Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is Visa® Taking Clarity and Replacing it with Hubris? (WayTooHigh.com)

Have you seen Visa U.S.A. Inc’s® print ad campaign and "Life Takes Visa®" slogan? (See sample: WSJ, Sept 12, p. B7).

The entire page in today's Wall Street Journal, for instance, contains tiny print to illustrate the complexity of traditional financial statements. Then the particulars: the copy explains that "Visa Business tracks your finances on one simple statement. So you can get your business’ financial story without reading between the lines. ... Your business is your life. Life takes Visa."

More factually, in our opinion, is that Visa® takes clarity and throws it out the window. On one hand, the world’s largest payment processing association promotes keeping it simple - then the fine print. For cardholders, the idea is to track finances with one simple statement, but for merchants, get out your detective’s hat and magnifying glass.

The typical merchant processing agreements are one-page, easy to follow forms. That is with the exception of the fine print. I had to zoom in so closely to the First Data Management Services® contract to find the hidden message, which was anything but simple. Look for yourself, request any merchant services company's processing agreement. What you will typically find is one sentence within the application and agreement that speaks volumes about how this game works.

Ex: "The client acknowledges having received and read a copy of the Interchange Schedule, Program Guide / Confirmation Page and Merchant Processing Application."

For merchants who sign on to accept electronic payments, for instance, there is hushed clarity followed by a multi, multi-paged, legal-ease appendix of non-simple-to-understand compliance; it is anything but fluent in simplicity.

Life might take Visa
®, but for merchants accepting the cards, it could take seemingly a lifetime of reading and research to understand about interchange fees and how the leading payment processing association operates. Like the Visa® print ads, the contractual forms also have tiny print too which seems designed more to distract from this nearly 30 billion dollars in annual hidden taxes on retailers and consumers.

[Commentary: WayTooHigh.com]