If you’re looking for a good credit card processor you’re probably going to do what we all do, you’re going to check the internet. If you do, you’re going to come across millions of review pages.
If you Google “merchant services reviews”, you’ll get 5,780,000+ results. If you search “credit card processor reviews” you’ll get about 16,900,000 results. Even if you narrow your search criteria to one specific processor you’ll still get more pages then you want to read coming up in the search result. The question is, “Should you trust the all these reviews?” Do trusted credit card processing services really exist? Let’s take a look at the kind of reviews you might see and figure out if they’re reliable.
Now we don’t want to point fingers at anybody nor give credence to any site that doesn’t deserve it, so let’s hereby create a new company: “Perfect Merchant Services” to serve as our example. Perfect is a nice medium-sized credit card processor that’s been around for about 18 years. Let’s take a look at what types of reviews we can find about Perfect.
Our favorite sites are the ones like “PerfectMerchantServicesAreThieves.com.”
Yes, they do exist. Somebody actually spent the money to register that domain and spent the time or money to build a website that mimics the Perfect website and that will come up any time somebody does a search on Perfect Merchant Services. Wow, look at that! There are 50 different complaints about Perfect!
Let’s take a closer look. Hmm, the newest complaint is three years old and says that Perfect hit him with fees he didn’t know he was going to get charged with. Oh, and look, he misspelled pilfer as “pillfer”. Let’s see who the complaint is from. Oh, the complainer’s name is just John with no other information. In fact, all the complainers’ names are just common first names. There’s Mike, Harry, Sue, David and Robert – but most of the complainers are anonymous. Hmm, Mike just called Perfect liars, thieves and “pond scum”. Look, Harry is complaining about “hidden fees” too. That’s strange, Sue is complaining they never told her about some fees but said they were listed in her contract and she also misspelled “pillfer”.
Let’s see if Sue will give us more specific information. We’ll just click on her contact information. Oh there is no contact information for Sue or any of the complainers. Let’s reach out to the website contact and see if they know how to reach Sue. The contact information is probably below the big ad for a competitor of Perfect’s. No there’s no contact information. How strange.
I guess we’ll have to take a look at another site that came up in the search results – “PerfectMerchantServicesRipoff.com”
This site looks a good deal like the last one. All the complainers here are only first names or anonymous as well. The first complaint is also about fees and the complainer accused Perfect of “pillfering”. How strange that three people would all misspell a fairly common word, especially three different merchants who should all be familiar with the term.
The truth is both of these sites were created by the same person. All or at least most of the “complaints” are the ravings of that same person. Whether that person was a disgruntled customer, an irate former Perfect employee or even a competitor, we don’t know. One of the things the internet is really good at is giving free speech to “haters”. They usually don’t identify themselves, or they use a false name so that Perfect can’t go after them for libel or other damages.
The bad thing is that these pages stay out there for years. The site still proudly proclaims that Perfect is corrupt -even though Perfect may have cleaned house, changed procedures, or even been bought out.
UNIVERSAL MERCHANT PROCESSING INDUSTRY COMPLAINT SITES
These provide another great venue for the haters to hang out in. You’ll find complaints about various credit card processors at these sites. Here you may also find several complaints about Perfect. Don’t be surprised if some of the complaints have the same misspellings or phrasing or tone as other complaints about Perfect. The same person who set up the two spoof sites may be spreading more venom here.
You won’t find many good reviews on these sites. Most people who are happy with Perfect don’t bother taking the time to write in – or if they did they might have been bullied off by the haters. To some people it’s just so much more fun to spew hate, half truths, lies and exaggerations. (At times it’s like watching political commercials.)
INDUSTRY REVIEWER SITES
These are the sites where a supposedly independent reviewer or organization, familiar with the industry, will review Perfect and others. These sites may have names like:
These supposedly independent organizations may not have the venom that the previous two categories had, but they are a long way from being perfect.
One of my favorites of these sites, let’s call them ZYX, claims to have a team analyze credit card processors to determine a list of the ten best ones for this year. There are thousands of credit card processors. How big a staff does ZYX have to employ to have a team analyze each processor fairly and in detail every year?
The ZYX site also has ads from, wait for it, some of their recommended processors! Oh my, what a coincidence. If you examine the ZYX site more closely you’ll see that they generate revenue through “traditional methods” like lead forwarding (selling) to the processors and other methods. Those other methods might include things like licensing to distribute their copyrighted reviews. How much analyzing do you suppose they really give to the companies that aren’t interested in buying ads or leads?
Many years ago there was a scam where a company would buy a list of people involved in a specific industry. The company would call them and tell them they had been nominated to be included in the Who’s Who of that industry to be published that year. If the person would just buy two or more copies of the book at some exorbitant price the company would make sure they were included in the Who’s Who. Yes, pay to play – just like a lot of these supposedly independent review organizations are actually trying to earn a living by providing preferential reviews to those who advertise or buy leads.
At least ZYX admits openly on their site that they write reviews as a business. Most of them don’t. The only people who KNOW they are pay-to-play sites are the company owners (like Perfect, in our example) who are being solicited for payment. That’s the danger of those sites – you can’t know at first glance which if any of these so-called independent review sites are actually reputable.
And, on the darker side, we occasionally hear stories about “independent reviewers” who make up and post a bad review and then want a sizable fee to remove it. Ugh.
I’m not going to tell you to take what these sites say with a grain of salt. You’d need more salt than Boston’s street department uses in a year.
By the way, one key giveaway that you’ve found a “haters-only” site is that there is no way for a company to respond, deal with the complaint, or interact with the complainer. Unlike…
The Better Business Bureau (BBB)
The BBB is a trusted institution in the United States and perhaps the most widely recognized way of settling a dispute with a company. A company’s “rating” is based on a variety of factors, including the number of complaints received by the BBB and how those complaints are settled. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT based on the amount of dues paid by the company to the BBB. (You can see the complete BBB rating criteria process here.)
We work proactively with the BBB to resolve issues that arise. To be honest, we went through a gray period with our previous management team when our rating dropped, and we’re proud to have brought it back up again through our commitment to continually improve our services and offerings. The BBB complaints, and all others for that matter, offer an opportunity for us to find weaknesses and correct them.
If you’re shopping for a credit card processor, do your primary research on the BBB website, as the gold standard of reviews and complaints. Only there will you be able to see how a company responds. Only there can you know that complaints are legitimate – not some made up stuff by a random person who wants to mess with a company’s reputation.
One Last Thing
Finally, don’t rely on reviews alone. As we’ve said in prior posts, learn everything you can about how credit card processing works. Read everything and make sure you understand it before you sign it. Ask pointed questions about things that concern you and don’t settle for just a verbal answer; ask the salesperson to point it out to you in the contract or other materials the processor has provided. If you need to, make the salesperson go over the contract with you line by line – and if they won’t do it, call their customer service department (which will be an important test on its own).
Trusted credit card processing services DO exist. I hope this information helps you weed through the reviews, the complaints, and the spoof sites to find exactly the partner you need for your business.
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