Lost In Transmission

Michael Torrance

Hello? Hello?Over the years I’ve seen many things in the payment processing industry that can cause a merchant heartache and headaches, but of all these none is more troublesome than the phone line. Many times I have received a call from a merchant that their credit card machine keeps trying to authorize their customer’s credit card and failing to do so for seemingly no reason at all. After some trial and error, we get the machine running smoothly, the customer finishes their purchase and business goes back to normal. Yet, the question still remains as to why this happened.

Just recently, I had a merchant call me with just this issue. They are a locally owned restaurant and their credit card machine started giving them a dreaded “CE- Transaction Failed” error message and to make matters worse, this happened during their lunchtime rush. They quickly called me and told me what was going on and we went through some trouble shooting steps to get things going but to no avail. The credit card machine would not reach an outside line to process. Shane, the merchant, asked me this: “I can still make and get phone calls, why won’t the credit card machine work?” The answer to that is simply this- a phone call, either in or out, does not require a very strong signal and equipment like credit card machines and fax machines that send data need a strong signal. The average analog phone line has four wires to pass a signal through, a phone call only requires two to work perfectly and can work with just one. Equipment that pass data, like credit card machines, need all four to be working for the best results. The Phone Company’s only concern is phone calls not data transmissions, so if you can call someone to them your lines are working.

So how can we fix this? First thing to understand is that when a wire goes down in a phone line it doesn’t mean the wire is broken (though that can sometimes be the case and simply replacing the phone cord will fix everything), it usually means that the wire connection is clogged or blocked. This happens a lot with phone lines that pass a lot of data or are old. The first thing to do in trouble shooting an error like this is to check if the credit card machine is plugged directly into the wall jack or is it going to a splitter. If it is going to a splitter, unplug it from that and plug it directly into the wall and try your transaction. If it still does not go through try unplugging the credit card machine from the power, then unplug the phone line from both the wall and the credit card machine. Then comes the hard part, because you have customers waiting, you have to wait at least 30 seconds. One- Mississippi, Two- Mississippi… Thirty- Mississippi. Now start by plugging the phone line into the credit card machine, then plug the phone line into the wall jack directly and then give the credit card machine power. Let it reboot and try your transaction again.

What if it still does not work? Check with your Phone Company to see if you have been moved to a digital phone line service, if so you may need to add a DSL/Digital Feed filter to the phone going into the wall jack. Their could be an issue with the credit card machine’s internal modem, to check that you would need to call your Technical Support group and go through some signal strength tests. Ask your Rep. if your credit card machine has the ability to process via IP, this option can help increase your processing speed and security level but does require that the credit card machine be re-downloaded. Is the phone service in your area just plain bad? Here in Savannah, the phone lines in Downtown are not great, so many merchants look to a wireless option or mobile plan for their processing needs. Again, just ask your Rep. about these options, they will be glad to talked to you about your options.

Posted in Communication, Credit Card Terminal, Customer Service, Technical Support | Leave a comment