that is pretty much a goner.

California Wonder Peppers

And the last picture is Kennebec Potatoes.  They have done very well in the bed against the road.  This bed was initially going to be used for flowers and such – but I’ve taken it over again this year to put potatoes in.  I’d rather have the space be useful for something if flowers aren’t going to go in there 🙂

Kennebec Potatoes

That is all for this week!

How to Delete all Unread Mesages in the Deleted Items

If you are like me, you want to keep your deleted items for a while.  In general, I will keep a rolling one-year backup.

But what happens if you have a lot of unread e-mail in your Deleted Items folder that you don’t want?  No problem.  This quick tutorial will help you understand how to delete unread e-mail out of your Deleted Items folder in Outlook.

For some reason, Outlook doesn’t allow you to sort based on whether an e-mail is read or not.  Thunderbird – Mozilla’s free e-mail program, does allow you to do this.

This tutorial was specifically written for Outlook 2010 – but may also be the same for Outlook 2013 as well.

First, you will click on your Deleted Items folder.

Now, go up to the ribbon and choose “View”.

Delete Unread Messages

After choosing the View option, click the “View Settings” button – should be the second from the left (as shown above).  The box that is shown below will then show on your screen:

Now, click on the “Filter…” option and then the “More Choices” tab:

Now put a check mark next to “Only items that are:” and ensure “unread” is shown in the drop-down menu.  Hit OK to get out of the Filter screen and then OK again on the Advanced View Settings.

You should then have a filter on your Deleted Items folder that shows only your unread messages.  Now you can select them all and delete!

Once you are done, just hit the “Reset View” button (third from the left) in the ribbon under the “View” menu.

A few extra steps compared to easily being able to sort unread e-mails in Thunderbird.  But either way, you can quickly delete unread e-mails from your Deleted Items folder in Outlook using just a few steps.