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What to do when things go awry

By Michael Nardy

For all the stories of success in the merchant services industry, there are also many horror stories - a sales call gone bad, a tough install, a big merchant lost - all of which can contribute to making a good salesman great.

Almost like passing motorists slowing down to see a traffic accident, we revel in some of our own and fellow merchant level salespeople's (MLS') misfortunes.

We sometimes glance back at these experiences and then slyly smile away the memory of hard times as we cash our residual checks or land that big whale.

The five-minute sell with a nightmare installation

In the spirit of honesty, and to prove even writers for The Green Sheet aren't infallible, I'm going to tell a story from when I was selling full time in Boston, and things went awry. Then I'll share a story from a GS Online MLS Forum member.

I'm in Boston, and I go after a monster. A huge toy store. I enter one afternoon, a slow fall day, and manage to talk to the oft-absent owner about credit card services. He isn't interested.

I press just a bit and say, "I might be able to save you money, but if I can't, I'll let you know and then be on my way." He relents.

Glancing at his statement, I see I certainly can save him something, but I'm wondering why this man turned over a statement to a 20-something kid after saying he didn't want to change because he had a great deal.

Maybe it's my exuberance or my kid-like puffy facial features. Or maybe he just wants to give me a shot.

Within five minutes, I convince him I can save him money and that terminal reprogramming will be a piece of cake. I get a nice deal but no up-front bonuses or lease commissions: just a simple reprogram of a Talento. Well, three Talentos to be exact.

I return a few days later at 3 p.m., instructions in hand, ready to tackle these oblong machines I've never worked with before. First, I ask if they have transactions to batch out. The answer is no. I start on the least-used machine, assuming the day's sales have been transmitted for processing and are no longer stored in the terminal. The core download is first and longest, taking about 35 minutes.

I repeat the procedure on each machine, paying careful attention to ask each time if they have batched out the day's sales. It's finally 5:30 p.m., and I'm done.

I've downloaded three core loads on three different machines and done a parameter on each. Things are going according to plan ... until I find out they didn't batch out.

I am stunned. I'd asked them about batching, and they'd confirmed it was done, so I thought. But in the commotion of the installation, they hadn't realized what I was asking. They hadn't, in fact, batched out.

It's 6 p.m., and I'm ready to leave. But I can't go; we now have hundreds of missing, unbatched transactions. The owner is getting tired and concerned, but I assure him that all I need to do is re-download the old software, force in the transactions and then close out the batch. But I have to do this on two of his machines: It's going to take another two hours.

By 8 p.m., I've been there five hours. My five-minute sell has turned into a prolonged, almost painful installation. I have a very frustrated store owner.

I just know he's going to say, "Michael, I appreciate your effort, but I just want to get these transactions batched and my machines back. I think I'll just stay with my current provider."

He approaches from the back of the store. I'm sweating from my brow. I've done three machines (three core loads and three parameter loads) and two more core loads (at least 200 forced transactions on two machines), and I haven't even re-downloaded my program into the machines yet.

I'm so disappointed. All I can do is chuckle and shake my head. The store owner is facing me now; I'm ready for the bad news. But, no, he doesn't tell me to get lost. Nor does he say I've screwed up so badly that I face certain cancellation. Instead, he hands me a beer and says, "We've all had days like this. I appreciate your effort. Just get me going, and come back tomorrow to finish."

That experience has stuck with me. I can't help but think perseverance got me through. Signing a toy store in time for the holiday season was a boon, but the best thing was the understanding merchant who realized I'd put in my best.

Plus, I learned that no matter what's going on, things can always be fixed ... with a little effort and patience.

The newbie left hanging with a T7P

The next story is from MLS Forum member hipoint. He tells of being a new agent serving a very anxious merchant. The story was written off-the-cuff online and has been edited for print.

I was "trained" by a guy who flew into town, walked around with me for a day of cold calling and flew out again. One day I couldn't spell "processing rep." A day later, I am one.

So, I make my first sale. Following instructions in the "manual" left with me, I recommend Hypercom's T7P terminal. Then, I call my trainer and ask what to do next. He says, "Don't worry. I'll go with you on your first install. We'll say I'm your tech rep."

As luck would have it, my merchant is clingy and needy. He has an established business, a terminal (a T7P, it so happens) and processing.

But he wants to make a fresh start. He calls me every hour wanting to know if the terminal's in yet. He emphasizes how much he's looking forward to learning all about the T7P.

So, the stage is set (for disaster). The terminal arrives at the merchant's door, and he wants me to install it right away. It was supposed to ship to me, along with a manual, so I could familiarize myself with the thing before installation.

Then, my so-called trainer says he can't get to me for two days, but he promises to walk me through the install. I return to the merchant, posing as an expert. The guy's like an expectant puppy, watching my every move.

Meanwhile, I don't even know how to put paper in the freaking thing. I step outside and call my trainer's cell phone, and a recording tells me the subscriber I'm trying to reach is out of the service area.

Back inside, I convince the merchant to tend to other things while I do the install. Then I put the paper in upside down (thermal side wrong). I turn the paper over and think my company's got to have some kind of tech support for things like this.

I step outside again, call my boss's office and ask for tech support. A young woman tells me it's handled by another company. I ask for the phone number.

After some consternation, she gives it to me. At last, I explain the situation to tech support, and they walk me through a download.

I call the merchant over and tell him the terminal's buttons have changed somewhat with the new model. He points out that it's the same layout as his old terminal, which is clearly worn out from years of use. I say, "Well, that's not the layout we've been using."

Next, I'm supposed to demonstrate how to use the terminal. He thinks I'm teaching him when, actually, the reverse is true: He's already learned some tricks from using his old terminal. Meanwhile, I've blown out the encryption on the PIN pad by plugging it in with the power on.

I get through it, somehow, and the merchant is happy ... once the re-encrypted PIN pad is shipped back to him. I bet I lost a pound in sweat that day.

We all have similar stories. Like Y.A. Tittle during the 1963 NFL Championship, sometimes all you can do is collapse in exhaustion, hang your head and hope things will get better the next day. But learning how to handle the tough times makes the good times even better and gives us confidence that we can resolve any situation.

MLS Forum member Slick Streetman said it well, "This business is not for the faint of heart."

Michael Nardy is Chief Executive Officer of Electronic Payments Inc. (EPI), a founding sponsor of the National Association of Payment Professionals and one of The Green Sheet magazine's Industry Leaders. EPI is one of the nation's fastest growing privately held payment processing companies offering ISO and MLS profitable partnership programs and cutting-edge tools to help their portfolios grow. To learn more about partnering with EPI, visit or e-mail Nardy at

Article published in issue number 060801

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