Climbing Chargeback Mountain

Tim Crowley
Posted on July 20, 2013

When your customers book a limo, make sure they’re not trying to squeeze out of paying by ordering a credit card chargeback.

Credit card chargebacks sometimes can seem like a minor nuisance, but if left unchecked, they can turn into a real fiasco. “You have to respond no matter what,” says Olya Mesheryakova of Century Business Solutions, an experienced credit card processor for the limousine industry. Not responding properly to chargebacks can jeopardize your merchant account and keep you from effectively fighting chargebacks in the future.

When a chargeback occurs, the customer contacts their credit card company to say they do not want to pay the amount that has been charged to their credit card. In the limousine industry, common situations include a customer who cancels at the last minute disputes the nun-refundable deposit; a customer is not happy with the service and does not want to pay; or the customer is being charged an overtime fee for the vehicle that he or she disputes.

In any case, once the chargeback has been issued, the money is removed from the operator’s account and the credit card processor steps in to help mediate between the operator and the disputing customer’s bank and credit card holder.

Chargeback Defense

Since much of the credit card transactions in the chauffeured transportation industry are non-qualified, meaning the credit card is not present to be swiped, it can be a little tougher for operators to fight back.

Qualified chargebacks typically have a client’s signature next to the final amount charged, so a dispute is easily countered by showing this evidence that the client was fully aware of the charge taking place.

A non-qualified transaction happens when the credit card is charged by manually keying in the credit card number and billing information. This is how most limo operations run, and because it does not require a signature before purchase, operators can use extra methods to protect themselves from chargebacks.

Olya Mesheryakova of Century Business Solutions, an industry credit card processor, says operators must respond to chargebacks no matter how unpleasant or time-consuming the process.

Olya Mesheryakova of Century Business Solutions, an industry credit card processor, says operators must respond to chargebacks no matter how unpleasant or time-consuming the process.

One of the most important steps you can take is to make sure you have a document with a signature from the client that clearly states the items for which the customer is being charged. An example of this would be in a digital or printed trip ticket that the customer signs when leaving the vehicle. If it is a corporate account, you reference the signed credit card authorization form that gives you permission to bill the company’s listed credit card.

These documents will show you had agreement from the customer at the time of purchase for the charge. If a customer wants to dispute the quality of service or overtime, you must procure documents to show that the service was delivered well and in a timely manner. In this case you can use records such as a vehicle GPS log showing what time the car arrived at the final destination or a fuel receipt near the drop off at the agreed upon time — anything you can do to state your case.

It also helps to take the initiative and contact the upset customer and see if you can work something out without having to go through the chargeback process. Maybe you can make a concession and turn a customer’s negative view toward your company into a positive one. It will depend on each case.

Watching Out for Fraud

Although most chargebacks will likely come from misunderstandings or difficult customers, there are some unfortunate cases in which a customer is trying to pull one over on you. A sneaky example can be a teenager who books a reservation on a debit card knowing that it is still legal to do so, but much more difficult to fight against over a chargeback. (That is why it’s always best to have a parent be the legal representative on a booking).

Also, criminals can book the reservation on a card, and then use a different, or stolen, card on the night of the event. If the chauffeur doesn’t check that the cards match, they can argue they never took the ride and have a case for a chargeback. Given the lack of physical evidence to show who really rode in the car, it can be difficult to prove.

Some ways to prevent this include copies of driver’s license and credit cards that can be faxed to you, and making sure that your team knows how to properly catalog the transaction and complete the service so they will have everything on record if a chargeback occurs.

Chosen Payments CEO Jeff Brodsly advises operators to have a well-informed team that knows the company’s clients.

Chosen Payments CEO Jeff Brodsly advises operators to have a well-informed team that knows the company’s clients.

Jeff Brodsly, the president and CEO of Chosen Payments, who recently entered into the chauffeured transportation industry as a credit card processor, stresses the importance of having an educated team that knows its clientele. “You have to know your customer,” Brodsly says. “Repeat business is one thing, but for new business you have to take the time to secure the transaction as opposed to just making the sale. Because sometimes you can be alerted then if something smells funny and you might be encountering someone who is trying to fraud you out of payment.”

Mobile Card Readers

Mobile card readers are now coming into play by allowing chauffeurs to swipe the card on a mobile device such as a tablet or iPad, and then the customer signs for the purchase. Talk to your processor about this to see if it has any options available. Research them thoroughly since the use of a mobile card reader could incur a high charge to your account that might not make it worth using.

As long as you can account for all the ways a customer might claim a chargeback, then you can protect yourself against chargeback attempts. Make sure to have as much of the transaction as you can in writing, and whenever possible, get the customer to sign a document that lists all charges so you have proof.

Who’s Got Your Back?

Another way to deter chargeback damage to your company is to use a credit card processor familiar with your industry, Brodsly says. “It’s vital to ensure each operator has a credit card processing vendor which explains the ways to keep their rates down and avoid fraud,” he says.

“When choosing a processing vendor to partner with, remember they have to not only be very educated on the payments industry but on the limo industry as well. Without both it is like the blind leading the blind,” he says. “I would relate it to an operator choosing a non-specialized auto insurance company to represent them and their fleet. Sure, they can provide insurance, but if it’s not customized for limo operating companies the policy may be a bit shaky.” 

Related Topics: credit card processing, How To, industry vendors

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