How to Solve a Problem like PayPal
This morning I woke up to the news that Open Source Scotland 2012 has been cancelled. I hadn’t actually bought a ticket, yet, but from what I have read it looks like the organisers have run into problems with PayPal retaining the ticket revenue. This is not the first time this has happened and it’s certainly not unique to conference organisers. Colly and Aral suffered the same fate last year with New Adventures and Update and I know of one or two other projects that have been affected too.
What’s the Problem?
I am writing this from memory but I believe the issue PayPal has is that they immediately think the worst when a large amount of money lands into your account. You would think a simple email exchange pointing them to your web site which shows details of your event and the booking form would be enough to resolve the issue, sadly this doesn’t appear to be the case. It also appears that there is never a rush to deposit the money in your account, even after acknowledging the fact that you are running a conference.
Conferences and Cash Flow
Having worked in a conference organising company I know all too well that events rely on cash flow. You have to pay numerous deposits well in advance of the day and this is usually done with the initial burst of ticket revenue. This might not be an issue for big companies but for smaller more grassroots affairs it’s vital to have access to your revenue, without it your hands are very much tied. I therefore totally understand when organisers have had to pull the plug despite having strong ticket sales.
What’s the Answer?
Contrary to the mildly misleading post title there is a way to still offer PayPal as a payment option but not run into these problems. Whilst working at Carsonified I spent a week researching the numerous third party ticketing options available for event organisers. After weighing up the various systems I recommended the company switched to Amiando.
There were many reasons for this, not least their willingness to get on the phone and help us get the most from the system. However the massive selling point was the fact that whilst they offered the option of PayPal for payment it was their account, not yours, that receives the money. At no point do you enter your own PayPal details. Any issues with retention are resolved by Amiando. As well as PayPal they also offer the option of paying with credit and debit cards as well as American Express.
Your relationship as an organiser is with Amiando. You only ever pay their fees when you sell a ticket and it’s pretty competitive, currently £ 0.79 per attendee + 5.9% of the attendance fee. If you compare this to PayPal which is 3.9% + £0.20 GBP then you are looking at around 2% difference. If you factor that in as the rental fee for your ticketing system it’s not too bad at all.
Eventbrite has a similar model but it is my understanding you use your own PayPal account for payments. They charge a fee for themselves and then factor in the PayPal charges to give you a total cost of around 5.5% plus around 80p per transaction.
Getting your Cash
Amiando issue payouts directly into your bank account at regular intervals (usually monthly but you can ask to change the frequency) and will send an invoice showing you their fees and your revenue. This has the added bonus of reconciling your accounts much easier. They do retain some of your revenue until the event has taken place to cover potential chargebacks but this is normally deposited with in 7-10 working days after the event.
It’s for this reason that we chose to use Amiando for “Insites: The Tour” last year and will continue to use them for our future events. Just to put your mind at rest I am not affiliated with Amiando in any way and do not receive any discounts for using their system.
I hope this helps future event organisers and if you have any questions please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
Thanks to Seb and a couple of comments on Twitter it has been pointed out that EventBrite does indeed offer payment processing. However should you wish to use PayPal I believe those funds do end up in your account and could still be frozen. Viewed purely on this point I still recommend Amiando over other solutions.