Sunday, April 03, 2011

Fishing License Fees Explained

Retail can be fun and it can be...well...not so fun. The best part of the gig is talking with folks that come in the shop...I mean it's usually pretty simple stuff...just talk fishing. The goal has always been to try to make it low pressure and comfortable while not coming across like we know everything. However, folks come in because the are usually looking for help, be it with new gear, hot flies, advice on where to go, or they need a license.

Being able to sell licenses is not as easy as one would think. When we first opened our shop in fact, FWP wouldn't allow us to sell licenses. No shit here! We had people come in the first year that just got pissed off at us for not having licenses...a few of them irate. We had tried everything and finally ended up handing it over to an attorney in town. So, Rick and I, the attorney and one of his assistant headed to Helena for a sit down with the department head and a lawyer with FWP. Long story short...several thousands dollars later we were able to sell licenses. FWP had their reasons so they weren't totally off base, but they also had several options that allowed them to open more license agents in Bozeman which we all agreed upon and everything was fine in the end. This was back in the day of paper licensing too.

Soon thereafter, the state switched to online licensing and now license agents were to use computers to sell licensing. In theory and reality, it is much easier and allows for better tracking, issuing, budgeting, etc. It;'s a good thing.

As our license year runs through the end of Feb, this is the time of year when everyone is stopping in buying licenses. We get something like $.5 for every license we sell, it might only be $.25, but that's part of the deal and it's not something that license agents anywhere expect to make money off of - it is simply a service that we all provide. In order to provide that service, we have to have a high speed Internet connection, personnel, lease equipment (computer, monitor, printer) but these costs are pretty minimal in the grand scope of things and the per license fee typically covers those costs in a year.

The rub is with credit cards. Now that very few folks have cash with them...everyone wants to use a credit or debit card. So, most places that sell licenses tack on a "convenience fee" of a few bucks for cc transactions for licenses. This pisses some people off, but most are ok with it...its a choice that the consumer has. CC processing companies charge merchants a percentage depending on the card and there is generally not a "flat rate" of say 2%. The rate varies depending in the type of card so a Visa card with reward features is different than a Visa with a "cashback" feature. The list is staggering and the rates can vary by over 1-2%. That rate, along with transaction fees, statement fees, and equipment fees all costs money and we were in the place of losing money on licenses several years ago so we ended up deciding to charge a convenience fee as well. At first it was $2 but this didn't cover the cc fee on our end for transactions once you get over $70 or so. So, we've been at $3 the last few years and that allows us to pretty much break even on the whole license thing.

But this just really makes some people really mad as hell! Our response is usually something like...just pay cash! The last thing I want is to piss people off over there have been times when I've toyed with the idea of saying cash only on licenses...but that just pisses off the majority of people that understand the real world and don't mind paying extra when they choose to do so. So, I think I'm going to put some bigger signs up in the shop that encourage people to pay cash for licenses. It's just one of those frustrating things that we really have very little control over and it's impossible to make everyone happy.

One interesting thing to me is that we only accept cash for YNP licenses and it's never a big deal!

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