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Keep It Simple Stupid! Easy Credit Card Acceptance for Food Trucks
Credit card processing fees are debated every day. Newbies want information on who the “best” processor is, when what they really mean is “cheaper”. Someone with something to sell always replies “check out my page” or “send me a shipping message and I’ll help you out.” Then my favorite answer always comes up: “charge them a fee which is what I do”. The comments will also be flooded with “Square” and “Clover” followed by complaints from detractors at each company.
ALL, and I mean ALL, companies have complaints against their operation. Customer service, late/slow deposits, hidden fees, frozen accounts, intermediaries, different fees, equipment fees, running costs, etc., etc. Square has them, Clover has them, like every other company. Asking for my opinion or anything else in a public forum like Facebook groups will only get a limited response based on extremely limited experience. I have been in this business since 1977 and have taken credit cards since 1990. I started with Square in 2010 and in all that time in food service I have only used a total of 5 different processors . Each with its own problems and benefits.
You should also understand that there are two different types of processing companies. Square (PayPal Here, Intuit ToGo, etc.) are flat fee aggregators. That is, the fee is exactly the same regardless of which card is used i no merchant account is required This makes the threshold to get started much simpler for the average food seller. Clover (and a bunch of other services) are commercial account processors. That is, they require a merchant account (which some people won’t qualify for) and possibly charge varying fees depending on the card type and brand. Comparing the two account types is unfair as they have completely different benefits and application requirements.
For a complete understanding of each type of processor and unbiased reviews, go to the Merchant Maverick website and check out their reviews. Choose the processor that fits your financial needs and has fees and commissions that your business can afford. You also understand what you need from the hardware they offer. Do you need a simple POS or one with a lot of inventory control, payroll features, loyalty programs, etc. or do you just need to process credit cards?
Here’s what you need to know about accepting credit and debit cards. Keeping it simple for street vending.
Card acceptance is a must for street vending. Over 80% of ALL payroll is direct deposited. Mobile food vendors need to be convenient not only in location but also in payment options.
80% of consumers prefer to use debit/credit cards when making purchases. On the other hand, only 14% prefer cash. Not accepting cards hurts the business.
- Processing fees are part of doing business just like buying inventory, paying staff, buying gas, obtaining permits and licenses, and any other expenses of your business.
As an entrepreneur, you have 4 options:
Don’t take cards. (You risk going out of business)
Pass the fees on to your guests as a “convenience fee”. (Seems cheap and short time)
Offer a “cash discount program”. (looks like a gas station)
Do the math when setting your menu price. (Looks like a professional businessman)
Let’s look at each of the options in detail.
Don’t take cards. I hope you understand from the statistics in #1 and #2 above that taking cards is a necessary evil in street and event selling. In my 40 years of experience (through observation and real-time studies), credit card transactions are significantly faster than counting change. Yes, there may be internet issues, connection issues, etc. that appear from time to time. Cash has its own set of problems like tearing a hundred dollar bill first thing in the day, using a fake pen to verify bills, opening new rolls of coins, having to get more than one or five, lots of money cash on hand makes your business easy. target for theft. Still convinced of taking cards? Since taking cards is a MUST DO for a food vendor, let’s find out the best way to handle those pesky fees.
Pass the fees on to your guests as a “convenience fee”. Sounds smart, right? Not really. Charging a fee seems small and cheap from a guest’s point of view, and it’s illegal in 10 states. When the fees are legal, they are capped at 4% as the merchant CAN’T AFFORD to charge a fee. “Convenience fees” become too complicated when a debit card is presented instead of a credit card. Convenience fees are also frowned upon by credit card issuers and each has specific policies AGAINST such fees in most circumstances. Setting a minimum purchase also complicates matters. Debit cards have different rules than credit cards. It is also against the credit card issuer’s rules to set a minimum fee for debit cards. OK, OK, without charging extra, what should a seller consider?
Offer a cash discount program (CDP). This type of program is permitted and specified in the card issuer’s policies. A cash discount policy means that a seller must list TWO different prices for each product. Just like a gas station, it offers a cash discount. The pump will display a price marked ‘Credit’ and a price marked ‘Cash’. Of course, the price of the credit is higher considering the processing fees. There are several companies that offer CDP processing, all of which use some promise of “free” (to you) processing. The bottom line for a legal CDP is to have a menu that clearly states both a cash and credit price, as well as other notices that explain and/or alert your guests to the two-tier pricing system. The problem with this system is guest confusion and overly complicated pricing structures. Street or event vending takes a long time. The faster you take and fill orders, the more money you make. But with CDP, the order-taking process is slowed down by lengthy explanations for a two-tier pricing system. As well as complaints about having to pay more because the guest does not have cash available. In food service, every obstacle you put in the way of a smooth order-taking process is magnified into a negative review, bad word of mouth, or no repeat guests when another service or food issue pops up.
The simplest is:
Do the math when setting menu prices. Wow what a concept! Just like pricing your menu to account for the price of food and propane, just price your menu assuming EVERYONE will be using a card. What?! Can it really be that easy? Yes, yes you can.
Let’s look at a product that everyone freaked out about when Square raised fees to 10¢ + 2.6%. refreshment
The canned soda is available at Sam’s Club for ¢32.05 each. Most people sell it for a dollar. When Square raised its price, people panicked, complaining about the increase in a percentage basis for the least expensive product they sell, a soft drink. This makes the sale of a single soda cost a retailer 44.65¢ when a card is used. I can’t say how many posts have complained 13% charges, blah, blah, blah. However, if the soda company raised the price to 45¢, the seller would either absorb the increase or raise their own prices.
When I price a menu, I take on everyone will use a card. When Square added that 10¢ transaction fee, I just added 25¢ to some of my higher food cost items to make up for it. So that one dollar soda became a $1.25 soda. Even cheaper than a convenience store and much cheaper than a vending machine.
Gross profit (which is sales less cost of goods) would be as follows:
Before: $1.00 – $0.3205 – $0.0275 = $0.6520 gross profit
After: $1.25 – $0.3205 – $0.10 – $0.0260 = $0.8035 profit
See what happens when someone pays with cash.
Cash: $1.25 – $0.3205 = $0.9295
Does it make sense to use a cash rebate program? Does it make sense to add a surcharge (which is legally limited to 4% and no profit can be shown from this charge)? Does it make financial sense to simply refuse to accept cards?
If you are confused, the answers are “NO”, “NO” and “NO”.
I can hear someone saying, “I don’t deal with change, it slows me down.” Food service is a dimes and dimes business. Dollars were even collected at the turn of the century. The only people who charge with the even dollar are hobbyists or math-challenged. Maybe it’s time to get out the addition and subtraction flash cards from grade school and learn how to run our nickel and dime business. Practice makes perfect and the more you practice, the faster you will get there.
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