No More Bambora

Back in August of 2017, we were quite surprised to hear from Bambora, our “merchant account provider,” that they were suddenly going to start adding monthly fees. We wrote about that here and to give Bambora some credit, their CCO – Ryan Stewart – gave us a personal phone call to try to discuss the issues. While we understood to a degree, the experience still left a bad taste in mouths here – but we continued on with them, and even supported clients in using Bambora.

As noted in that article we wrote back in August, we were used to dealing with Beanstream, a nice merchant account providing service located on the west coast of Canada. Beanstream was pretty awesome at being responsive and helpful. But, since they have become Bambora, part of a multi-national company, they have really gone downhill.

We’ve even helped clients migrate to Beanstream, now Bambora – but have not been as excited about them since they’ve become Bambora. But first, some background about or experience:

Merchant Account Since 2001

We’ve been in business – the same business – since 1997. That’s right – we’re dinosaurs in the “internet development” field. We’ve been providing business to business solutions since then, and basically, our motto has been pretty much the same, “Helping businesses achieve their goals” – and through that, helping with internet web development, consulting, and even helping with security and privacy. We’ve been involved in E-Commerce in some degree or other, since 1999 – we helped a small business in Tennessee back then, with an e-commerce site and made sure they were using “best practices” at the time (GPG/PGP for sensitive information), and then later, we assisted a major medical journal in their goals of being able to do internet transactions.

Back in those days, we worked very closely with a company called “Caledon Card” in assisting some clients to have the ability to do e-commerce. This of course, was the days before PCI Compliance was even much thought of. Nevertheless, we are always about “best practices” and security.

In 2001, we had our own merchant account with Chase-Paymentech. We had that account until 2016. In those years, we did well over a million dollars in credit card transactions and… NOT A SINGLE CHARGEBACK EVER – and NOT EVEN A SINGLE DISPUTE!

In fact, in all those years, we did not even have to do a single refund!

That’s a pretty good record, in anyone’s books. We still have all the Chase Paymentech statements here, to support this claim, as well.

Let’s move forward to 2016…

Beanstream Becomes Our New Merchant Account Provider

In 2016, we had to restructure the business, mostly in name only. Our previous business name was based on an “agreement” (or partnership, you could say). Some disturbing information came to light during that year, and it was necessary to pull away from that, and change the name of the business. There were some financial issues, but they had to be worked through, and it also meant, however, meant a new application with Chase Paymentech in order to properly have the correct business branding on customers’ credit card statements. We had discussions with them, and also looked at Beanstream, and at the time, it was more economical to go with Beanstream in our changeover.

Beanstream was very excited to take us on! They were fantastic! We could call and speak to someone almost right away. They knew what we needed, assured us all was good. A couple of times when we needed support, we spoke to a live person right away when we called. They were great!

The service was so good, we helped other clients migrate to them and even recommended them to businesses that were not our clients. Why not, right? It was all good.

Beanstream Becomes Bambora

In 2017, news came out that Beanstream would become part of Bambora, and if I recall correctly, no one was to worry; same great service was promised, etc etc. Then suddenly, in August of 2016, we get these weird messages about Bambora “auditing their book of business” and “noticing pricing issues.” Suddenly, they want to charge a monthly fee, something that as Beanstream, they were proud of the fact they never did!

It seems that as soon as Beanstream became part of Bambora, there were additional expenses that had to be passed on. Strange.

That was upsetting; sure it was only 10.00 a month – but it was not what Beanstream had based their marketing on, when they convinced us to open an account with them. That excited me, when I was looking around – Beanstream’s marketing of “no monthly fees” etc. Why did they not “grandfather in” their pre-existing accounts that had come to them based on their marketing claims?

WE had a nice phone call with Ryan Stewart, CCO of Bambora, and although a little peeved, gave them the benefit of the doubt and continued on, and continued to recommend the new Beanstream/Bambora to clients and other businesses.

Bambora Makes Arbitrary Decicion – March 2018

As of February 2017, 80% of our business is repeat business from businesses. We retain our clients at a very high rate. We still have the same clients that we had, back in 1997! They range from a medium sized printing company to a specialty niche publishing company, a fishing rod manufacturer, and over the years, we’ve gained new clients that have stuck with us for many years. A peer-reviewed medical journal, a second specialty fishing rod manufacturing company, a retailer of a highly specialized niche, a company that services laser printers, a musical festival, a business that does stand-by power generating installations, a company that provides home and small business elevator solutions… and not once, have we ever received a complaint about our services. We also provide some Linux server maintenance, on-site SEO optimization and other marketing consulting.

We’re not involved in pornography, illegal arms sales, drug services, or any kind of “grey” area.

However, there has been a side-line business for me personally, in a completely different business, involving the sales of high-quality culinary cooking products. We’re starting with Greek Oregano. Pure Greek Oregano. Amazing Greek Oregano. Local sales and interest has been great so a decision was made to take it online. Obviously, the ability to take credit card orders, separate and apart from “The Ian Scott Group” would be great.

Inquiries were made of Bambora… and over the course of two weeks, they went ignored (have I mentioned that since Beanstream became Bambora, service has been horrible?). Finally, I left a voicemail for CCO Ryan Stewart, and voila! We get an email from a Patrick Fillion, a “retention” specialist at Bambora. Mr. Fillion is all excited, apologizes, offers a special rate, provides a special link for me to go create an application, tells me to me not to worry much about the whole thing as Bambora knows me, blah blah blah… great!

A couple more weeks go by after we’re requested some information – and we’re told Bambora wants copies of invoices from both businesses. There are none for the new business, but invoices for The Ian Scott Group are provided.

More time goes by and follow-up is done. Last week, an email from Mr. Fillion, “You will have someone from my finance team contacting you on Monday?”

A question mark? Okay – must be a typo. I’m looking forward though, to getting this going.

Monday March 5th, 2018 comes…

The only contact from Bambora are two emails, one which tells us that the application for the sideline business has been declined, and the second email: “Account Termination Notice”

The body of the email says:

“Dear Merchant,

Please find the attached letter regarding the termination of your merchant account with Merchant ID 245161536.

Through the course of a periodic merchant review, it was determined that The Ian Scott Group offers services to its clients that are outside of what our banking partners allow us to support.

As a result, the account will be closed effective April 6, 2018. We will also be holding a 25% reserve on all transactions until this date. Should you require additional time to transition to another processor, we may extend the closure date to May 6, 2018.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact”

What? “There must be some mistake here,” we’re thinking. “What services do we offer to clients that could be outside of what is allowed??”

WE rely on this merchant account for payment and cashflow. WE’ve had a merchant account since 2001. We’re providing the same services. We had a discussion with Beanstream in 2016, and it was their marketing and that discussion that convinced us to move from Chase Paymentech to Beanstream. Now, after 17 years, more than a million dollars, not a single charge-back.. we’re being terminated!

We’re also not providing any different services than we were in 2016. Or even back in 1997, or 2001, when we first got a merchant account. Wow!

Calls are made. Mr. Fillion who was so excited to help us with a second account, now cannot explain anything, and refers us to the “Customer Service” department. They are called.. we speak with a “Ryan Grieve” after being on hold for an enormously long time. Ryan says he can see the termination notice, but cannot provide any reasons why, but promises to get in touch with the team is responsible for the account termination. He offers suggestions, “Maybe you are providing some service that might appear to be pornographic?”

“Ummm.. no buddy.. we are not involved in that.”

“Maybe you are providing a service that might be easily confused with something?”

“Okay.. what is it then? Please go and find out if you can and let me know.”

Mr. Grieve claims he is trying to get a hold of the risk management team but is unable to do so. He promises to get back to me within the hour.

The next thing we hear back is via email:

“After communicating with our Risk and compliance team team, (sic) we have confirmed that this account will continue with the termination. Bambora is not able to offer any further information about the closure of the account.”

That’s it. After a solid amazing merchant account record of 17 years, suddenly thrown to the wolves of cash-flow issues due to someone’s or something’s decision, without any conversation, or clarification, or anything.

Lessons Learned

I actually have a back up in place, and most of my Canadian clients can pay with Interac. That’s not a problem. The problem is time, and trying to communicate with them, while also having to explain, that for some reason, some of my services are apparently “suspicious.” Same services I’ve been providing since 1997. Thankfully, we have a great relationship with our clients.

If you’re a web developer, you might want to be very careful if you take credit cards. I have a feeling that it is not just about what services you provide, but to whom. But who knows?

Loyalty & Marketing – I am generally a pretty loyal person – even if something costs a little more. I probably should have heeded that back when I had been dealing with Chase Paymentech for so long.. but decided to go with Beanstream, based on their marketing and sales to us here. Communication also goes a long way to loyalty; no communication means “screw you.” And so to you, Bambora, “Screw you.” You’ve just lost a bunch of recommendations and I know for a fact, some clients will be migrating away from you, while in your quest to take over “the space”… if you can’t communicate and discuss, you’ll be dead in the water someday.

You are dealing with real people, who have real children to take care of, and who have real cash flow issues at times, and in the end, there is more of us than there are of you. Bigger companies than you have failed before, because you put algorithms first, instead of remembering human contact and human judgment.

Whoever at Bambora made the decision to terminate our account, and not have a conversation about it, is a coward. A coward who wants to sit behind their “risk management” algorithms while making money, and forgetting that there are real people and real circumstances that actually power their business and income.

Seventeen years of an impeccable merchant account record.. not a single chargeback.. providing B2B services – I have been in this business probably longer than most of the folk on the so-called “risk management team” have even been out of University – and our account is just simply “terminated” with a vague email.

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