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Why don’t you accept PayPal or Credit Card?

Ok, this used to be a common question, but is less common now as people are more used to doing bank transfers/deposits online. I even used to cop abusive emails from people saying how antiquated our payment methods were!

There’s a pretty long winded answer to this. But it comes down to the fact that we have been blocked from using both PayPal and credit card facilities by a number of Australian banks, simply for the products we sell, even though all are legal to grow and possess in Australia. They are happy to have our bank accounts and accept our business, but won’t provide us with credit card facilities. Much in the same way that fringe (but legal) businesses such as Marijuana dispensaries in the USA are blocked from the same, or even having bank accounts, or how legal brothels/adult stores are treated in Australia. In 2018, this article described exactly that, how major Australian Banks were discriminating against small businesses they viewed as a credit risk.

Our PayPal account was first blocked in about 2012, which I disputed and wasted many hours trying to have reinstated. There is a process and team in all of these financial institutions called Risk Management. The job of that team is to look at businesses and work out whether they are at risk of getting ‘chargebacks’, which is a term used to describe when a customers applies to the financial institution for their money back, claiming for fraud etc. What is the cost/benefit of this particular business. Chargebacks occur in ‘card not present’ circumstances, so online retail. The card owner can dispute they made the order, which is generally true ie. stolen card details, but other ‘friendly chargebacks’ can occur by customers trying to get the products and then their money back. Chargebacks can be common depending on the industry, its probably higher in the food or beverage industry than online nurseries. The final point made by PayPal Australia in 2014 to us was the following:

“Our records show that you were receiving payment for Tabernanthe iboga products that can present a risk for consumer safety”

Now Tabernanthe iboga is legal to grow in Australia, and iboga herbal products are classified as S4 (needing a prescription). We were only selling plants and seeds for propagation purposes, not dried herbal products. So our PayPal block was not about the Australian legality of Tabernanthe iboga and I suspect it may have had more to do with the legal status in the USA, where PayPal is based.

Other facilities I have used, from 1 day to 6 months, included Commonwealth Bank, Eway and NAB, before I gave up. They were happy to hold my bank account but not to process credit cards for the same business they held accounts for. Under NAB I was hit with a $1k chargeback from a stolen credit card, which I lost both the money and the products. After this they decided to review and then cancel my CC facilities on the day I was reopening after my winter break, costing me greatly, to which I took them to the financial ombudsman and won a payout from them, which covered some costs, plus I bought a rotary hoe, which changed my gardening and made things easier 🙂

Commonwealth Bank granted us a credit card facility, we set up the accounts, and wasted lots of time on it. Then they undertook risk management and decided to withdraw the facility. When I pressed for further information, I was finally given an answer verbally that my site mentioned ‘Salvia divinorum‘ on one of the product pages. To which I answered, it was mentioned on the Salvia splendens product page, a legal Salvia sold in Bunnings, I do not sell S. divinorum. So even just the mention of a scheduled plant was enough for Commbank to deny us business. I then tried to close my account and they told me I couldn’t do it over the phone I had to come into a branch to close it. Needless to say I was irate 🙂 but told them to shove it and close it, which they did. Commbank in the below article stated; “We actively consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of our clients’ activities, and we only lend to businesses and projects where we understand and believe those risks are well mitigated.”

So that’s great isn’t it, they can ruin or hobble a small business they don’t agree with, by blocking financial access to modern payment methods.

So now we are seeing a resurgence in the research and value of these ‘legal to grow’ plants and also ‘illegal’ plants, the psychedelics. Let us hope that the ridiculous denial of financial instruments to run a legal modern business are finally lifted and that the government regulates the financial industry to a greater degree. How else can our society progress and become more fair and equitable. Just know that by supporting my business you are helping a small business owner to do what he loves doing and who is not a corporate puppet or some blow-in looking to cash in, now that things are getting popular. I’ve been here for the long haul and have always believed in the power of these plant medicines to be included as valuable tools in our modern pharmacopoeia. I’m sorry the payment methods are ‘antiquated’, but I’m sure you can understand why now.

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