A Scary Vendor Lesson

I’ve been wanting to spill the beans about how I turned down $6,500.

True confessions from our vendor experience at Black Sheep Gathering 2018 fiber festival, though doubtless applicable to many other venues.  What happens when you MASSIVELY OVERCHARGE a customer’s credit card???  (Obviously by accident – I mean, don’t even go there).


PRELUDE:  in which the vendor chats with a happy customer and rings up the purchase.  Enjoys her enthusiasm and the budding friendship.

INTERMISSION:  in which the vendor leaves booth to capable husband, while she quickly tours the show aisles.  All is well in her happy world…

DRAMATIC PAUSE:  in which vendor returning to booth is confronted by grim husband, looking Most Disturbed.  “Spouse, we have a problem.”  Flipping open receipt pad, I see $65 recorded there.  Then he shows me that day’s online sales tally, and a single amazing number stands out:  $6,500 !

womancoveringmouthIMMEDIATE EFFECT:  Thumping heart and panicked brain paralysis.  Confusion. Denial.  What?  How?  There was just no freakin’ way I had typed $6,500 without noticing.   It made no sense at all.   Omigawd Omigawd Omigawd!  How do we fix that RIGHT NOW?!    Picture our distress to imagine the customer stomping into our booth any minute – or the next day – angry about the massive overcharge!  Luckily for us, the discovery occurred at lunch hour with a quiet lull in the booth giving us time.

We hastily brought up Square online and scanned for immediate remedies.  Ended up FULLY REFUNDING the purchase, since we could not as rapidly discern how to both correct the overcharge AND instate fee for the proper purchase amount.

fullsizeoutput_2677The culprit ???

SHOCKING DISCOVERY:  in which – no freakin’ way – it happened again!   Yup I swear AND I had a live witness.  There I was day 2 of Black Sheep, describing to a customer my trauma of the previous day while simultaneously ringing up her purchase.                                                            “So observe carefully with me,” I advised, typing in $45.  Swiped her card, handed it back.  Swiveled the phone on tabletop for her signature, and my thumb inadvertently bumped the Square device.  Customer and I WATCHED the number jump from $45 to $4500.  We gawked at the phone screen.  We gawked at each other, as I exclaimed “Holy cow!  THAT’s the explanation?!”   Since we had not finalized the purchase, we cleared and corrected her charge.  But wait:  my customer suggested a repeat TEST.  And sure enough, the act of bumping the Square device (apparently joggling the plug in and momentarily fragmenting the transmission???) resulted in extra zeros.  What were the chances?

CONSEQUENCES:  in which I handle the Square device like a sliver of glass.  Can’t be too careful, ya know?  We had extra devices with us, so I marked the culprit and traded for another – which gave me no trouble – not that I was bashing it around.

AFTERMATH: in which we spend several days fearing this customer might suffer bank overdrafts and we’d be covering those charges.  We found her name: J- – – –  P- – – -y  in the Square records, but no means to contact her.  Is it a relief – or not – that the customer never attempted to contact US?  Obviously our quick action prevented subsequent problems.  Presumably she watches over her banking and expenditures, would have SEEN the shocking overcharge + rapid refund, absent a legitimate fee for our product.  So I admit to disappointment.  I would have groveled our apologies, but also – I should have been fairly paid.

LESSON LEARNED:  Just because you wrote the receipt correctly and typed in the correct $ amount, you are NOT necessarily safe.  Observe your transaction closely start-to-finish to ensure accuracy.  Weird things outside your control can and do happen.  It would also help tremendously to have in our cash box a “Cheat Sheet” of quick Square Up remedies for glitches that may occur.

POSTSCRIPT:  a favorable disclaimer for Square device.  I don’t want to discredit Square service in any way at all, and I still love this product for all the ease of transaction it provides us.  This had to be a weird fluke thing, because we’ve never had a problem in previous years & surely the card swipe plug-in gizmo has been repeatedly bumped over time.  We will continue to use it.  Just veryyyy caaaarefully.

And ya know…. I didn’t want the $6,500 anyhow.

– – – – – – Update:  no repeat problems occurred at the next show (OFFF 2018) – – – – – – – – – –

2 thoughts on “A Scary Vendor Lesson

  1. Thanks for this warning and explanation, written in an engaging way! It’s a shame she didn’t pay for her purchase, although some people are very haphazard about checking their accounts and cards.

    • We’ll keep our eyes open in case opportunity should arise to have a conversation with this customer. It’s not that I feel any hostility, but rather a strong desire to explain the day’s unfortunate event. Hopefully she would be as eager to sort it out agreeably. Then we could both move forward in a happy way, feeling content again. Fingers crossed…
      And I’m glad you enjoyed the presentation.

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