Payment Processing Horror Stories

We asked current Helcim merchants to tell us the worst of their payment processing experiences with a bit of literary flair. In these true-to-life horror stories, find out the absolute worst practices the payment processing world has to offer merchants. It’s scary stuff!

A Contractual Nightmare

In late 2019 a POS machine was stolen from us, so we had to acquire another one from our POS provider to replace it. We just wanted a new POS machine—nothing less, nothing more. Instead, when delivering the new pos machine they also tricked us into signing a new contract extension. 

Then when COVID hit shortly after and we were legally forced to close during lockdowns, they started charging us for not putting payments through (despite literally and legally not being able to due to being forced to close during lockdowns).

When we tried [to] close our account with them so they would stop taking money out of our account—during a pandemic that forced many small businesses to close—they then threatened to sue us for breach of contract. The same contract they tricked us into signing. 

Pretty scary, I’d rather they would have just ghosted us. Silver lining, we now work with Helcim! The treat to the trick.

– Sebastian Batista 

The Case Of The Not-So-Free Trial

I am a private practice psychologist who began using Square Trade for credit card payments. All seemed to be going well for about a year. Then the nightmare began.

I had enlisted for a trial [of] their Square business program for my office and was promised a “one month free trial”. Square then added another program I had not signed up for. 

The first month I was billed $50 (for a supposed free trial). The second month I was billed $150 for the unwanted second program Square “gave me”. I was fortunate enough to get the first charge reversed by my credit card company. 

I tried unsuccessfully to contact Square. One attempt via phone ended in one of their “customer service” reps transferring my call for some help with the situation to a Merrill Lynch 1-800 number. I could not believe it!

I then cancelled my Square account online. I then attempted to email them on a number of occasions and never got a reply.

I then tried to make a new Square account. I had five payments deposited in it from patients totalling about $600. I got an email (which was made not to receive replies) that the account had been “cancelled by Square”. I was told the funds would be paid to me in 90 days as they were being kept until payments cleared. Three months later no payment ever arrived—no way to contact Square again.

At that point I decided to cut my losses and was fortunate enough to find Helcim. I have found their customer service to be excellent. At the onset of using Helcim I had several questions. I was able to contact their customer service via emails and by phone. All of their reps have been very professional and personable to deal with. 

I find their online terminal very user friendly and easy to access. So far, and it’s been about 6 months of Helcim use, I have been extremely satisfied. In my humble opinion, there is no comparison between Square and Helcim.

– Marilyn Smith

The Horrid Hold Up

As a new business I finally registered everything to start my LLC and start taking credit card payments as a way to open myself up to more customers. I put significant investments into my business [to complete] a large job, and signed up for Square to be able to accept a credit card payment for that job. After accepting the payment, I woke up the next day to my account being deactivated, and Square saying they would hold the money for 30-90 days. I was crushed! 

I am so proud of starting my own business and [I] finally made a move to bigger jobs, and the first payment I accept gets shut down, and that money will now be held for months! No warning, just account deactivated and now money that I needed to pay for the investments I made in my business are being held hostage by Square.

It was absolutely awful. I’m having to keep my business floating on credit cards while I wait out Square to pay me money that me and my customer had already agreed to. It really was an absolute nightmare for a first time business owner who is just trying to get started.

– RVA Power Washing

The Mystery Of The Preposterous Processing Fee 

For years we used this provider thinking that the fees we were charged were normal – WRONG! We were paying over 12% of our gross sales in fees, plus we were being charged all these other merchants add-on fees on top of that. When we would receive our statement, it would be 8 pages long and you could not interpret what most of it meant! Then to top it off—a small blurb was included in the notes telling you that if you did not go through compliance, you would also be charged a fee for that—what? Another fee each month! Of course, that led to another full day of customer service connections to get to the right person to help with the problem.

But..there was light at the end of this torturous tunnel! We found Helcim! I went on-line and found great reviews on this company and how easy it was to use. They were right! Set-up was a few clicks and approval was quick! After that, smooth sailing. No horror stories here! Love the system and support and REALLY LOVE the money we are saving each month in those fees (none hiding in the dark!). We are saving hundreds of dollars in fees each month!

– Michelle Smith 

Contract Chicanery

My ominous tale begins in October 2013, when I started as the Office Administrator in my current job.

Slicing open the envelope for the month’s payment processor invoice, [I was] shocked at the contents revealed. Cheeks flushed, I rushed into my boss’s office, shaking the pages in front of him, demanding to know what these ‘Miscellaneous Fees’ were for. The dark truth was, nobody knows!

Fire in my eyes, hands on hips, I vowed to do my duty and stand up for my business and get us a refund! 

The first trap: the dark swamp of the telephone queue system (which goes nowhere). I waited hours to talk to a human, only to be told I could put in a request to have my account manager contact me at their convenience.

The second trap: your account manager. NO! There will be no refund, you naïve minion. Your contract expires in one year, only then can you negotiate better rates! His words of evil slashing at my good intentions.

The third trap: the web of lies (your contract).

A year later, still sure that I could take on a “Global” enterprise, I set out to negotiate the contract…our new account manager was all sweet and obliging, like the witch in that gingerbread house tale from childhood. Feeding me lies disguised so well. I had done it! Gotten a better deal with lower processing fees for 3 years! High five me.

The final trap: the house of mirrors (where nothing makes sense and you will never escape). 

Two months later, I found myself opening the latest envelope with the processor invoice. Outrage! Our fees had skyrocketed again, higher than last year. How could fees be 100% of card association fees? This was a horror [story] and small business was the victim.

– Angela J – International Internet Advertising Services

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New to accepting card payments? Many of our merchants are first time business owners who are unfamiliar with the industry. We take the time to help you understand how it all works as well as how to avoid common pitfalls.

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