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A Thing

Does free technology mean obsolete technology?

By Ben Goretsky

We've heard it before: There's no such thing as a free lunch. The same concept applies to technology. In the past few months, my colleagues and I have observed an emerging trend. It pertains to so-called free technology.

In addition to free POS terminals, we're seeing free wireless devices and all manner of other technical apparatus that purport to enhance merchants' ability to serve customers. The big thing today is to give more away. But is this craze really benefiting our customers? As children we were told that four-letter words, especially the f-word, were bad. It seems that within the payments industry, the same goes for the word "free." How did this come to pass?

Most bank representatives and merchants will say that free equipment in our industry is usually tied to long-term commitments and a list of hidden costs that appear to have been waived but instead are split up and attached to other fees. Thus, free devices usually mean heftier monthly bills for merchants who accept them.

Almost, practically, somewhat like new

Being a technophile, I love learning about cutting-edge developments in our industry, and I'm fascinated by the tasks new devices can perform. But as much as new technology puts a smile on my face, the thought of free technology makes me cringe. Free technology is sometimes advertised as the latest and greatest solution; however, it is typically some of the oldest technology available, unfortunately.

Whether it's a POS terminal that doesn't have enough memory for new card processing functions, a Blackberry model that's no longer in production or a wireless phone that only comes with a small, black-and-white screen, offering these supposedly free technologies to merchants has negative consequences.

These outmoded models ultimately result in merchants' having to buy new products sooner than they expected, upgrade services and incur additional fees, or buy attachments that come standard with newer equipment. Some merchants simply become resigned to using obsolete products. Do you think this makes them happy? When all is said and done, it is you, the reseller, who pays.

The happy medium

Many people may think that the only alternative to free technology is high-priced technology. This is not true. Instead, seek a happy medium. Technology does not have to be expensive to bring merchants excellent results.

You, the reseller, can still get a big bang for your buck by offering merchants new technology as long as you are well informed about the products you represent. For instance, if you wish to resell wireless devices and payment processing services, don't just look to one solution. Research the competition, study the features of all available options, and go from there.

Most ISOs and merchant level salespeople already do this type of research with POS terminals and find highly functional, affordable options. There's no difference when it comes to other technologies associated with our industry's expanding, value-added markets.

Ben Goretsky is the Chief Executive Officer and head of IT Development at USA ePay. He has been working with his brother Alex since they started the company in 1998. E-mail him at or call him at 866-872-3729, ext. 350.

Article published in issue number 060602

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