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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 12, 2007 • Issue 07:11:01

SoCal burns, payments industry responds

The Southern California wildfires of October 2007 drove almost 500,000 people from their homes. Winds of up to 100 mph fanned flames that swept seven Southern California counties, burned more than 500,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

The bulk of approximately $1 billion in insured losses involved more homes than businesses. But thousands of small businesses were affected by the blazes. And they will feel the fire's effects for weeks, possibly months, to come.

Smoked by traffic

So, how have the fires affected the ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) in the area? According to Steven Peisner, President of SellitSafe.com, his immediate area of Calabasas has been lucky. The fires have mostly affected only traffic.

"It has added an hour to an hour and a half to some of these employees' commutes," Peisner said.

"A lot of freeways were closed, so those employees affected at [payments industry] companies like IMS, iPayment, ECHO and Cardservice were forced to find alternative routes, leave earlier, carpool or just wait it out for a few days."

Peisner said the fires will not affect his clients' businesses directly because most of them are large Internet companies; only a small portion of their customers are in California.

Time to check in

Concerning businesses directly harmed by the fires, he said, "I believe that the smart MLSs will look at it as an opportunity to re-call on old merchants and provide them with new equipment via insurance claims and then sign new business that will emerge from where the old business chose not to return."

He also advised MLSs to offer merchants affected by the fires "the opportunity to temporarily suspend or close their account while rebuilding, so the merchant does not rack up monthly minimum fees.

"This is just a nice thing to do, and it really shows good will and adds to merchant retention, especially if the merchant is not conducting business."

Opportunities ahead

The fires hit in the midst of a housing recession. But buried within the debris comes the opportunity to renew. The sluggish economy could actually pick up.

Once insurance claims are paid and homeowners begin to rebuild, the construction industry will, in turn, receive work. As miserable as the current situation is, economists believe the horrific fires will have little lasting effect on the region overall.

However, the firestorms left countless lives in disarray. There are numerous ways to offer services to clients in need or support victims in general. Donations are being accepted by the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org and through local Red Cross chapters throughout the country. end of article

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