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Author Topic: Single screen - credit card fees
Doug Oldenkamp
Film Handler

Posts: 1
From: Corning, IA USA
Registered: Oct 2014


 - posted 07-10-2018 02:30 PM      Profile for Doug Oldenkamp   Author's Homepage   Email Doug Oldenkamp   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We are a small single screen theater (100 seats). Currently using Vantiv to process credit cards (built into our POS software). When I add in all the "other fees" from Vantiv (statement fee, maint fee, Compliance fee, etc.) our total credit card expense fee is over 6%. Has anyone tried using a standalone Square terminal for credit card processing? They advertise 2.75% total fee. Looking to hear from someone who has experience using Square. Or are there other alternatives to Vantiv out there? Thanks

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Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1958
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 07-10-2018 03:26 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My solution is to not take credit or debit cards at all. Cash only.

No fees, you're not waiting while someone tries four different cards in the machine to find one that isn't declined or so worn out that it will no longer read, and when someone gets change in his hand from his $20 bill he's quite likely to use it to buy popcorn instead of putting it back into his pocket.

Once you've started taking credit cards it would probably be difficult to stop since people would expect it, but since I've never taken cards that isn't an issue.

Perhaps something like "To make our movies as affordable as possible, we can no longer accept credit cards."

I know that some folks on this board will disagree with me and say that some people are more likely to buy stuff with their cards than with cash, but there are still those fees to pay for each transaction and the extra waiting around for transactions to be processed.

"Sorry folks, our machine is down tonight so we can't take your card." That would be fun on a Friday night of a big movie, too.

Here's my card for my ticket in. Here's my card for popcorn and drink. Here's my card for one more drink part way through the show.

Three or four transactions processed for a grand total spend of around $20? I'd rather see a $20 bill come in the door and give back change as needed.

I lose maybe two customers every year who say they're going to get money from the bank machine and then disappear instead. But that's still cheaper than paying another rake-off on my revenue.

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 862
From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010


 - posted 07-10-2018 03:56 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Frank, no ill will, but it's 2018. Cards are significantly faster than cash transactions and I haven't experienced an interruption in years... heck, our system even works when the power is out.

You say you lose a couple customers a year that come in and don't come back, but you have no way of knowing how many just don't bother coming because they know you don't take cards and they don't want to bother going to go get cash before visiting.

I'd say a good 60% of our transactions are cards now. And especially with Moviepass... That's a good chunk of business now too... a few dozen minimum any given day.

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

Posts: 2572
From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 07-10-2018 04:25 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think that not accepting cards as payment option is highly dependent on the local culture and habits. Those are also not set in stone an

For example, I couldn't imagine operating a cinema business in the Netherlands or Belgium and not accepting cards, whereas in Germany it would still pass muster for now.

Personally, I'd prefer to reduce my cash exposure and take a hit on the processing fees. Since more and more banks don't have any actual cash at hand anymore, robbers have started to target other "soft targets" that deal with quite some cash.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12418
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-10-2018 05:20 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Credit card transactions thru RTS take 2, maybe 3 seconds.

Maybe once a weekend do I have to type somebody's number in because the card won't read, but it's maybe one out of a hundred cards. By and large, I would much rather do card transactions than mess with change.

Bank deposits are easier too because there's not as much cash to worry about, and even though we do take checks, since we've started taking cards, even a busy weekend will see maybe one or two checks, if that.

We've never had an outage either, except one time when my whole computer crashed and we couldn't print tickets at all. We had to hand-tabulate everything for the whole weekend, so not being able to take cards was the least of the problems.

quote: Buck Wilson
You say you lose a couple customers a year that come in and don't come back, but you have no way of knowing how many just don't bother coming because they know you don't take cards
That's for sure. A lot of people are "cash poor" and might not come to the movies at all if they have to dig the cash out of their pocket.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7985
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-10-2018 05:51 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Buck Wilson
Cards are significantly faster than cash transactions
There may be cases where this is actually true, but I always dread getting caught behind someone at the grocery store who feels the need to charge his purchase of a dozen eggs. I normally shop at one of the largest stores in the city, and their credit card processing time is significantly longer than it would take to count change.

This is almost as bad as being stuck behind the little old lady who writes a check for a quart of milk....

I have no experience with this on the merchant side, so maybe getting the right credit card machine would solve this.

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Rusty Gordon
Film Handler

Posts: 32
From: Fairview, Tennessee USA
Registered: Feb 2004


 - posted 07-10-2018 06:21 PM      Profile for Rusty Gordon   Author's Homepage   Email Rusty Gordon   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Doug. Rusty from Sensible Cinema Software here. The items you mentioned besides the transaction itself are fixed costs regardless of whether the merchant does $1000 or $1,000,000 per month. Because of low monthly volume these fixed costs make the percentage you pay markedly higher than for a merchant doing say $35-50K per month in card volume. Square may be a solution that brings down that cost because unlike an integrated solution you would not have to pay for a lot of compliance related costs. That said, you'd lose the integration with our POS, the ability to do gift, and the product support and free updates from Sensible Cinema, $349 per year which we currently provide Vantiv merchants at no cost. Sensible Cinema can board most any processor as well, not just Vantiv. The cost varies, but with Vantiv and Heartland we charge no fees. Hope this helps.

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Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1958
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 07-10-2018 06:48 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A theatre with just 100 seats is even smaller than mine (153 seats) -- unless I'm missing something I don't see any reason why he would need any automation at all.

I hand every customer one of those "Admit One" roll tickets when they pay at the door; by tracking the start and end numbers I know how many people came to the show. I just use cash drawers here, no electronic tills, so I have to add stuff in my head when people buy concession items but that's not hard as long as the concession prices are even numbers. (Some people think I'm a mathematical genius because they order a dozen things and then I tell them how much is it immediately. They don't realize that I just keep a running total in my head as I put stuff on the counter for them.)

I know how much money I put into the drawers at the start of the night so at the end of the night I take that amount back out and what's left is the night's take. Subtract the ticket revenue and what's left is the concession revenue.

I made a spreadsheet that calculates all of that and the sales taxes for me so all I have to do is enter the ending ticket numbers and the total take for the night and the rest of the calculation is done for me. The nightly bookkeeping takes me about five minutes to do.

No hardware, software or button pushing required when serving customers.

I suppose the only other factor is that I don't have any employees so I don't have to worry about detecting someone robbing the till.

But it's an easy system and the only cost is the rolls of Admit One tickets.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7985
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-10-2018 07:14 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I did boxoffice reports by hand for the theatre where I worked when I was in college. It never struck me as being difficult or especially time-consuming for a single-screen house, although I suspect that it would get old fast for a multi-screen cinema. They did have a cash register at the concession stand, although I always suspected that it did more harm than good by slowing down the concession line. This was the kind of cash register where one needs to type in the price of each item. They should have had one with buttons for small/medium/large popcorn, small/medium/large candy, etc., which would have reduced the button-pressing to one press per item.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12418
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-10-2018 08:00 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Doug, you don't say whether you use any kind of a POS system but if you don't, then Square would definitely be a good option to try. The nice part is, if you don't like it you can always go back to your previous method.

If you DO use a system, then as Rusty mentioned you would lose your integration, which would definitely slow you down. At my day job our CC machine is separate from our POS machine, and I hate doing card transactions there. At the theater, it's all one system so it's easy and faster than cash.

As for a small screen not really needing all the automation.... it's all in what you get used to, I guess. Everything being quick, fast and neat is the big draw for me, plus I like computery stuff. Also, we do gift cards, which people love... and *I* love the amount of "outstanding" gift card money that's already in the bank.

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6420
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-10-2018 08:20 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Studies have been done which show that people who use cards (either credit or debit) spend, on average, 10 to 20 percent more than people who use cash.

It's a good reason for individuals to pay for more things with cash but it's also a good reason for businesses to encourage customers to use cards.

In other words, when people don't see real money leaving their pockets, they tend to lose track of how much money they are actually spending... to the benefit of businesses that take cards and to the detriment of businesses that don't.

Credit card companies know this and use it to their advantage by encouraging businesses to take cards so that more customers can use them.

In theory, the extra money that businesses make by accepting cards... and, thereby, encouraging customers to spend more is supposed to make up for the fees that credit card companies charge.

Is this all true? I don't know for sure but I think there might be, at least, a grain of truth, there.

I guess the test would be to try to measure whether you make more money when you accept cards versus when you don't and try to see if you make enough extra money to cover the fees.

I suppose you could go through your own sales records to see, on average, how much people spend on cash transactions versus card transactions. Then you could do the math and see if the averages play out.

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Dustin Grush
Film Handler

Posts: 6
From: Johnstown, PA, USA
Registered: Apr 2018


 - posted 07-10-2018 08:45 PM      Profile for Dustin Grush   Email Dustin Grush   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I will agree that cards are almost a must. In our area it seems that most of the "cash only" businesses have gone out, or are going out of business. I'm not saying that was the only reason, it just seems that if a business is unwilling to take cards, they are also unwilling to change in other areas. What worked 10 years ago isn't working anymore.

Our per capitas have increased maybe 15% since taking cards, but what really surprises is the transaction amounts. Pre-card a $30 snack bar bill was a rarity. Now i routinely see $60 and $70 charges, sometimes multiples per night.

I think that if we want to secure the next generation of movie goers, we are going to have to accept their preferred form of payment.

And back to the original post, have you looked into your local bank for processing? Thats where we found the best rate.

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Alexandre Pereira
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 126
From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Jan 2016


 - posted 07-10-2018 09:08 PM      Profile for Alexandre Pereira   Author's Homepage   Email Alexandre Pereira   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I use Square - works great. The percentage is not the issue but rather how much people will spend. Square is fast and efficient and never goes down.
Also use Boxsession as much as possible - sell tickets and concession together. People spend more because they do not have to take out the plastic or the cash twice.
I find that higher concession sales, in my case, always correlate with the increased use of debt or credit cards.

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Bill Brandenstein
Master Film Handler

Posts: 349
From: Santa Clarita, CA
Registered: Jul 2013


 - posted 07-10-2018 11:09 PM      Profile for Bill Brandenstein   Email Bill Brandenstein   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My wife is a key leader in a non-profit organization, a booster club associated with our local high school. They got a Square reader and account for ticket sales and other income. It's served us just about flawlessly. Whether this is a good idea for a medium/small business or not is something I'm not qualified to say, plus there are the concerns voiced by Rusty above. For a small, one-screen theater, it might be the least fuss. Keep in mind we're NOT a business, DON'T have daily (or necessarily even weekly) income, their take is a reasonably modest fee for their services, and it met our need in a non-technical way. I'm told that iPay and Android Pay are also competitive for a small business.

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

Posts: 2572
From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 07-11-2018 01:23 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Frank Cox
But it's an easy system and the only cost is the rolls of Admit One tickets.
You're lucky the "reverse accounting" method works in your case and while it works, why not keep it at it? But you only need to add a little extra level of complexity and stuff is starting to go haywire soon if you keep doing it that way.

Stuff would already become increasingly more difficult if you would start accepting cards for example. I cannot judge about the situation and "progress" on it in rural Canada, but I've seen a massive upsurge of card transactions around the globe. In some countries, cash transaction are down to like just 30% or so of the transactions and stuff is moving forward pretty fast. In those countries you would simply be losing a massive amount of clientele, because they show up at your place with a bunch of plastic or maybe even some mobile apps but no cash.

If you would ever add a second screen to your theater (maybe simply because you're forced to do so, to meet minimum runtime requirements of some studios), your method would probably fail or become a lot more difficult.

The same would happen if you would eventually implement reserved seating or simply on-line ticket sales for a particular show.

But it doesn't stop there. Many theatres have stuff like gift card programs, loyalty programs, the works... You don't do that because you love the accounting overhead that this stuff brings with it, but simply because it actually works to sell more stuff.

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