Earlier this week, I joined fellow 7-Eleven franchisees from across Virginia and Maryland to ask our representatives in Congress to support commonsense swipe fee reform once and for all. I was most eager to tell my Congressman how swipe fees hurt my business. In a meeting with a staff member from Congressman Frank Wolf’s office, he indicated the Congressman was still considering the issue and did not have a position on efforts to delay swipe fee reform.
However, that same day, Congressman Wolf signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill to delay swipe fee reform for two years – a measure that would cost small businesses $33 million per day, $1 billion per month, and nearly $14 billion per year. Needless to say, I was deeply disappointed in my Congressman for supporting a bill that will severely handicap my business, just hours after his staff indicated otherwise.
Why would they tell us one thing, then go as far as to co-sponsor a bill saying the exact opposite?
A ‘swipe fee’ is the cost that small businesses must incur each time a customer pays for a product or service with a debit card. These fees have increased more than 500 percent in the last decade, and they have become one of my highest costs of operating my business. If they continue to increase, my store’s survival will certainly be at risk.
Congressman Wolf’s deceptive move leads me to one of two conclusions: he either ‘forgot’ that he said he would not take a position, or he is pandering to the big banks and credit card companies who are desperately urging members of Congress to delay reform to preserve their already deep pockets. I’ll go with the latter.
Members of the Senate acknowledged the flaws in the swipe fee market last year and with a bipartisan vote, passed Senator Durbin’s amendment 64-33. When this amendment was passed into law, small business owners across the nation rejoiced – finally, our voices were heard and we’d be able to get a fair chance to compete with the Big Banks. Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and small businesses across America would be able to create jobs, contribute to their local economies and offer better prices for their customers. Unfortunately, the big banks and credit card companies had different agendas, and they have used their deep pockets to derail reform on Capitol Hill.
I took day off of work to travel to his office in Washington, D.C., and ask Congressman Wolf to support small business and protect swipe fee reform. Between 2009 and 2010, 7-Eleven franchisees, employees, and customers submitted over 1.6 million petitions nationally, and conducted dozens of meetings with members of Congress and staff, urging members to support and pass commonsense swipe fee reform. In Congressman Wolf’s district alone, 79 stores collected and sent 19,454 petitions directly to Congressman Wolf’s office.
I’m not the executive of a big bank, and I’m not asking for a multi-million dollar pay check. All I’m asking for is for a fair chance. I thought that my representative would at least listen to what I had to say, rather than tell me one thing and do another the very next day. I believe that appropriate term is “deceptive.” Yet, it appears that Congressman is pandering to the big banks, rather than standing behind small businesses that were promised commonsense swipe fee reform when it was signed into last year.
For small business owners this fight is too important to give up. Swipe fee reform is critical for our survival, and we will not let down. Small business owners have fought for this issue for years, and we certainly aren’t going to let down now – even if our own Congressman won’t listen.
– Kashif Ghanzifar, 7-11 Franchisee, Manassas, VA