Credit Cards – Been Good for Wine Sales – Not Whining

We may not be a Wal-Mart, but the value of credit cards to our business is probably more important to us than the world’s largest retailer. We are a small wine retailer located in Billings, Montana. We aren’t big enough to hire a large sales staff to generate sales, and we knew we needed to expand beyond Billings – and Montana – to maintain our business, so we made the decision to sell our wines online. We also don’t have security guards and IT staff to protect our stores and internet sales, like the big guys, so we are fortunate to have services to protect the money that exchanges hands – at least via debit and credit card transactions.

As a small business owner here in Billings, I think electronic payment networks which allow for credit cards and debit cards are especially valuable to small businesses. In fact, with the goods that we sell, we find that debit and credit cards are a necessity – whether it is in-store or online. Credit card fees never bothered us because we figured it was a cost of doing business so that we could have all of the protections that are in place to make sure our customers can swipe their card, pay and go on their way; and more importantly to us, that all of our debit and credit card transactions are secure.

We grew up here in Montana, and have learned that we can trust our neighbors with our lives. We are also of the “cash” generation, where you found coins and wadded-up dollar bills in your pocket, and heard the sounds of cash registers opening and closing at your local store. But, when we decided to open our business and take credit cards – especially on the internet where transactions are conducted without face-to-face contact – we wanted to protect ourselves and our customers.

So far, we have been very pleased with the results. Credit card transactions are critical for our sales. And we have the feeling of security knowing that our money – and our customers’ money – is safe.

We have been aware of the recent agreement between MasterCard, Visa and other large retailers and associations last summer to address credit card fees. We feel that the judge was fair in mediating a settlement. The settlement is actually a good thing for small business owners. It gives us everything retailers wanted when they brought the original lawsuit: price transparency, the power to negotiate in groups, and the flexibility to charge consumers “check out fees” for accepting cards as payment – for those who choose to do so. The settlement will also make electronic payments more affordable for small business owners.

We have heard that there are many “big box retailers” who are unhappy with this settlement and may even try to force legislation to control credit card fees. We do not support these efforts. We are a small business which understands there are certain costs we must incur, because we can’t afford to pay more salesmen to generate sales, or security and IT people to monitor our stores and website. So, we believe that we are paying a fair price for these services. If, at some point we no longer feel this way, we understand we have avenues to pursue to rectify this. We don’t need big businessmen and lawyers in suits telling us how to run our business.

We know a lot of other small businesses here in Montana feel the same way. We have other issues we would rather our Congressmen focus on – like healthcare and spurring our economy.

Category: Blog