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Free rewards are not free

Free rewards are not free

Hello friends,

Business groups across the country are stepping up the fight over credit card swipe fees with another attempt to convince Congress to reform the system.

Proposed legislation would require banks with more than $100 billion in assets that issue credit cards to allow their cards to be processed on at least two unaffiliated networks — Visa or Mastercard plus at least one competitor, writes Andy Medici for the BBJ

“While this legislation would benefit all merchants, it is small retailers who are calling for swipe fee reform more than any segment of our industry,” a coalition of business groups wrote in a letter.

Credit and debit card fees have more than doubled in the last decade, costing merchants upwards of 3.5% for each transaction.

In other words, free rewards are not free.

And while businesses often have no choice but to accept credit cards, they are unable to negotiate which platforms they use to process those payments.

It’s even worse in Massachusetts 
We're one of two states that doesn't allow a business to add a convenience fee to consumer purchases to cover the cost of credit or debit card payment processing

Instead, our businesses absorb the fees not just on the products they sell but -- particularly unfairly -- on the sales and meals taxes they collect and then turn over to the state.

About 80% of the more than $1 billion in meals taxes collected annually is paid with a credit card. That equates to hundreds of millions of dollars that the state's restaurants pay to collect meals taxes without compensation.

“The same state that does not give the option to pass on credit card fees does, in fact, add on a 2.35% fee to make payments to the state,” restaurateur Doug Bacon and Stephen Clark of the of the Mass Restaurant Association write in a BBJ oped

“And while many states have vendor tax credits for businesses collecting money, Massachusetts does not. Every time a credit card is swiped, the processor charges a fee,” they add.

What Lt. Gov. Driscoll told us about credit card fees 
The issue of restaurants being forced to absorb credit card fees on meal taxes came up in discussion with Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll at our Spring Business Breakfast earlier this month.

Here’s the video segment where Kay Masterson, proprietor of Johnny’s and Cabots, asked Driscoll about that and other small business concerns.

And one final credit card related item….

Do you get annoyed every time a point-of-sale technology prompts you to tip even for the simplest purchase?

Turns out the folks behind the counter have some surprising thoughts about that too.

Oh, this too...

This isn't related to credit card fees but the Globe's Aaron Pressman has an interesting story today on a new hidden fee when ordering meals via Toast.

Tuesday's grab bag

  • It's official: Massachusetts’ annual sales tax holiday is set for Aug. 12-13.

  • Pizza Roma on Waverley Ave in Watertown is reportedly under new owners while CT Pizzeria is now open on Pleasant Street, taking over the former Pleasant Pizza & Subs space.

  • Needham's Climate Action Plan Committee is looking for community input on Climate Action PlanThe survey is open through June 30.
  • Newton and Watertown voters will both elect new city councils, school committee and other contests Nov. 7. The deadline for candidates to submit nomination papers in Newton is July 25. (Fig City News has an update of current Newton candidates.) Nomination papers in Watertown are available through July 31.

  • Watertown Farmers’ Market continues tomorrow and each Wednesday through Oct. 25, from 2:30 –6:30 p.m. in Saltonstall Park, next to City Hall. The market features a variety of local farm, specialty food, artisan/craft vendors, community organizations, area businesses and live music.

What a bunch of turkeys. But how many? 

MassWildlife officials want your help counting wild turkeys.

But first you need to be able to distinguish between toms and hens. Male turkeys tend to be bigger, have a dark brown body, and a red, blue or white head.

Females are a lighter or rust brown color, and have a blue-grey head, according to WBUR.

Report sightings online through August.

Shop local advocate Lauren Berman is at it again 
Lauren Berman’s marketing firm ALL Over Newton is launching a new pop up outdoor lunch time series on Thursdays this summer at the historic The Allen Center in West Newton.

The revolving menu includes lobster rolls, made-to-order pizzas, charcuterie boards, conchas, horchatas, and more from Newton’s eclectic restaurants. Local shops, artisans, and kid’s craft activities will rotate too.

The June 22 event will feature the menu from Bettina's Bakery in Newton Upper Falls. Little Luke’s will offer lobster rolls on July 6 with Judith’s Kitchen - full menu – (July 13) and SuperDough Pizza (July 20) to follow.

Patch has more.

Determining the future success of Newton's villages

The Newton City Council will hold a pivotal public hearing next Monday (June 26) at 7 p.m. to solicit input on a proposed zoning changes to the city’s village centers and how it intersects with the MBTA Communities Act. The hearing will be held at City Hall and virtually.

This is your opportunity to speak directly to your elected officials and share your opinions on the village center proposal.

  • This Globe article focuses on one part of the proposed rezoning that would allow for taller buildings in village centers and commercial areas.

  • And you can watch the Zoning & Planning Committee discuss the proposal in advance of next week's hearing tonight (June 20) at 6 p.m.

Potential future housing site in Wellesley withdrawn 

Finally this morning, it looks like a proposal that one day might have provided up to 340 units of multi family housing on 14 ares in Wellesley is off the table -- even before a vote.

After considerable neighborhood pushback, the Sisters of Charity are withdrawing a proposed overlay district that would have allowed them to sell to a future owner to build multifamily housing or mixed-use development at 125 Oakland Street, according to the Jennifer Bonniwell at the Swellesley Report.

Neighbors worried version 1.0 would, you guessed it, alter the character, density, and traffic patterns, even though it likely would have been decades before a single home was built because the agreement would have kept the senior care retirement facilities operating through the Sisters’ (average age 85) lifetime.

Yes, decades before anything changed. Oh and even then the developer would have needed a special permit.

A new proposal would allow a third party to buy and continue operating their existing elderly living home and skilled nursing facility, while also limiting future development to only those uses, according to Bonniwell.

The Sisters plan to present version 2.0 to the Wellesley Planning Board tonight (June 20) at 6:30 p.m.

That’s what you need to know for today – World Refugee Day -- unless you need to know what the $%&# is a ‘grawlix’? 

Summer arrives tomorrow. Be back Friday. 

Greg Reibman (he, him)

P.S. In case you missed it, check out last week's webinar from presenters Susanne Salerno & Sarah Ginand for insights about growing your business. 
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