My wife and I own a small deli restaurant in Roy, Utah. Using our meager restaurant income to help afford college tuition, we have been fortunate enough to barely make ends meetthat is, until we were contacted and visited by Rodney Lovato of Merchant Processing Inc. (MPI) in December of 2003.
We were quite content with our merchant processing leasing company (the company we leased our credit card machine from), when we were contacted by Rodney Lovato who told my wife and I that we qualified for wholesale rates since our establishment was processing via merchant services more than $1,500 a month. When we met with him on 12/15/03, Mr. Lovato told us that since MPI was the main processor that other merchant processing companies go through in order to get their rates, they would be able to offer us wholesale rates.
During the course of our meeting, we told him that we had a lease agreement with another company. He told us that that would not be a problem at all, because MPI would buy out our existing lease agreement. We wanted to make sure of this, since getting out of our existing contract would have cost us over $2,000. Thus, we were adamant about making sure that they would handle buying out our existing lease. Mr. Lovato, insisted that MPI did the same for everyone and that it would not be a problem at all. When it came time to sign MPI's contract, we saw that it said nothing of buying out the existing lease, and so we told Mr. Lovato that we would not sign unless this technicality was written into the contract. He wrote it in, but as we would later learn, he wrote it in such a way that its meaning could be manipulated.
When Mr. Lovato left, he told us that he had to take our contract into the home office at 2825 East Cottonwood Parkway Salt Lake City, UT 84121. He promised that within the week he would send back some more paperwork, a copy of our contract, and someone to box up and send off our existing credit card machine. We were left with his business cardand that was the last time we heard from Mr. Lovato.
A week or two after our initial contact with MPI, still waiting, we called MPI headquarters (that was supposedly in Salt Lake), and were told that Rodney was temporarily out but that we could leave a voice mail for him, and he would return our call. After leaving numerous messages, we began to grow worried. In January, we demanded that we speak with an MPI rep. in order to find out why our existing lease had not been bought out, the old machine picked up, nor our contract sent back to us. We were told by an MPI operator that Mr. Lovato no longer worked there, and that if we'd simply send a lease buy-back form from our old company, MPI would make sure that the matter was taken care of and that our old lease would be bought out. We were further promised that they would immediately fax us the copy of our contract. We waitedNOTHING! We kept contacting them, each time being told the same thing.
Meanwhile, I was already over-my-head-busy attending the University of Utah, studying for both the GMAT and LSAT exams, and running our business. My wife and I, stressed to the max, frantically struggled to figure out how to handle the matter. In the meantime, our bank statements continued to show charges from both machinesboth our old machine and MPI's machine. To make matters worse, we were being charged a monthly leasing fee that was higher than what our contract had promised, and larger portions of each transaction were being deducted.
Finally, after countless phone calls, and promises that our old lease was in the process of being bought out, we were told Mike DeGroatwhom we were told was in charge at MPIthat MPI would not, after all, buy out our pre-existing lease (this was 6 months later, mind you). This was strange since we had initially spoken to Mr. DeGroat before who was one of many to tell us to fax a lease buy-back form so that MPI could buy out our old lease.
Furthermore, when we told him that if they did not fulfill their side of the lease, then we would pull out of the agreement, he stated that MPI NEVER planned on buying out our old lease and that since we had signed a four year contract, we were still bound to our lease with them, and that in order to get out of the lease we would have to pay approx. $4,000. I couldn't believe itWE HAD BEEN SWINDLED!!!
After contacting an attorney, we've found out that MPI (together with it's sister company Northern Leasing Systems, Inc.) has had a long history of fraudulent behavior. Another small business owner that had been scammed by MPI contacted the same lawyer that we had, and told him that she had accidentally tapped into MPI's voice mail while calling to complain. She said that she heard a long string of complaints that were identical to what had happened to her and what had happened to us.
We have contacted the Better Business Bureau, but have been informed that they are unable to pursue the matter since the Salt Lake City address is undeliverable. Moreover, during the course of our own investigation, we've come across this website. WHY HADN'T WE FOUND THIS BEFORE! It seems to me that MPI target small businesses and then goes in for the kill. Come to find out, MPI is a national company that has been fraudulently extorting money from small businesses across the country.
Since our last contact with Mr. DeGroat, we have tried and tried to get back in contact with him in order to resolve the matter, but our calls (and our lawyers calls) continually go ignored.
To those reading this, feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or if you have any ideas for ways in which we can stop these guys. They're scum.
Reid & Kirsten