David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 23 - 24
June 12, 2005 to June 25, 2005 

  Tuesday June 14, 2005

I have had a real trying experience with American Express. I am a merchant and they have disputed some of my charges to my customers credit cards. It's not what you think.

About one month ago I decided to start using American Express for our customers. Pat was against it since we had so much trouble with them before. Now again we have had different problems. We used American Express for 4 years, but we had to drop out 2 years ago. It was an accounting reason. American Express deducts their fee immediately from a transaction. You may think that seems right, but both Master Card and Visa charge the fee at the end of the month in one lump total. We love both Visa and Master card. It is much easier to reconcile our bank account when we do not have to deduct a fee for every transaction. 

We have had  customers ask us to reinstate our account with American Express. We have been reluctant because of our past experiences. Some of you may not know:

American Express gives you the customer a rebate of one percent, but they charge us one percent more to process the transaction. Master card and Visa charge about 2% while American Express changes us about 3%. So if we sell a wine for $20, after the visa fee we collect $19.60 and American Express sends us $19.40. That may seem small, but in a year when we do about $250,000 in business with American Express, that would amount to $2500 less to us. BUT I feel my customers are worth it and I want you to use what ever credit card you want.

Recently we had at least two customer cancel BIG orders because we were not accepting American Express. I decided to call American Express and find out what their policy was concerning the fee. I was told they could deduct their 3% fee at the end of the month in one lump amount. SO we signed up again. Since we had dropped out for almost two years they said we had to be given a new account number. That evidently made us a new customer. 

Two weeks ago one of our customers purchased over $2000 of 2004 and 2005 Futures with his American Express card. Since we were a NEW customer that charge was flagged. A few days after the transaction, a representative of American Express called us and said they were reversing the $2000 charge. We were told since we had not delivered the product within 7 days we were not complying with their rules. I told the representative that the product was not complete yet and would be shipped at a later date. I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told I would receive a call back. This is a long story. I will shorten it by saying I had not received a call back from a supervisor for two weeks after repeated calls to representatives. 

Then last Friday 4 charges were reversed without a call. After spending many hours on the phone and talking to many supervisors (non of them the right supervisor who still has not called me back) I convinced American Express that I was selling an option OR gift certificate or what ever and this was done by by others in the wine business. What finally swayed them was that I was a previous customer even though I had a new account number and I had been in good standing for 4 years. I had to phone the 4 customers and explain that we would be re-billing their credit card. I am back on with American Express!! 

Wednesday June 15, 2005

We are still scheduled to open at Plaza Farms in Healdsburg on Friday June 17th. As I have said before, our prices will go up, but not if you are in the  Vintage Circle. Here is a link to the rules. If you are interested in purchasing bottled wine, today and tomorrow will still be the best prices. By Friday morning there will be a new form up which hopefully will explain more.

` Dave 

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