A Learning Experience | Performance Racing Industry
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A Learning Experience
By Missy Sandal on April 29, 2015

I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than make my own. I imagine most people do.
 
Well, what I’m about to tell you was a pretty massive mistake on my part. But if you can learn something from what I did, then it’s worth sharing.
 
You know those calls you get from credit card merchant processors talking about how much they can save you? Not long ago I took one of those calls from a company just down the road in Charlotte. That seems safe, right? I figured I could at least talk to them. After all, I had noticed our processing costs creeping higher over the past months and was considering shopping it around anyway.
 
So the salesman came by, looked over a statement with our current processor, and punched up some figures on his laptop to make a comparison. Oh, and he talked the whole time—he was very outgoing, very likable, told a lot of stories about small businesses he’d worked with over all the years he’s been doing this, and emphasized how important small businesses were to his company.
 
When his comparison was done and he showed me the savings, it was shocking. Could this even be possible?
 
I had some reservations, because some of the things he said didn’t entirely add up. But he said someone from the home office would be calling to answer any questions I still had. He said they would make sure I was completely comfortable before setting up an account for us. But he did ask me to go ahead and sign the paperwork so that everything was in place once I gave them the green light.
 
Going through the contract, the salesman would point here and say, “This is where we talked about this,” and, “This is where I told you about that,” and, “This is where we note that you use software to process, not a terminal.” He made notations as we went through it all, which drew my attention away from what it actually said. So I signed here and here, and initialed there.
 
Over the next couple of weeks, while we transitioned over to the new processor, I had even deeper reservations. I just felt in my gut that something was off. However, the salesman had assured me that we had 90 days to evaluate their service before the early termination fee would kick in, and that was only $195.
 
To my thinking, this was a calculated risk. The only way to know if they could provide the savings they claimed was to actually process with them and see how it all shook out.
 
At this point I should mention a few things in particular: First, I had to request a copy of the contract—the salesman did not leave me with any of the paperwork I had signed. And when I finally saw it, it did not in any way reflect the rates and charges that the salesman had promised me in our lengthy conversation. Nor did the contract in any way resemble the comparison sheet that he showed me on his laptop (and that he never provided a copy of). What’s more, the paperwork I was finally given did not reflect a 90-day free period, or a $195 early termination fee (it was actually $495).
 
Secondly, processing equipment started showing up. We use software to do our processing—not terminals—and I knew he noted that on the paperwork, so I couldn’t understand why we were receiving equipment. I called the home office and inquired about that, and their account supervisor assured me that it was “a courtesy of the service” and that it was provided “as a backup” to our current system. He said they wanted to make sure we could always process credit cards. He was very good at sounding reassuring.
 
We went ahead and processed with them for about three weeks before our first statement was issued and I could see exactly what we were paying. As you might expect, it was a full percent more than what we had been paying with our last processor.
 
Fortunately, I had listened to my gut enough that I had not canceled our previous merchant account, so the first thing I did was switch our processing back to them. At least no more transactions would run at the higher rate.
 
Then, I called the home office of the new processor and told them to cancel our merchant account immediately—and, since it was within the 90-day period, I expected there to be no further charges to our account. That’s when things really got bad.
 
They told me they had set up the account, but that they couldn’t cancel it; they said I had to do it. I thought that’s what I was doing! Turns out, no, I had to call the actual processor to close the account. They gave me a phone number to reach these people, and so I called immediately and told them how the people in Charlotte had misrepresented the service, the rates, everything really, and the account needed to be closed. And that was when I was informed of the 4-year non-cancelable equipment lease that they claimed I had agreed to…with my name on it.
 
WHAT???
 
I felt physically sick. I had gotten the company into this. And what made me feel even worse was that I knew going in that something was off, and I proceeded anyway.
 
Yes, I had been deceived. But I was going to fight.
 
I called every person associated with the situation that I could find and pleaded my case—and told them I would settle for nothing less than full cancelation. Everything had been misrepresented, and I simply would not accept that. I called the equipment leasing company, I called the processor, I called the company in Charlotte.
 
Then I went to our bank (a good banking relationship is so important!) to see what we could do to stop withdrawals from our account. Fortunately we were able to put electronic stop-payments in place for both the processor and the equipment leasing company.
 
Incredibly, the people in Charlotte actually sent the salesman back to try to salvage the deal. Once here, he told me it wasn’t his intent to misrepresent anything, and he didn’t understand how this could have happened.
 
Well, I finally got to see that equipment lease everyone had told me about. Three different people at three different companies promised to provide a copy, but no one actually did. He had it, and that’s when I saw the full extent of his deception. When he had come here initially and had me signing papers, he said, “See, this is where we note that you process with software, initial here,” and he had written the name of our processing software—and that is where I initialed an agreement to a 4-year non-cancelable equipment lease.
 
I’m happy to say that after raising hell with everyone there was to raise hell with, and stopping any additional withdrawal of funds, in the end everything was dropped. The actual merchant processor didn’t collect, or even attempt to collect, any cancelation fees; the equipment leasing company didn’t attempt to collect any lease fees; I haven’t heard a peep out of the people in Charlotte.
 
It was a very stressful few weeks, but I learned from it, and I hope you can, too. In fact, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips:
 
1) Listen to your gut! When something feels off, you can be 99% sure that it is, even if you can’t say exactly why.
 
2) Be assertive and very clear about what you want when disputing something.
 
3) Don’t back down—be persistent.
 
4) Talk to the people around you and ask for help. It eased my mind tremendously once the stop-payments were in place at the bank. I wasn’t even aware that it could be done until I talked to the branch manager. If I’d had to take it further, our company attorney would have been my next call.
 
I would also say, “Read your contracts before signing them!” but have you seen a processing contract? If you can even read the 5 or 6 pages of mouse-print, unless you’re an attorney you likely still won’t know exactly what you’re agreeing to.
 
To some degree you have to be able to trust the people providing the contract to be honest about what you’re agreeing to. And when that’s the case, I refer back to tip number 1, “Listen to your gut!”
 
 
Missy Sandal has been involved in the racing industry since 1990, getting her start at Port City Racing, moving on to Speedway Motors, and then opening Carolina Racing Supply with Tom Sandal in 1999. Carolina Racing Supply, located in Mooresville, North Carolina, began as a retailer of circle track racing parts but has transitioned over the years to become primarily a wholesaler. TomCat Performance is its line of private-label products.

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Missy Sandal's picture
Missy Sandal is the co-owner of Carolina Racing Supply in Mooresville, North Carolina. She has been involved in the racing industry since 1990.
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