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Where credit is due

Your credit cards are killing the restaurants.

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I feel it is my duty, friends, to reveal a scourge, a plague if you will, that has been far-reaching throughout the land and is getting much worse: credit card processing services. You know the companies that give you the convenience of using your credit or debit card at your favorite restaurant, grocery store, retail outlet, etc. While this service is fabulous for the consumer, those of us in business are getting the short end of the stick.

A few years back, Costco decided not to honor any credit card other than American Express or a debit card; checks are also accepted. I thought this was crazy. How dare they! Then I opened my own restaurant and got a crash course on the “benefits” of credit card sales.

In this day and age, it would be nearly impossible to run a service-oriented business without honoring credit cards. In a recent commercial campaign for Visa, they try to imply that cash is obsolete and you are a freak for using it. Do you realize how important cash is to a restaurant or other small business?

To make my point, just this very moment I noticed the bid sheet from a fence company (I am having a fence put around the yard for my pooch) next to my computer. At the bottom of the sheet were all the major credit card logos, and next to those logos were the words, “Add 2% if paid by credit card.” The consumer may balk at that, but I get it.

When you sign with a credit card processing service, they give you a big ol’ song-and-dance about how they are the best company to work with and they will save you more money than any other company out there. We’ve seen the sales pitch a million times. They want you to sign that contract, and in return they get your hard earned money and everlasting soul.

The process can be horribly confusing, and honestly I am not too sure I completely understand it, but here is a basic explanation of the fee(s) structure: for every transaction there is a percentage taken out, and this varies based on the TYPE of credit card you are using. American Express and Discover are usually the highest, most average around 2 percent. Plus there is a fee for each transaction (.10 to .25), a statement fee (mine is $25 a month), and an assessment fee, whatever the hell that is. This last month on $15,100 I paid $380, just for Visa and MasterCard, and they did nothing more than make deposits.

Now, if as a merchant you get the itch to change processing companies because someone new who woos you with huge savings and convenience, beware; your current company could stick you with a huge fee ($300-ish) for bailing on them, unless your contract has expired. Happy fun time! Read the fine print my friends.

Speaking of reading the fine print, the husband and I needed a few gallons of gas this past Saturday, and we stopped at this hole-in-the-wall station that was asking about 15 cents more than other stations, so we just got a few gallons. After pumping the gas, husband noticed the sneaky price difference, $3.55 a gallon for cash, and $3.65 for credit. I have to admit, this charge did piss me off a little.

When you are out and about remember; credit card processing fees effect small business the most. Those 25-cent per transaction fees can really add up, especially for a coffee shop where the bill is usually no more than $5.

And don’t get me started, don’t EVEN get me started on the taxing of tips …

Eat out Tacoma (and pay cash). We need your love.

Sandee Glib has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry for more than 12 years as a server, bartender, cook and owner. Her opinions are expressly her own and she is always right.

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