eBusiness Day winnersPaying online? Cut me a PaybyCheck.com

“There were ten businesses recognized as eBusinesses of the year during the first annual eBusiness Day held in Tacoma. They will each be the focus of a more in-depth article in The Index in the weeks to come. Last week Onfree.com was featured and this week, we look at PaybyCheck.com. Photo: Ken GeorgePaybyCheck.com, a University Place-based business started in 1997 by Ron Ehli, was recognized by business peers for its development and advancement within the Internet industry.Ehli started his fledgling company in his garage three years ago with the idea that people could pay for items they buy online with a check, drawn on a conventional checking account. He wanted to offer an alternative for Internet shoppers who don’t possess credit cards or who aren’t comfortable using one. He also wanted to offer Internet business owners a different, and in some opinions better, way to get their money.PaybyCheck.com now has thousands of Internet merchants using the services, and those merchants’ customers. The company has reliably and securely handled the volume of traffic that today’s Internet commercial sites generate and they provide their service through offices on the top floor of Home Street Bank on Bridgeport Way in University Place.Electronic check processing transactions are settled through the ACH network according to strict regulations under NACHA, the National Association of Clearing House Associations.We don’t argue with merchants or people about which is better, credit card or paying for purchases with a check, Ehli said. People have a preference for both and a need for both. We give them an option, that’s all.Ehli said the newest thing in the Internet industry is that the big players out there have come to realize that they need to offer optional forms of payment to their customers. We needed to educate merchants on why they need to take checks, now they know. A lot of merchants assumed they only needed to take credit cards, but that’s not the way the real world or the Internet works.Eighty percent of the Internet businesses are paid by check, he said, and some businesses want to pay for their purchases with their company check. If you think about it, it’s safer to writer a check on the Net than to hand one to a store clerk, he said. On the Net, no one sees the number. Merchants or clerks don’t see those numbers because they are secured with us. No one sees the information on the Net. I read statistics that in the real world, something like 32 people see and handle the check.Ehli said his company has merchants in every country, and that they process for over 5,500 merchants. He believes that in another two years, checks will be the preferred payment for everything.From a merchant’s point of view, it costs the merchant less to accept a check than a credit card. He said as an example, one of his clients stated that if they can convert even 40 percent of their customers to checks, it would save the company over $20,000 a day in credit card fees.The savings is phenomenal, Ehli said. We have a fixed rate structure for transactions so we charge a flat fee for an item that’s $10 or $10,000.Check fraud is harder to perpetrate than credit card fraud, Ehli claims. People will often order things over the internet with a credit card, receive it and then cancel the payment before the statement comes in, saying they never got the merchandise or sent it back because they did not like it, he said. The credit card company then informs the merchant the sale was voided and he is out of luck because he has no way to contact the customer, Ehli said. With a check, the order is placed, the check is printed immediately and sent out by PaybyCheck.com, then deposited by the merchant two days later. It is much harder to back out of the deal when the check is in the merchant’s hand, he said. Anyone trying to steal banking information from PaybyCheck.com, Ehli said, would have to break into our building and steal the machines and try to decipher encrypted information. That’s not going to happen. Not only that, we go through securities audits just like anyone else would.PaybyCheck.com has 14 employees. Six of them are programmers developing enhancements and future products, the rest are administrative staff and customer support for consumers or merchants who might have questions.The company’s newest products will make it possible for customers to pay their garbage or phone bills simply by responding to an e-mail. They will also be able to buy from any store on the Internet by clicking on a button and entering a password. For organizations, the newest features are RentbyCheck, designed for property managers and landlords, as well as DonatebyCheck for non-profit organizations. We offer special rates for non-profit organizations, he said. A telethon can take checks over the phone and schedule multiple payments or link on-line that way.Being named one of the top eBusinesses of the year, and there are over 300 in Pierce County, was an honor to receive, Ehli said, mainly because we aren’t located in downtown Tacoma. Most people forget who we are because we’re in University Place. We were actually here before Tacoma had the buzz. Ehli said having the award helps buy credibility for his company, which is an issue when you offer what we offer. You are perceived as a banking service and whatever credibility we can get helps. That’s important. He said he’s happy being located in University Place, and doesn’t have plans to move. I’d like to emphasize that University Place is a great place to do business. There are a lot of talented people in the south sound area. My favorite thing is that parking is plentiful and free.For more information about PaybyCheck, contact them at www.paybycheck.com, or by calling 253/565-1277. “