Charged extra for playing with plastic?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by CorvusCamenarum, May 23, 2007.

  1. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816


    Dec 16, 2004
    Birmingham, AL
    I think the title speaks for itself, but here goes. On my way out yesterday evening, I stopped off at a convenience store to get a few things. The tab came to about $7 or so, and since I didn't have any cash on me, I whipped out my Visa card. When the merchant saw I was paying with plastic, he added on another 25¢. I caught it and asked him why, and he said it was because I was paying with plastic. I tried to argue the point to no avail. Needless to say, that store has since lost my business.

    It's my understanding that this practice is specifically against Visa's merchant agreement, and may also be illegal; I have a fuzzy memory of hearing about gas stations getting in trouble regarding this same practice some years ago.

    Before I go off writing letters and complaining, am I right in thinking that what they did was not completely kosher? I know it's only a quarter, but if they're doing it to me then they're doing it to other people as well.
  2. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    yes you have every right to pay with any accepted means with no added conditions or price increases because of it.

    if they take visa, they can't deny or overcharge you for it, same with mastercard etc. if they don't have an agreement with that company they can refuse though (ie, no discover or some such). call up Visa and let them know. they'll get on the merchant's case probably.
  3. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    I am not 100% sure, but I beleive you are correct and it's not legal for a merchandiser to do that. It's the same argument that I have with vendors that insist that one must purchase a minimum of $10 to charge with a debit card or credit card.
  4. strider42 macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2002
    Its illegal, but only because of the way they did it. I know this is true in california anyway, and assume its likely true elsewhere. Here, places can offer a discount if you pay in cash, but the advertised price must be the price you would pay with a credit card. You get into a lot of technicalities with this sort of thing, since the law is based on the semantics of how its advertised.
  5. CorvusCamenarum thread starter macrumors 65816


    Dec 16, 2004
    Birmingham, AL
    I knew about the cash discount part - whenever I make a big ticket purchase I usually ask for a cash discount since they'd just lose that much to the credit card company anyway, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.

    Does anyone know the proper number to call for complaining? I tried 1-800-VISA-911, but all I get is an unhelpful automated system.

    Edit: is your friend. I finally got through to someone and they said they'd look into it, that I'd receive a letter, etc etc etc, so we'll see what happens. I think I'll send the pre-wife to that store in a week or so and see if they do the same thing to her.
  6. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    here in canada, i was under the impression that vendors have to pay for using the ccard system? maybe they do it to cover their costs?

    i'm by no means, agreeing with it though. i think there is enough mark up already :)

  7. killmoms macrumors 68040


    Jun 23, 2003
    Washington, DC
    I just had to say: hahaha "pre-wife." That's awesome. :D
  8. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Was it a big chain that pays minimum wage? Stick it to them.

    Was it a small local store that struggles since the area WalMart opened, but tries to stock useful things and remember their customers' names and preferences? Hell, I'd gladly pay extra (and I do so many times) for a shop like that.

    I live in London, not exactly a small town, but there are several shops round here where the staff know my name or my face, and will ask after my children or go the extra mile for for me cos I support them.

    The fact they sell stuff I can't get in the local hypermarkets is both a bonus and a fundamental reason for me to support them.

    And yes I know the argument that small shops are merely the little brother of the capitalist system. When you're meeting real human beings daily and not being treated like a faceless drone, that's different.
  9. Bobdude161 macrumors 65816


    Mar 12, 2006
    N'Albany, Indiana
    Doesn't every card company charge every store a certain percent of the sale just for having the privilege of accepting it?
  10. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Hey CorvusCamenarum, remember this thread? :)

    For others who weren't around then or missed it, there's a good discussion of some of this stuff there.
  11. psycoswimmer macrumors 65816


    Sep 27, 2006
    When I've been out with family for dinner or whatever, I usually look at the bill. I've never seen or heard of this happening before.

    But yeah, I'd change the title. I seriously thought this thread was about being charged extra because you played with plastic. Or maybe you'll get more views because it sounds more eccentric. :)
  12. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Umm, no. You have the right to pay with legal tender. Visa is not legal tender, it is a credit agreement. Neither is a cheque legal tender, it is a promise to pay when deposited at the bank. I as a vendor have every right to refuse payment by charge card or cheque -- if not, then I would be forced to take every stolen visa and forged cheque that was tendered.

    This is in the Merchant's contract with Visa etc that they cannot charge a service charge for Visa. What they can do however is to offer a cash discount. So if the merchant has on the door (or on the website) a sign saying "All prices reflect a 3.5% cash discount" then they can charge 3.5% more for other types of payment.

    What is important is that there is no general legal prohibition to charging more for payment by any other means than cash - you have no 'right' to use plastic. Any limitations on what the merchant can do is governed by their contract with the card company. Now slapping a surprise charge on top of the price on the shelf may be another matter where trade practises steps in. I am assuming that there was a sign visible in the store which stated their policy.

    Often you will see convenience stores with a sign saying "minimum purchase $10 for Debit Card or Visa" This is because it costs the merchant money to accept the card. Depending on the agreement, they may have to pay up to 50 cents per transaction, and up to 4.5 % "discount" (that is, the charge card company commission) on the value of each sale. So when you buy your $1.00 chewing gum, which the merchant would make 30 cents on, they may actually lose money for accepting the CC or debit card payment.

    Also, when a lot of people use plastic for small purchases, it drags the merchant's average ticket size down for all purchases. If the average ticket falls below certain levels, the discount % rate goes up -- and that costs the merchant bigtime when someone makes a large purchase.

    So if you really want to screw a small local merchant, pay with plastic for everything, no matter how small. Don't be surprised if they get grouchy.
  13. CorvusCamenarum thread starter macrumors 65816


    Dec 16, 2004
    Birmingham, AL
    Yes, but if you're set up to accept Visa and you refuse to accept it, Visa can revoke your privilege to accept Visa in the future, excluding instances of when you run the card and it's denied for whatever reason.

    AFAIK, the advertised price must be the credit price, not the cash price. Otherwise you're quite right in that a business is perfectly within its rights to offer discounts for paying cash.

    That's exactly what happened, except there was no posted sign or other advance notice. Only when he saw he take out my Visa card, he rung up another 25¢. I know that store has never offered me a discount the hundred other times I've been in there and paid cash. I usually do carry some small cash on me just so I don't have to use plastic for everything, but this was a rare occurance when I just didn't happen to have any on me.

    The Visa merchant agreement also specifies that setting minimum purchase amounts is a no-no. That's just the cost of doing business. They're perfectly free to not accept plastic if they so desire, although I'm guessing business would plummet if they did that iin most cases. Plastic is just as much of convenience for them as it is for me.

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