This past Saturday, Western Wake Farmer’s Market started participating in the 21st Century Farmer’s Market program, and now accepts EBT, credit and debit at the market. We applaud this decision by the market management. Basically, the way it works is, you use your card to buy $5 tokens from the market, then use the tokens at vendors like cash.
We are not participating. You cannot use the tokens you buy at the market to buy things from us.
We thought we should tell you why. It is not because we don’t think the program is a good idea; for many vendors, and many customers, it is. But for us, it isn’t. Here’s why:
1. First and foremost, we already have our own merchant account, and accept your credit cards. So from a customer convenience perspective, we are already providing the convenience you want (and we have been since market inception). Using our own merchant account provides us some important benefits:
- It helps us with our accounting, as the transactions are searchable and otherwise classified to provide important informatics
- It helps us with timely reporting and remittance of NC sales tax
- It is a good source of obtaining customer email addresses. When customers use their card, we ask for an email address so they can get an email receipt, so we can contact them in case of problem, and so they can be entered onto our mailing list. Building our mailing list is one of the most importnant ways we build our business.
- We get paid in two days. When you use your card with us, the money from your transaction is automatically deposited in our bank account two business days later. The farmer’s market program takes much longer for us to get our cash, and involves paper checks, which necessitate a trip to the bank and another delay to clear (and always the possibility that they will not clear). We do a significant card transaction volume every Saturday and do not like a one week or more cash gap.
2. I become your bank. Most of our transactions result in $1 or $3 change generated. This is an artifact of the pricing of our products – cups are $2, pounds are $12. Most transactions have customers paying us in increments of $5 (as would be the case with the tokens). So a cup sale only results in $3 change. A bean sale results in $3 change. A cup and a bean sale results in $1 change. Let’s just call the average $2 change. When you use your tokens, I need to provide change in cash. We do approximately 300 transactions on a Saturday morning. Each one of those transactions require change. So in addition to waiting on the money I am owed for your actual transaction, I also forked out $600 in cash to make change (aka interest-free loans), which I am now waiting to get back. If the reimbursement spans more than a week (likely) my cash gap is measured, literally, in multiple thousands of dollars.
3. It’s just One More Thing. Running a small business is hard. On so many levels. There is much to do, and much to keep track of. Candidly, we just don’t need one more thing for us to monitor. Taking these tokens creates an obligation for us to track and follow up to be sure we’re getting paid. And for us, there’s just no need for it. We already take (and welcome) your credit cards. We think that’s enough.
We hope you understand our decision not to participate in the Western Wake program.