How To Read A Credit Card Merchant Statement – 5 Ways To Categorize Fees

Reading your merchant statement and finding the rates and fees you’re being charged can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”. One reason is because there are nearly as many different statement formats as there are merchant acquiring companies. Also, because of how competitive the industry has become, many monthly statements don’t completely disclose the rates being charged. And sometimes they are completely hidden.

I know of banks that don’t even send a statement out. If a merchant wants details of what they paid they have to logon to an online account to find it.

It’s War Out There!

One reason for this is the competitiveness. You have to remember that credit and debit cards make up part of a 2 trillion dollar industry. Money is like a magnet – it attracts Most merchants are being contacted continually by competing processors trying to get them to switch processors, by promising “lower rates”, etc.

So, to prevent a sales agent from another processing company from taking a merchant away – some processors make it as hard as possible for a competitor’s sales rep to walk in to a business, analyze a merchant statement, and do an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.

That being said, there are still some basic keys to look for when reading your statement. Here’s what I look for in analyzing a merchant statement, in order:

  • One: The pricing structure – how has the account been set up? Which pricing model does it employ? Is it using tiers (e.g. 3-tier; 4-tier, etc.) or – is it using “Interchange Plus”? (NOTE: most merchants are on a tier pricing model, which, in my opinion guarantees they’re being overcharged. Also, there are other pricing structures but tier pricing is by far the most common)
  • Two: The monthly fees (sometimes called “Other”) – next, I look to see what the monthly fees are. This can include: a statement fee; monthly service fee; account maintenance fee (normally, you’d only see one of these although I’ve seen two – or, you may see the equivalent fee but using a different term); PCI fee; batch fee; and gateway or access fees. Any miscellaneous, but not monthly fees can also show up here – e.g., an annual fee or semi-quarterly.
  • Three: Processing Fees – this is where the discount rates will be listed. If you are on tier pricing the best statements will print an itemized list showing the “qualified”, “mid-qualified”, and “non-qualified” (the 3 tiers) rate. If you are on Interchange Plus, you’ll see a list showing all the different cards you took, followed by the actual interchange rate for the card, the “dpi” (discount per item), plus the processors mark-up expressed as basis points and a transaction fee (or per item, depending on the term used to list it).
  • Four: Authorization Fees – here’s where you’ll find fees that go to VISA and MC. They’ll show up listed as access, authorization, and /or WATTS fees. You could also find here AVS fees (address verification); assessment fees; brand usage fee; risk fee; settlement fees, IAS fee (Issuer Access & Settlement).
  • Five: Third Party Fees – 3rd parties means networks other than VISA & MC that are included in your statement. This would include American Express, Discover, and the debit networks if you are using pin debit

Part of the problem in reading a merchant statement is different processors use different category names and different terms to identify charges. That’s why I began by saying it can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?” While there are common terms used for certain fees there is also a wide variation used, depending on the acquirer (the company you signed a merchant agreement with).

Again, part of this is due to an attempt to hide what’s being charged and make it difficult for a competitor to analyze a statement. While that’s ‘somewhat’ understandable – in my opinion it’s a disservice to the merchant. Integrity demands transparency. Maybe if processors were more merchant oriented they’d have a lower turnover and would not have to worry about competition so much. At least that’s my opinion.

The Importance of Employment Tests

It is a known fact that the success of an employer and a company as a whole depends largely on the quality and reliability of its employees. This is the reason why employers must invest time and even money in the recruitment and interview process. Doing so would ensure that only the best possible candidate will be considered for a particular job.

When it comes to screening of potential employees, no other tool does it better than employment tests. These tests can measure what is called the KSA – knowledge, skills and abilities of the job candidates. Employment tests in this context are generally written or automated tests, but also include interviews, personality tests, skill tests, psychological tests, performance tests, medical examinations, agility tests, and so on.

A hiring process that is poorly designed is much like a recruitment process based on flipping a coin. Employers are well-aware that the impact of inefficient recruitment decisions can have costly and detrimental outcomes, which may include expensive training costs, decrease in overall productivity, increase in employee replacement, and increase in legal exposure.

Benefits of Efficient Assessments Incorporating assessment tests ensure that your company is making better hiring decisions. It can determine whether or not an employee can meet your criterion for maintaining high productivity. Consequently, pre-employment tests can reduce expensive and time-consuming recruitment steps by straightforwardly narrowing down the choices that will include only candidates who are best fit for the job. Because job fitting is greatly improved, this scenario can also increase the chances of retaining your employees for far longer periods of time. Furthermore, a well-developed pre-employment testing program can present a professional and positive image for your company, and will decrease the risk of hiring complaints.

Although pre-employment tests are basically a tool that protects employers, it can be just as important for them as for the applicant. It would be a shameful waste of time, effort, and even money to prepare for the responsibilities and challenges of a new job, yet find out later on that one is not capable of performing the tasks on hand and is bound for failure.

The benefits of pre-employment testing are endless. However, employers must know that these tests have certain limitations. For one, written tests must only measure skills that are important for the job description that a candidate is applying for. For this, employers must carefully design their pre-employment testing program. Pre-employment tests not properly designed may create an impression of being discriminatory, and this is something employers must avoid at all times.

Designing testing tools take time and experience. If these two are something your company does not have, you can easily find pre-employment testing software packages on the market. These pre-employment tests have been designed by professionals with expertise and experience in the field of recruitment, and thus can efficiently evaluate the general knowledge, office skills, personality, and so on, of a potential job candidate. There are various types of pre-employment test to choose from, and there will surely be one that best fits your needs as an employer.

Clearly, organizations that have a carefully well-developed testing program that best meets their exact needs will have competitive advantage. Employment tests allow employers to make the best hiring decisions and will consequently improve business revenue, productivity, and overall business outcomes.

Marketing to Senior Citizens – Health and Fitness, the Growing Trend Amongst Seniors

Today seniors can’t afford not to get moving! With all the hype around nutrition and exercise the aging population is well aware of the benefit of an active lifestyle.

Most seniors of the 55 plus group are keen to reap the rewards of healthy aging through a variety of activities. They are not newcomers to the gym so to speak. Most have kept active with some form of physical activity throughout their lives, whether it is hardcore workouts in the gym or a congenial round of golf on a summer’s afternoon. Women of this age group have also managed years of multi-tasking, most having juggled full time careers, while raising families and still found time to fit in some form of exercise. These women became well acquainted with aerobics, step classes, strength training and power walking. Also, stress relievers such as yoga and pilates were embraced to combat tension and fatigue. In many cases these activities were their salvation of an overly busy lifestyle.

It is only natural then, that these baby boomers are looking to continue their active lifestyle into retirement. Quite possibly, with the time constraints lifted at this stage in life, it leaves them to focus more sharply on their health and wellness.

A huge opportunity exists for gyms and programming facilities to cater to this senior market. The number of seniors is set to skyrocket in the next five to ten years and if gym operators are to jump ahead of this curve, they should set their marketing sights on appealing to and attracting this demographic.

How to go about this? What are seniors looking for when it comes to staying fit? Firstly it is important to see a visual image that they can relate to. Marketing success is all about seeing yourself in the picture, being that person who is strong, fit and beaming with energy. If a beautiful twenty something image is smiling back, then age becomes a handicap in the mind of the senior, derailing their good intentions, making them feel like they can’t compete. The perfect image that will empower the market they are trying to impress is an attractive fit senior pursuing the exercise of his or her choice. An ad such as this will pop with the 55 plus market, creating a role model with whom they can immediately identify and connect. Seniors like everyone else need to be able to put themselves into that ad campaign and honestly believe that it could be them looking out. This puts the wheels in motion for a positive mindset and a “can-do” attitude.

Seniors are only as old as they feel. Once again we come back to the mind-set, which is a very powerful tool. Boomers today are constantly fighting the aging stereotype that has depicted seniors in the past. Seniors in their sixties often look, act and feel ten to fifteen years younger than their actual age. Advertising should play up to this pretense which promotes this healthy reversal known as “turning back the clock”.

Another means of promoting fitness is to educate the senior who wants to get moving and who wants information as to how this will benefit them and enhance their life. They need to know the positives, what they can expect, and can look forward to as a result of embarking on the fitness journey that the marketer proposes. The campaign needs to encompass every aspect of their life, proving that properly presented, seniors will understand that an opportunity to change is being offered which will impact and alter their lifestyle. It’s within their reach, all that remains to be done, is to get out there, set realistic goals with realistic time frames and make it happen.

This brings us to another point. Marketers should focus on the enhancement of senior life overall, as a result of engaging in exercise and activities, rather than the promise that, if you join up you will achieve this enviable body or snag that hot date. The quality of life and the heightened enjoyment of everyday activities which seniors can have as a result of exercise need to be highlighted.

Marketing programs should also contain testimonials and feedback from actual seniors delighted with their progress and accomplishments, similar to that of “before and after stories of weight loss”. Seniors want to hear how it has enhanced and changed other people, who are just like themselves. They want to hear the successes, for example, how exercise lowered blood pressure, how strength training enabled other seniors to do more, how medication was reduced, how endurance was stretched. It all gives the feeling that anything is possible, if they can do it, then I can as well. It sends a message and an incentive to become a joiner.

Seniors often prefer to sample a program on a trial basis to see if it’s going to be the right fit for them. Offering special programs geared to this group is smart when limiting them to one or two classes. Fitness activities can be offered at many different types of senior living facilities. Places such as retirement communities and nursing homes already recognize the need and benefits of fitness and nutritional programs. Approaching these senior residences is an effective strategy of marketing to large groups of seniors. There are also many senior assisted living residences that do not have organized fitness classes or programs in place yet, but they will soon. Visit these places and offer a free class or program, if these programs are successful you will know that this appeals to seniors and if the need is strong enough to continue. This will help to target the senior market, zeroing in on what works and what doesn’t.

Marketers of fitness need to alter their sales approach to seniors. This age group is not impulsive and will appreciate a thorough, softer sell approach. Seniors need and want information and prefer patience. This in turn builds trust, instilling confidence in the senior contemplating buying a membership. It basically reaffirms that they are doing the right thing in taking this first step to join.

Seniors as consumers hold certain expectations that need to be met for fulfillment. As part of the packaging of the programming, seniors also need and crave socialization and to be part of the group. They need leadership, to have an instructor to safely guide them through the program, with an eye to protecting them from injury and awareness of ailments like arthritis and osteoporosis in the participants. They look for convenience, with minimal stairs and easy entry, or even better brought to their home. Lastly they want value and attention, to feel like they are progressing and that their state of well being is something that is noted.

As with any market, the sales approach needs to be geared to their age defined needs and preferences. In the year 2010 and in the coming years the greying of the boomers market will keep growing by leaps and bounds. There will be an even greater emphasis on slowing the effects of aging and possibly the reversal through movement and exercise. This, the marketers realize is what it’s all about at any age. Seniors, like everyone else, want to maintain a high quality of life and that definitely includes exercise to make it happen.

Restaurant Training – Waitress & Waiter Training Role Play Tips For Hospitality Education & Learning

Lights, Camera, Action!

Incorporate Role Play for a Winning Training Program

Take one…take two…take three…ready on the set?

Are your teams providing their best performance with every guest that walks through your doors? Incorporating role play into your training programs will help your guests receive an encore performance every time.

Role play is one of the most effective tools in the trainer’s toolbox where participants can experience real life situations and “learn by doing”. Role play can be used to train any level of company personnel including staff, managers, and even company executives.

Role play allows teams to experience real life situations in a simulated and controlled environment. With participants playing the roles of guests, employees, and managers, they can be better equipped to handle situations.

Because of the controlled environment, role play allows the trainer to assess an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and devise an action plan for growth and development. When used to master a skill, role play builds confidence as the skill is practiced and coaching is administered by a trainer. Since the trainer is side by side with the learner, they can easily determine whether the learner has mastered the newfound technique and is ready to work their position solo. When role play is used to emphasize with another person’s feelings, it allows the teams to recognize those feelings and understand the effect of their or other’s behaviors. For example, role playing a guest situation will allow teams to better understand how a guest feels. As a result, they will learn the level of service that should be provided to deliver a quality experience. Another benefit from role play is helping team members understand the consequences of breaking policies, such as, arriving late to work and the stressful impact it may have on the entire team. As a result, they will learn the importance of arriving on time.

How to get started

Prior to the scheduled training date, company assessments should be performed to determine the specific areas of performance/improvement to be addressed. Then, the company facilitator should determine the overall results to be accomplished and how the issues will be best addressed. For instance, the trainer should determine if the issues are related more to emphasizing feelings or strengthening a skill.

Next, the company facilitator should determine the specific characters associated with the issue and the particular roles they will play. There are many roles that can be played such as a guest and service representative, a manager and team member, a service representative and kitchen team member or similar combinations.

Finally, the company facilitator, armed with the necessary scripts and scenarios, can then develop training aids and other training tools to address the overall goals of the program.

As a head start, we have listed some suggested scenarios that will help you role play with your teams. Before starting the role play, always ask for volunteers so the shy or less experienced teams can watch others first to help build their confidence.

Suggested Scenarios

1. Cashier talking on the phone and not acknowledging a walk-in guest

2. Server being abrupt and rushing a guest while taking an order (asks questions in a curt, quick manner and displays rushed body language)

3. Server being overly friendly and talking too much with a group of business guests having a meeting

4. Server scolding a kitchen worker about an order made incorrectly

5. Host/Hostess being sarcastic and short tempered when a guest is asking for menu information

6. Host/Hostess defensively telling a guest “I told you the wait was 20-25 minutes and you only waited 10 minutes”

7. Bartender being cold and unfriendly while a sole diner is looking for attention and conversation

8. Bartender chatting with some regulars and ignoring a guest who obviously needs something (beverage refill, a napkin, condiments etc.)

9. Two bus persons talking about personal issues while ignoring a guest’s signal for service

10. Kitchen team member loudly demanding a server to pick up an order

11. Dishwasher being disrespected as servers throw dirty dishes without scraping them first

12. A problem team member causing coworkers to do extra work; creating disagreements among the staff; undermining management; constantly being late; and similar situations.

13. Manager telling the guest “no” or “we can’t do that” without apologizing, adding an explanation, and offering options

14. Manager pointing his/her finger and arguing with a guest when handling a complaint

15. Manager threatening a team member’s job

Alkis Crassas, President of EVOS USA, Inc., a healthier fast food chain, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, routinely uses role play and says, “Although role playing pushes the envelope by placing participants in the limelight, after the butterflies disappear, it will smooth out and your team will begin to see the big picture goals of your restaurant”.

If role play is designed properly and effectively executed, it can be very valuable to the success of any company. Most important, when role play is interactive and fun, your training goals will be retained and result in a high return on your investment. Role play adds to the life experience of each participant and when people experience something, they will take that away with them more so than any book, video or lecture could ever replicate.