Via the St. Louis Globe:
Several owners of small businesses say they were duped by a salesman who promised to save them money on credit card processing fees, but instead tricked them out of hundreds of dollars and locked them into long-term lease agreements they did not want.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests caution when dealing with Eric W. Sutton, who has operated under the name Providence Place Development. The firm has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
The owner of a sports card and collectibles shop in St. Peters, Mo., said Sutton reneged on promises to return a $350 deposit, pay off a $100 early cancellation penalty with the owner’s old credit card processing company, and pay him up to $400 for the shop’s old credit card terminal and check machine, which Sutton took from the store. The owner said Sutton also tricked him into signing a four-year, $117-a-month equipment rental agreement.
“He had me hooked like a big old bass,” the store owner said
Several other business owners recounted similar experiences with Sutton.
The owner of a West St. Louis County sunglasses business said Sutton promised him a flat $50 a month credit processing fee, with no percentage fees on his credit card sales. Instead, he said, he found himself locked into a four-year, $59-a-month contract with percentage fees. He said he has been paying on the credit card processing machine for nine months, even though it sits unused in a closet at his home. “He told me, ‘I will take care of everything.’ He did take care of everything; he took care of everything for himself.”
Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the BBB, said area business owners should be constantly on guard against salespeople who “promise huge discounts. While most salespeople are honest, business operators should get everything in writing and be sure they completely understand any agreement before signing it.”
The BBB offers the following tips for businesses dealing with outside salespeople:
• Do not meet with a salesperson during busy working hours. It’s too easy to become distracted. It’s important to listen closely to all terms of an agreement and read all documents carefully before signing anything.
• Do not sign a blank agreement or agreements that appear to be incomplete. Also, do not accept a salesperson’s word that you can ignore certain terms in a printed agreement.
• Never give a deposit to a salesperson unless you know how it will be used. If a salesperson promises your deposit will be refunded, make sure you get the promise in writing.