Accepting credit card (paypal) payments offline?
October 30, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

My singing group sells CDs online using paypal (accepting credit cards) on our website. We also sell CDs at shows where we perform, and so far have been accepting only cash and check. We would like to accept credit cards in hopes of getting even more sales. I'm having trouble finding/understanding the information on the paypal website. Basically, can we get peoples' credit card info (the chick chunk slider?) and manually enter the credit card info into paypal at a later time? (I don't mind doing this manually, it's 50 transactions at the most.) We are straying away from the automatic machines because 1) we won't always have access to power and phone lines 2)we don't want to sign up with another merchant account. Thanks for the help!
posted by cp7 to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well do not know about this, but I do know that Nextel offered a device that you hooked up to a Nextel phone and could swipe CCs into. Not sure if it is still available, but I would check out Sprints site to find out. Or another solution would be to have a laptop with an extended battery and a wireless card hooked up to Paypal at your shows. Type in the CC info right there on the spot and complete the sale.

I wouldn't record the info and charge at a later date. Too easy to get screwed without the knowledge of the transaction actually going through or not.
posted by wile e at 1:40 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We did a much smaller volume (5 or 6 per performance) but my ex-group got around this conundrum with a cellphone with a decent web browser. We put through each in-person CC transaction as if it were a web order, with immediate fulfillment, right through our own website. (We had an option on our purchase page for "pick up CD at a concert" so we used that to deal with the difference between our in-person cost and our shipped cost.) If you have a member with a decent phone (this could so be an iPhone ad!) might this be an option?
posted by Dreama at 1:43 PM on October 30, 2007

To would need a "virtual terminal" to accept offline payments. That's $30USD/month. Plus transactions fees of 2.9% and a $0.30/transaction.

That's a lot of CDs just to pay PayPal.

If you were to collect email, address, credit card #, etc. you could try to manually enter this info on the paypal site and pretend you were the customer. Paypal's tech is quite the steaming pile so you might get away with it. But personally, I wouldn't give you all that info just to buy a CD.

Just curious - do people actually pay with cheques? How do you know they won't bounce? (Leaving you with -1 CDs, -$10 and a $20 bounced cheque fee?)
posted by kamelhoecker at 1:51 PM on October 30, 2007

If you use cdbaby, you can get a credit card swiper to use at live shows. Although my band hasn't done that, we use cdbaby and our experience has been uniformly positive.
posted by smartyboots at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2007

Like kamelhoecker says, Paypal calls this Virtual Terminal. They sell it as something you would use for mailed-in or phone payments.
posted by smackfu at 1:59 PM on October 30, 2007

You're right to not get into a credit card terminal. It's no small thing to set up paperwork-wise and can be an expensive and time-consuming pain-in-the-ass when something goes wrong.

I very much doubt that you could legally take impressions of the cards and then enter them into PayPal, because when you enter that info into PayPal, you're supposed to be doing so as the card-holder. You will be left with no leg to stand on if anyone disputes the charge. And yes, someone will dispute the charge.

Having a laptop and allowing the customer to buy the CD via Paypal on-site, as Dreama references, is a less-dubious workaround.
posted by desuetude at 1:59 PM on October 30, 2007

Love CDbaby, but at 9%...whoo.
posted by desuetude at 2:03 PM on October 30, 2007

Have you inquired about getting a real merchant account from your bank or a company that offers merchant services?

Somebody must still be offering merchant accounts that let you accept credit cards the old way, by imprinting them onto a sales slip and having the customer sign it, then turning the slips into the bank/processor for payment.

I've seen lots of strange little family businesses who still process credit cards this way (mostly at gun and other trade shows), although the typical transaction amount is probably higher than the cost of a single CD. The big question is whether it's going to be worth it to you to take plastic. Do you sell enough varieties of merch for a $20 minimum limit to work? A smaller number of larger transactions might be better than a lot of very small (less then $5 or $10) ones would.

I can't find any information online on where to get an account that offers manual/imprinted credit card acceptance, but if your band has a bank account (which strikes me as a good idea), your first resource might be your bank. I think this would be a service that probably lends itself more towards a traditional B&M institution than some EZACCEPTCREDITCARDZ.COM-type site on the internet.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:38 PM on October 30, 2007

$20 minimum limit

No such thing exists, by the way.

I think you're going to have to actually use a merchant account or the PayPal terminal. The actual credit-card imprinters still exist, though in the several years I've had credit cards, I've only come across them twice—one was at the One-of-a-Kind Show (a craft show) in Toronto, and the other was used by They Might Be Giants at a concert.
posted by oaf at 3:09 PM on October 30, 2007

Why not just get a Verizon or Sprint card for the laptop and do the transaction online in real time? The data plans on those cards are about $60 a month.
posted by COD at 3:11 PM on October 30, 2007

Regarding the $20 minimum limit, what I meant was, 'do you think that you'd still have anyone using credit cards if you imposed a minimum limit on the charge that you'd run?'

E.g., refuse to use credit cards for less than $20 or whatever it takes to make it worthwhile.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:19 PM on October 30, 2007

While you do see that in many mom and pop shops and other small venues its technically against the terms of service for both VISA & Mastercard for a merchant to impose a minimum amount for a transaction...
posted by crewshell at 6:14 PM on October 30, 2007

Could you take a laptop to your shows then you could build a little database (in like Filemaker Pro) to record the card numbers, then program the database to upload the numbers to paypal after the show? I "think" FM Pro has some scripts that can do this pretty easily.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:15 PM on October 30, 2007

You will need a "real" merchant account to use a card imprinter. We've done it with our business in the past, then run the card numbers later on our terminal. Usually the fees are higher with non-swiped cards and at least twice a year the service provider would deny a charge because we didn't swipe the card. While we were always able to get the funds and prove the charge was legit it was still an annoying waste of time. Of course you're always going to run the risk of the card being declined as well.

If you do get a merchant account be very careful with mobile based terminals. We tried two different models that were provided via our card processor but wouldn't work with our phones. Like the rest of their equipment it was leased and we had a hell of a time returning them and getting the contracts canceled.
posted by Mamapotomus at 8:24 PM on October 30, 2007

refuse to use credit cards for less than $20 or whatever it takes to make it worthwhile.

Right. That's what I meant. You can't do that. Trying to do so puts your ability to take credit cards at risk.
posted by oaf at 11:55 AM on November 1, 2007

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