When we set out to make a more secure and robust payment system we embarked on what is known as Reference Transactions (see prior blog for full details).  This system is the most secure and safest data storing system you can have for Credit Card data.  In order to get the full advantage we needed to make sure that all the current Credit Card numbers we had matched to the correct accounts and to have the most recent transaction saved.

Along with our processor we came up with a great migration method, we decided that we would run a $0.01 authorization (not a charge) and immediate void against all Credit Cards stored in customer’s accounts.  If the card is valid we will get back a confirmation, if it is invalid, well, we can just delete it from their account.

Unfortunately this ‘brilliant’  idea created quite a bit of excitement.  Now, this isn’t the excited state we wanted our customer’s in.  Early in the morning on Tuesday our phones lit up, emails started to flood us.  It seems that way more people than we ever thought check their accounts daily or have alerts set up.  Really it was an issue with Debit card holders who’s checking accounts were immediately impacted by the authorization.  While it is not a charge it does show up as “pending” until the void is processed by the bank.  Ironically, authorizations occur immediately, voids, not so much.

Realizing we made a giant mistake in not sending out notification prior and alerting customers we crafted an email explaining the situation.  As if first angering customer’s that we validated their accounts, accounts they specifically saved on our site, we then got a flood of emails in regards to our explanation email.

It seems that 80% of the customers were appreciative of our system enhancement and let us know in kind gentle manner that they were thrilled.  Then there is the 20%, these customers through out words like “phishing”, “scam”, “fraud”.  They called for my job, wanted accountability to the person that devised the “marketing scam”, the guy that “tapped their accounts”.  Personally it was a tough pill to swallow, after all, I made the ‘brilliant‘ decision in the first place and now they hated me.

I will admit now, the whole “penny for your thought” is alive and well, I am sorry we had to find out this way and we definitely will approach a conversion of this nature much differently in the future.  Interestingly this issue has caused our processor to take a step back and evaluate how they handle the situation we encountered.