The Merchant Bill of Rights: A Sleep Aid

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The rare American company survives for over 100 years. It’s rarer still in the restaurant business.

According to Credit Suisse, the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 has declined from 60 years in the 1950s to less than 20 years currently. Technology’s “disrupting force” is to blame.

That sounds about right to Sheri Baker, CFO of the Acme Management Group.

The Acme Café opened in 1910 in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. When a fire destroyed the original restaurant, a new one was re-established as the Acme Oyster House and opened around the block in 1924.

The years following World War II were unkind. The Baby Boom produced suburban flight and some cities, New Orleans among them, struggled. In 1985, the restaurant was reborn with a single proprietor, and one waitress who “sometimes” took orders. The old Poet’s Corner was brought back and a “serve yourself” model slowly expanded. Even the original building is back in the fold.

Baker has helped manage Acme’s growth to six locations, four in Louisiana, one in Alabama and another in Florida. So what keeps her up at night?

Technology.

“EMV,” said Baker. “That’s what keeps me up at night. We have not made the move to EMV compliance yet. That is always in the back of my mind. . . Beyond the large capital expense to become compliant there are some dishonest people out there. And it’s a pretty big financial trigger to pull.”

 

What allows Baker to fall back asleep is the Merchant Bill of Rights (MBOR). Established by Heartland to bring transparency and fairness to credit, debit and prepaid card processing, the tenets of the MBOR ring true for Baker. Some years ago, she changed card processors over price. It took her six months to return to Heartland.

The cheaper option “promised X and charged Y’ and wasn’t cheaper at all. Baker soon realized that trust is non-negotiable. It’s hard enough running a company when monthly costs are predictable. When unexpected surcharges and other previously undisclosed fees start showing up, it’s easy to make a change.

“I trust Heartland with my eyes closed and my back turned,” said Baker. “They try to find a reasonable solution that allows us to trust the process moving forward. POS is changing with the Cloud. It’s a huge cost and we are doing a lot of weighing of alternatives. But when it comes to Heartland, I cannot possibly say enough about the people and the level of service that we get.

“That’s one reason they are so cost effective. We get timely reports on charge-backs, the company is U.S.-based so when we need to talk to someone they are really user friendly. If we need immediate help because of a catastrophic situation – lost batches, duplicate charges, whatever – we have always been able to pick up the phone and talk to one or two of the women who support my account.

“That level of service is  important when you are in crisis mode. I can always count on them to stay with me until we are out of crisis mode. . . It goes back to the Merchant Bill of Rights. I know and trust the fact that when we pull down statements from Heartland that I’m not going to see anything inappropriate.”

And that makes sleeping a lot easier.