Posts Tagged ‘credit cards’

“Lewis, you have a call on line 2. Someone wants some information from you. You also have 3 other calls waiting.”

I picked-up the phone. It had already been a long day and it was only 11:00 in the morning. The phones had been ringing off the hook and suddenly everyone wanted to talk to me.

I was new in the business of setting-up merchants to accept VISA and MasterCard. This thing called “the internet” was just starting to take off. Merchants were finding out very quickly that they needed to get up to speed with accepting credit cards online. Most of them were small or start-up businesses and very few of them knew anything about computers. Shit, most of us were learning as fast as we could.

I was getting lots of calls because I represented a bank that only did “high risk” business and could help merchants that had either been declined or shut-off from a previous bank. Travel agencies, dating services and the adult business market were considered high risk, so word had gotten out that I could place them and the calls were pouring in.

As soon as I answered the phone, the woman on the other end began pleading with me to help her. I had no idea who she was but I wrote down my notes as fast as I could and waited for her to take a breath.

“OK Angela, I think I understand the gist of what you are saying. You need a merchant account for your new business. It’s a dating service. You have no credit, filed bankruptcy last year and this is a new venture for you, right?”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s really important that you help me. I’ve been turned down by 10 other banks and they all gave me your name. The problem is you’re too expensive.”

I chuckled to myself. This was a typical conversation from someone who knew nothing about business, who had no idea how things worked and yet thought she would jump on the band wagon of the dot comm bubble and make a million dollars overnight. Ten banks had turned her down and I’m too expensive? Little did I know that this would be the exact attitude that would later burst that bubble down the line. Those of us who understood at least the basics of business would survive. The ignorant and naïve would not.

After telling her what it would take to get the bank to consider her application, she hung-up and told me she would call me later. I was surprised when she did 2 hours later. She had come up with a very large deposit and guaranteed me she could hand me a check when we met. I set the appointment for the next day. She lived 2 hours away and I needed to see her place of business and take pictures.

As I approached the address I began to be concerned I had the correct address. This was long before cell phones were as advanced as they are now. Many of us didn’t have one but we had pagers. I pulled over, double checked the address. I was in the right place but I was in a residential area. I walked up to the door and rang the bell.

Angela answered the door. She was a very large woman in a wheelchair. We greeted each other. We sat at her kitchen table. All her paperwork was spread across the table. While she served me coffee I looked around. It was a nice house but I was trying to figure out what to do now. There was no way the bank would approve her application unless she had a store front. Running a dating service from your home was not something that was making sense to me.

I handed her the application to fill out. “Angela, I’m a bit confused on your business. Are you considering running a dating service out of your home? I don’t see how that will work and I don’t think the bank will approve it,” I said as I sipped my coffee.

“Well,” she said and sighed. “It’s not technically a dating service but it does involve men and women getting together.”

I scratched my head and sat back. A very dim light was just starting to go on. “OK, I’ll bite; explain it to me, please,” I said and sipped my coffee.

“Well the dating part is on the phone. Truthfully, it’s all done on the phone,” she said. “You know…”

“No, I don’t actually,” I said. The light was getting a bit brighter.

Just then a man came in the front door. He was large also and had a big smile on his face as he walked up to me and shook my hand. He said his name was Robert. “Oh, you must be the bank lady!” he said and sat down with us.

“OK, Angela, I need you to explain to me in great detail what your business is and how it works,” I said.

“People call and talk to me. Or they talk to Robert. Whatever they prefer,” she said. Robert nodded his head up and down.

“No one comes here then?” I asked.

“Oh God no! No way! No, we just talk about…things and then when they are…done, then we hang-up,” she said. Robert’s head was still nodding up and down quickly. I turned and looked at him.


“We really need to be able to charge their cards. I mean, it’s not like they are going to send us a check when they are…finished, ya know?” Robert said.

The light bulb in my head was as bright as it could be. “No of course not. You do need to take credit cards, but…” I said.

Robert leaned over and put his hand on my arm. “You know, you would do really well in this business. You have a great voice…”

“Can you do different accents?” Angela asked. “Some of my customers like a Southern accent and then there’s this guy who like a French accent. Can you do either of those?”

I started to blush and stutter. This was one of the most interesting propositions I had ever received.

“You would make a ton of money and we could set you up so the calls could go to your house…”

I stood up. I knew this account would never go through unless I lied about it, which I was never going to do. “I am so sorry, but I can’t write your account. This isn’t a dating service and I can’t lie on the application…”

Robert stood up and went and got his checkbook out of his desk. He sat down, wrote a check and handed it to me. I looked at it and my mouth dropped open at the amount.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

They smiled at each other. “That’s your bonus if you get our account set-up. Maybe you would prefer cash instead?” Robert asked.

I looked at the check for a long time. It was more than enough to pay my mortgage for the next 6 months. All I had to do was lie. I didn’t ask where the money came from. I remembered her telling me I was too expensive and yet here was a large check in my hands.

I handed him back his check and thanked them for their time. They spent the next hour trying to convince me to work for them and help them. When I heard the amount of money I could make for working ½ day, I kept thinking about what I would have to say and do to get a paycheck.

I really suck at accents.

I left and wished them luck. They were nice people and I then understood why so many people were running this type of business on the phone and not face-to-face.

Little did I know as I drove away, word had gotten out in their line of business that I was someone who could help.

The phone calls tripled within 24-hours.

Life was suddenly about to become much more interesting.