Connect with us

Do You Charge Processing Fees on Credit Card Purchases Under $10?

In this Real Deal scenario, a $10 credit card minimum threatens to anger one of Mindy's best customers, but should her store eat the fee?

mm

Published

on

MINDY HEARD A commotion near the cash register: A customer was complaining to her employee, Brandon.

“I don’t have any cash on me. I am in here all the time,” the woman said. “Why do I have to round up to $10? Usually my purchase is over $10, but I just need this one item today.”

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

A bit flustered and not really sure how to answer her, Brandon did not know why customers must round up to $10 or incur a fee if the purchase was under $10 and paid for with a credit card.

He remembered being instructed during training: Tell customers that their credit card purchase must be over $10. There was even a framed sign at the front counter, but he wasn’t sure what the reason was. Brandon had worked there for about a month, and this happened to him only one other time — but the customer just bought an extra squeaky ball, at his suggestion, to get above $10.

Advertisement

Mindy hurried up front see what the issue was, given it was one of her best customers.

“Sue, I am sorry,” Mindy said. “What is the problem? How can I help?”

“I just wanted to buy this one roll of poop bags as I am out of them and was jogging by,” Sue said as she patted her dog, Jake, on the head. “Why do I have to round up to $10 or pay a fee — when I am in here all the time? I ran out to take Jake on a run and just grabbed my phone and credit card. Thought we would run by and get a roll of poop bags since I know you have them at the counter. You know, if I were shopping online, this wouldn’t happen.”

Mindy smiled, offered Jake a treat and said, “No problem. We can ring you up this time without the fee on a $10 purchase. I know you’re in here all the time.”

“OK, thank you,” Sue said. “I appreciate it.”

Brandon rang her up. “Have a great day!” he nodded to her, and Sue and Jake trotted out the door.

Advertisement

“Mindy, sorry, I was just following the rule,” Brandon said. “I didn’t mean to upset her.”

“It’s OK, Brandon. You did the right thing. We just have to figure out a way to not eat all of these credit card fees,” Mindy said, and she walked away to finish her reminder calls for next week’s grooming clients.

Mindy could not get the topic off her mind. She didn’t want to upset her customers — especially her best customers. She also didn’t like her sign to force people to spend at least $10 when using a credit card, or they get an added fee, even if that added fee wasn’t much. When Mindy bought the store a year ago, that is what the previous owner did to cover costs of credit card fees that can add up when people are not spending so much.

Mindy thought, Sue is right, if you shop online, you don’t have added fees, well at least not ones that are so obvious. And most people don’t carry cash anymore.

Brandon called to Mindy as a grooming customer was walking in the door.

The Big Questions

  • How can a small business offset the cost of credit card fees without blatantly charging its customers?
  • What could Brandon have done better to handle the situation without upsetting one of their best customers?
  • When buying an established business, how have you changed policies to suit your business model?
Holly L.
HYANNIS, MA

We have the $10 minimum card purchase. When we enacted it, I made “one time” exceptions and politely said it was a choice between asking that customers use cash on purchases less than $10 or raising the price of small items to reflect credit card fees that may be incurred. POS payment methods are skewing toward cashless, and indie businesses lack the bargaining power larger conglomerates have for favorable rates. When 78 percent of my gross sales are paid for with card/contactless, and I’ve paid out more than a month’s worth of rent in fees, my hand is forced to do something. The only customers I really get pushback from are 25 and younger.

Advertisement
Alexis B.
DRAPER, UT

I would have given her the one roll of poop bags and said, “Thank you. Have a fantastic day.” Brandon could have just said hold on let me get the owner so the customer didn’t start to get upset. You can hide the cost in your margins. It is an expense of doing business. Unfortunately the credit card market is a racket and we pay, as merchants, for all the perks cards offer to customers.

Angela P.
STRATFORD, CT

Cash is being used less and less, particularly with new pandemic protocols. We have to believe that we will make it up with the next client or that when this client comes back, she will spend more because of excellent customer service. We have so many things to worry about that putting our energy here is just wasted.

Comora T.
HENDERSONVILLE, NC

We were worried about credit card fees since we are a brand-new pet boutique and training center. We opted to give “reverse my fees,” which adds a percentage to each credit card purchase. We put a sign up that we give a cash discount. After giving this a go, we are very glad we did. We are able to keep our profit margins, and people get excited about the “cash discount,” even though it is just the removal of the credit card fee.

Wendy M.
EMERALD ISLE, NC

If you look at it as “eating the fees,” then it becomes problematic. It is part of the cost of doing business, much like the electric bill, and a part of providing good customer service. Don’t feel that you have to match online prices. The customer is correct in saying they would not pay a fee if they shopped online. But the same customer is unlikely to balk if the item in their hand is a little cheaper online. After all, a ball in the hand is worth two still “out for delivery” when you have a dog ready to play now! Staff should have the authority to make policy exceptions when and if it would provide the customer the type of experience that will bring them back. Consider what the lifetime value of that customer is.

Holly M.
CALGARY, ALBERTA CANADA

You should absolutely eat the fees. Those purchases are few and far between for most pet stores. One simple way to reduce transaction fees is to ask the customer if they need a receipt before printing one. Our customers have accounts in our system, so if a situation were to arise where they need to return something, it’s in the system. This is also good customer service. (Who keeps receipts anyway?) Brandon didn’t do anything wrong IMO. He did what he was instructed. Had he waived it and had a less understanding boss, he could have faced discipline.

Diana F.
SAN ANTONIO, TX

Credit card processing fees are part of the cost of doing business. 95 percent (or more probably) of my customers use credit cards. I won’t charge anyone a fee or set a minimum. If you feel that the fees are cutting that much into your profits, up your prices a bit to help counter that. Very few of my customers spend less than $10 anyway, so it’s not a big deal. However, in today’s business climate, anything that can be perceived even slightly as a negative by the customer can hurt you.

Bill C.
EXTON, PA

Processing fees are no different than rent, accounting fees or electricity. Processing fees are a cost of doing business. These fees should be costed at the average sale, not the cost of an individual sale. After 43 years in business, I have learned that making customers comfortable is one of many things to make them regular customers.

Frank F.
FARMINGDALE, NJ

I have found that the most successful retail businesses are those that remove virtually all objections that a customer may have to NOT wanting to make the purchase. Added fees to me are something that a Sales Prevention Department came up with. All costs for a product including credit card fees should be factored into the price. Our success is predicated on making customer transactions as frictionless as possible. Regarding Brandon, he did nothing wrong. He was simply following store policies. It was management’s fault for implementing counterproductive policies. If a policy isn’t customer centric, CHANGE IT! Survival can depend on it!

Bianchi R.
CATHARPIN VA

Rare charges under $10 will not incur a processing fee. Customers are accustomed to not paying with cash and use cards for every purchase. Suck up the fee!

Marvin S.
GRAND JUNCTION, CO

Do not be afraid to compare fees. I used to use a separate credit card processor. It took 48 hours for the funds to hit my account. My local banker called and suggested I look into their credit card processing. Turned out, their fees were less, they processed all common credit cards in use, and funds showed up the next day, which had a huge impact on cash flow.

Jeff H.
KIRKLAND, WA

This is the owner’s issue, not Brandon’s. The minimum $10 purchase “rule” is something customers will never understand and will always find annoying and somewhat petty. She should have removed the policy.

Ramie G.
EVANSTON, IL

Unfortunately, there are fees, and customers see them as a cost of doing business that the store has to absorb. Do your research to keep the best rates by shopping around for processing. The previous store owner was really behind the times, and you have an opportunity to welcome more customers just for adapting to the trend that most customers pay with a card of some sort. Think of how you can make your customer’s life easier and stay profitable: 1) Can your POS save credit card numbers for purchases when they are not carrying cash? Do you accept Apple Pay/GPay? 2) Can you raise your prices slightly to offset the fee? For store items, drop things that are sold in big box stores or on Amazon and concentrate on independent brands that will make you unique, and then you have room to set prices accordingly.

Nancy G.
FIVE STORES IN VA

Paying credit card fees is all a part of owning a business. If that had happened in my store, I would’ve given her the poop bags for free and thanked her for being a great customer.

Victoria P.
ATLANTA, GA

If you can, change your credit card processor. We went with Fatt Merchant a year ago, and they are awesome! We can always get through to a person for tech support or general questions. They charge a flat monthly fee and no interchange plus fees. My credit card processing fees have been cut in half, which helps cover small purchases. If you sign up, tell them Park Pet Supply sent you, they offer referral discounts.

Dawn T.
VERO BEACH, FL

A small business may be able to offset the cost of credit card fees without blatantly charging its customers by first calling the bank or credit card service company to see if they would be willing to work with the store. Most companies usually will with small businesses who are in good standing, especially since fewer people carry cash. If not, a business strategy could be to add small items around the register to entice a customer to purchase those last minute items such as an extra treat or toy. To handle the situation better, Brandon should have just called for Mindy from the start so he didn’t have to upset one of their best customers. Thankfully she was satisfied however it shouldn’t have gotten that far. Part of buying an established business, depending on why you bought the business and why the business was sold, would be deciding which policies to change to suit your particular business model. Each business and location will differ. Change is constant in business.

Shane S.
MILL CREEK, WA

Credit card fees are a part of business life. If you can’t handle them, then you need to offset them by tweaking margins a bit. Can an item round from $8.99 to $9.99? Is your pricing below what someone would pay for the same item online or from your nearby competitors? These are easy ways to add margin to cover cost. We have a $1 CC minimum (though we’d waive if truly needed, or give an item away) because we have nothing other than bulk items that costs less.

Brandon should have offered the roll of poop bags for free (or said “pay next time”), or handed her a couple from an in-store use roll (they have one, right?) to save her from spending money now. It’s nothing compared to the value of the customer.

We bought an established business and made some changes, like moving pricing to end in .99 instead of .95, but we also added value, like tracking frequent buyer cards, offering more monthly sales and coupons, doing annual sales, etc.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

Get the most important news
and business ideas from PETS+.

Instagram

Most Popular