I received this rather distressing message:
My name is Anthony and I am living in Staten Island, New York. My father has been running a small landscaping business since I was born 18 years ago and lately things haven’t been going too well for him. Over the last five years or so, his customers have not been paying their bills in a timely manner. This has resulted in my father almost losing our house because he has been unable to pay his own bills as his customers do not pay theirs. Last week we had our electricity shut off.
My father blames it on the economy being so bad. I blame it on the fact that he only accepts checks. Yes Chris, checks and only checks. I tried to explain to him there is a better way to do things; checks are, in a way, a dying breed — especially with a business like his, where there is a recurring payment each month. I tried to tell him that people no longer remember, “Oh, I have to write this check and mail it out today” and that we live in an automated world. He just doesn’t get it. Now, of course, the economy is going to play a role, but honestly Chris, it’s got to be the checks, right?
Do you think accepting credit cards would help him and our family? What ways should he go about setting up a payment system using cards and, most of all, how can I explain to him that checks are killing his business?
Thank you, Chris. Any tips would be appreciated by me, my father, and the rest of our family.
Anthony, I’m glad you reached out. While there may be no easy fix, there are certainly ways to address the problem. On a daily basis, I have to deal with dinosaurs — and that’s definitely not a slight against your father.
There are certainly several online tools that you can start using right away, including both PayPal and Square and, in either instance, the user need not have an account to be able to use any credit card to pay for your father’s business.
If your customers have a problem paying, my sincerest recommendation is to go with Square (and if you can’t afford a new iOS device with a network connection, you can pick up a used / refurbished / previous-generation model for cheap). Then, before your father starts to work on the lawn, he should swipe the credit card with the Square reader on-premises or refuse to perform the service.
It may be a minor inconvenience for the customer, but the alternative is to let them continue to flake and not have any other way of easily handling payments without someone taking the time to chase delinquent accounts.
I have begun to recommend Square to every other “local” vendor I deal with, if only because I recognize they’re still stuck in the 20th century with the way they handle transactions (even at the register, where my favorite credit card is quite often not accepted due to the exorbitant merchant fees).
Square does not pay me. I’m just impressed with how its product is beginning to transform oCommerce (that would be offline commerce, the opposite of eCommerce).
Image via Square