Bamboozled by the banks… call the plain speaking police!

Where are the plain language police when you need them? Surely they have been tipped off on this one before?
We are in the process of creating an e-commerce website for a client who is going to be retailing really low value items, under £5 per transaction. The process is going well and the launch date will be in the middle of May.

The Finance Director of this new business worked for a major high street bank for 20 years – she is no shmuck when it comes to banking, having gone from the tills to a board level consultant in her career.

One of her tasks was to consult the Merchant Account and Payment Gateway Providers in the market, evaluate the services available and analyse the pricing structure in relation to the predicted Year 1. turnover and average transactional value. The first port of call was the online information and, as we bank with NatWest, Streamline had the first opportunity. The information seemed OKish but the path lead to one individual that covers their patch. That individual was a sales person and was very busy. Eventually the Finance Director managed to get some advice and was given the standard rates (why they were not available to download from their website I haven’t the foggiest). Next a personal telephone consultation with Barclaycard, followed by a recommendation of the wrong product, followed by an application, followed by a stalker who called and texted at every turn.

Eventually a call to the cavalry at Mulberry Square arrived and here are my findings:

Through my membership of the Federation of Small Businesses I learnt that the Federation had negotiated a deal with Streamline for preferential rates on their Merchant Account & Payment Gateway products in association with WorldPay. The Streamline lady was permanently on answerphone so I called her support team in Harrogate; “You’ll have to speak to Sue” was their reply. Eventually I spoke to Sue who confirmed that as our client was also a member of the Federation, she could have those rates.  I asked her about whether we had to implement 3D secure as part of the payment process, to which her reply was uninspiring to say the least.
Next it was on to Barclaycard, very nice people and yes they knew their stuff when it came to security. The problem was the language they used on their typed up and posted estimate; what the heck is ePDQ-CPI? This required a visit to their website over the weekend – no wonder customers get stiffed on bank charges. I know what I’m talking about on this subject and even I was bamboozled by it all. Eventually I gathered that for one reason or another ePDQ-CPI was clearly the wrong product, partly as customers would be sent to a separate web page to pay. Who in their right mind would want to start up a serious retailing business and, just as the customer is about to hand over the cash, the shop keeper sends them to the nearest bank to hand it over… madness!

So another call to the nice people at Barlaycard yesterday – luckily forearmed with an inkling that I knew what was needed. Very early on they wanted to throw in the towel, ‘we won’t be able to compete with a deal with an industry federation’ they said, but no, hold on, I say, your ePDQ-MPI product being a combined Merchant Account and Payment Gateway has a chance This is a low value transaction that we are talking about, won’t the majority of customers just put it through on Debit Card? ‘I would” was the reply. Then this looks like the product for the job I said – and surprisingly it is! Having also compared it to PayPal’s all in one service and factored in SagePay’s offering, the clear winner is Barclaycards’ ePDQ-MPI.

I was left exhausted by the experience, but with our reputation with our client elevated by hacking through the smoke and mirrors of branding and the deliberate jargon put out to make customers stick with who they know rather than identify who is the best for the job.

E-commerce enquiries are welcome.