Small Businesses and Credit Card Minimums

I enjoy picking up tips from riders as they head East. Going with a recommendation I got from Peter, a guy riding solo from Oakland to Yorktown, I ventured to Cooky's Cafe in Golden City, MO. Arriving just past midday, I caught the tail end of the lunchtime rush. They're known for their pies so I grabbed a slice of Lemon Meringue on top of my double cheeseburger and fries. The meal was good, the pie was good; it really hit the spot. Even though everything tasted alright, I left the restaurant with a bad taste in my mouth.

If you've been around me long enough you may have heard me rant about credit card minimums and small businesses being more unaccommodating than some Americans let on. Cooky's was a mix of both.

Fortunately for the waitress, I had two dollar bills left for the tip. Other than that, my bank account barely had enough to cover an ATM fee. The bill was $12.05 and to my surprise they didn't take credit card. At first glance most people may think, "Hey, shame on you!". I beg to differ.

Noting the EST 1942 on the wall, I ventured a hypothesis that "Cooky" is probably gone, and that the place is now run by some extension of his/her (?) family. The Mac laptop with an excel spreadsheet pulled up supported my educated guess. That meant this isn't some innocent elderly lady who is just too old to get current with the times. This is some guy/woman (?) trying to duck the 3% credit card transaction fee.

This is my problem with the whole situation. As with anything in life, it's not what you do, it's how you do it. I hold this to be a universal truth for the human race, that proves to be timeless.

The "little guys", the "mom and pops" I've come across are all over the map. Just like the big guys too, don't get heated. I'll give you an example. From Kentucky to Missouri, I've eaten Hunts Brother's Pizza, which is sold by the "hunk" or pie in gas stations and country stores, almost a dozen times. On most occasions they've cooked up a pizza to sell me two "hunks" (two big slices) for $4.99. This is the standard price and even has a little corporate sign with that number I've seen in each location. On one occasion the country store made me purchase an entire large pizza, refusing to cook a pizza just to divide it into slices. Just yesterday the country store (in Everton, MO) didn't have any slices ready so they gave me 2 that were left-overs for free. She even heated it up for me in the microwave.

So now that I've established the variety that exists within an identical service, let's get back to Cooky's. A credit card machine is an integral part of business in the modern era. Imagine if a gas station in the 1950s only accepted gold and silver ("Oh sorry sir, you'll have to go home and give me your St. James necklace to pay for that tank of gas."). It's just flat out unaccommodating to not have one. The day the customer doesn't come first is the day the owner has lost the spirit of owning a business. That goes for all businesses regardless of what extents they make or do not make profits.

The quick rebuttal to my grief is, "They don't make enough money, the credit card companies are robbing them." Thats why some charge random minimums of 4,5,6, and 8 dollars, or don't accept credit at all (a minimum is illegal by the way, a breach of their contract with VISA and MasterCard which clearly states no mininum is to be required for use. Not enough people care, but you don't have to give in). My answer is that you will never get an exact dollar amount that will make someone happy that is complaining that they don't make "enough". If their business does not truly fit the needs of the customer (fully!) or the business cannot sustain itself, it's time to pack up shop; it doesn't belong.

So the Cooky's guy gave me an address to mail the money (that may seem like a nice gesture, but it's actually a heck of a lot easier than calling the police 4 times a week, they're right off US 160, they get traffic). I will be sending the full amount to that address, twelve-hundred unrolled pennies and one nickel. Anyone can be unaccommodating, the world's just a better place when we chose not to be.


I made it about 70 miles today, cruising into another city park before dusk. This time I'm creepin' in a pavilion in Girard, Kansas. They actually let me take a shower at the pool which was great. Girard is the end to this map, 1/3 of the way there!

I've heard the horror stories about the wind in Kansas. If the wind is at my back tomorrow you better believe I'm gonna let it roll. If it's in my face, who knows, maybe I'll still get 80 or 90?

It's flat and getting flatter. I can't believe I'm out here in Kansas, that I'm really living life day by day. I've been to college, I know what it's like to not live in the real world. This is so much better than that.

I'd like to leave off with a quote from the new map, from the first TransAm tour in 1976. "I learned more about this country in 90 days than most people learn in a lifetime". For me, it's been 26 and I already feel that way. God Bless America.