Months ago, while visiting a Goodwill retail store, a manager announced on the intercom that the store’s credit card processing was temporarily offline. Anyone purchasing merchandise had to pay by cash or check.
Goodwill can get away with that. It’s a big organization, and who is going to turn down buying decent, low-cost merchandise that helps an organization with job training and employment?
A multi-chained store can have a temporary glitch in their payment system.
When people buy your gift baskets, you decide how to accept payment. The bottom line is that you must make smart choices to accept as many types of payment as possible. There are exceptions, but be ready for:
- Money order
- Credit card
- Credit card
- Electronic check
- Online payment processor
As you start your gift basket business, it’s mandatory to establish a payment system, and that includes credit cards. I often read, from students in my popular online gift basket business course, that cash and checks will be their only options. That leaves lots of room for customers to bypass their beautiful designs and head for another gift basket seller. What a shame.
Your own buying habits prove that cash and checks are not enough. In fact, checks aren’t even the norm today, and you probably don’t want to accept checks because there’s a possibility of insufficient funds. If a check bounces, you are penalized and pay a fee because of it (yes, someone else’s bounced check costs you money before you collect the initial payment from the customer!).
The first and only time a customer bounced a check given to me was the last time I accepted a personal check (I still accept checks from corporations). Yes, I caved in and decided to decline checks. I added that rule to my payment policy. It was a hassle getting paid by the customer, and she was miffed because I demanded that she pay the fee charged to me by the bank. Enough.
Accepting only cash and checks will close your business doors in short time. However, if you’re ready to join the big leagues and offer other types of payments, here’s a guide to your current choices.
How to get paid
Paper money is exchanged during in-person orders and given directly to you or an authorized representative. You must have change, to the penny, with you. Let the customer know if you will not accept $50 or $100 dollar bills. Be ready to give the customer a receipt for delivery.
Decide on your policy for check payments. You can accept checks from whomever you wish, or you can decide to not accept checks. Corporations often pay by check, but executive staff often have corporate credit cards. Learn from corporations which type of payment they offer so you know how to proceed, or you can create a policy and have corporations pay in the manner you decide.
Checks from individuals are subjective. Accept it or don’t. Many individuals also have credit cards and PayPal accounts. Create an individual check policy, and stick by it.
This type of payment is rarely submitted although money orders are as good as cash.
A popular reason for not accepting credit cards is the transaction fee. That fee is a fact of business life, so get over it now.
Do the math. A $100 gift basket order may cost you an average $3 processing charge. That means you receive $97 for the order. The $3 fee is covered by your markup calculation. It’s paid by the customer as long as you are marking up your prices as explained in the book, How to Start a Home-Based Gift Basket Business.
Online Payment Processor
PayPal seems to be the leader of this option, especially with small business owners (big businesses count on PayPal, too). However, you can open an account directly with any of the major credit card companies. Those companies will send you everything needed to complete transactions. Research will uncover many PayPal competitors. Pick one or more to complete your sales, or watch as potential customers go elsewhere to buy gifts.
Also known as an eCheck, this type of payment is completed when a customer provides you with written authorization to transfer payment from their checking account to yours. Most online payment processors include this option in the account you establish with them. eCheck requests may not occur often, but it might arrive from overseas buyers or through customers in the armed forces.
Five easy steps
There is much to consider when starting a gift basket business. Don’t let decisions on how to get paid confuse you. Don’t allow other people’s horror stories to stop you from making smart choices. It’s their story, not yours.
- List the options
- Write the pros and cons
- Pick your payment choices
- Create and stick by your policy
- Update your methods when needed
What’s your first step to making payments easy for customers and profitable for you?