We were moving right along with a thriving economy and then it happened… Covid 19. Everything came to a screeching halt as we processed what we were experiencing and how we going to react. We kept getting mixed “opinions” on what to do and not do. In many cases, mandates were imposed like we have never experienced before.
Not only did it affect our lives in very significant ways, it has had a huge impact on smaller local businesses and their livlihoods. Some of the directives that came down from the federal, state and local governments, forced the population to basically stay home. Consequently, local retailers, restaurants, repair shops, hair salons, you name it, began feeling the squeeze. They weren’t seeing their usual flow of business and as a result, their livelihood and income took a severe hit. Some, unfortunately, just simply couldn’t hang on and had to close their business. Some, decided to close temporarily and just ride out the storm. Others,some of which had been family businesses for decades, ended up closing their doors for good. It’s a sad state of affairs and as you imagine, this situation has had its domino affects and hurt people in numerous ways.
We all know, and have heard of and likely experienced BLACK FRIDAY. This is the day after Thanksgiving and when the official Christmas shopping begins for most. It’s the day that many, if not most, businesses finally get into the black (profitable) and actually start making some money. But, not for the last couple years as most merchants, just haven’t gotten there. With us staying home for long periods of time, have changed a great majority of their shopping strategies and habits from getting up at oh dark thirty the day after turkey day to hopefully score on that special gift before the store runs out. But that’s changed dramatically as people started doing a great amount, if not all, of their shopping, online. The simplicity of doing so and the wide range of available “shops” became very enticing. I could shop from around the globe while sitting at home in my loungewear. Anybody with me? I’m confident that many of you reading this, did and are doing the same thing. Then one day recently, I went to our downtown area where most of the shopping would normally take place. Merchants had less inventory, shorter store hours and a need for employees. Nobody wanted to work after receiving all the financial help from the feds. These local merchants are still hurting even though we can get out and get around again. They stand in their businesses hoping some customers come in and at the very least, give them a chance at earning some of their business. They watch as one after another UPS or FedEx truck drives by delivering goods to their neighbors. So, how can we, as a population help? Get out there and begin and continue supporting our neighbors and friends and spend some money locally and encourage all your friends to do the same. Merchants are trying to figure out what they can do to survive. Some have developed new and improved websites to expand their reach of potential customers and that has helped some. But, others, based on their business type of products or services sold, simply can’t do that. So, consequently, they look internally and what they might do to cut costs and reduce overhead anywhere they can and we can’t help with that, but there is a simple way for them to get some relief by simply becoming aware of constantly changing ways of doing business and selling what they have to offer.
Pretty much all businesses out there, accept payment by credit/debit cards. It’s a necessary tool that needs to be offered to customers or, quite simply, you lose business to the competition. What has amazed me, after more than two decades in the Merchant Services business, how many business owners simply aren’t fully aware of what rates and other miscellaneous fees, they are paying for this “privilege” of accepting plastic. Quite often, when doing a statement analysis for a merchant, they hand me their statement still in the envelope with the comment of “yah, I don’t look at them because I don’t understand them”. This is a dangerous and costly approach to take. But, trust me, I understand. Our industry doesn’t have a stellar reputation as there are so many poorly trained reps that enter the business each year and don’t really know what they are doing and selling which is a huge disservice to merchants. After rent and employee costs, payment processing is typically the third largest expense and demands your close scrutiny and attention.
So, let me wrap this up by simply encouraging all merchants to get a detailed description and understanding of what and why you are paying what you are paying for this privilege. Don’t let up and get all your answers clearly explained. If your Merchant Services rep is still around (they typically don’t last very long because of the extensive competition) call them today and set the appointment. You simply can’t afford to wait.
Our industry is rapidly changing with new state-of-the-art technology that makes processing simpler, faster and more intuitive. Providers of these services, have also had to tighten their belts and offer more creative, less costly programs that you could benefit from but simply haven’t been exposed yet for personal consideration. You’ve got nothing to lose and, quite possibly, much to gain. What are you waiting for?