Saturday, April 18, 2020
Issue # 25.5 "25 Years: The Payments" [ 1-Entries | 2-Teams | 3-Confs | 4-Charities ]
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SAFER-AT-HOME W/FACE COVERING, CA (smt)- With unemployment claims at record levels due to the effects of COVID-19, ten dollars is something to save now rather than spend on a really, cool betting pool. While $10 in 1995 is now worth almost $17 ($16.97) in today's dollars, our entry fee has never gone up. Or think of it this way, the entry fee back in 1995 would be less than $6 ($5.90) today. So you are getting more bang for you buck with each passing year. What has been going up is the number of entries, and thus, the challenge of collecting all that money. I the beginning there was just cash which would be handed to Andy F or David F and we had just 12 people to worry about in '95. But with 111 people like last year? How do we do that? So here is another 25 Year retrospective, this time on the various HWCI NCAA payments.
Unlike a lot of other paid tournament pools out there, there is no administrative fee, free entry by the admins, or kickbacks taken by David or I, despite the vast number of hours working on the pool (and David funding to run the server our pool is run on). 100% of each entry fee (including ours) goes into prizes. Always has, always will. Like I said in the previous issue, any tips or "extra" people try to sneak in as "thanks", I put right into the First Four for Charity donation.
So if there are 100 entries, then there will be $1,000 doled out. Now, every year, there are always stragglers and regulars that pay late or sometimes miss (when I get too lazy to remind again), but I always cover so there will be $1,000 to give out regardless if I've collected it all by the end of the tournament. Most of these are my dear longtime friends who I think I'll see soon to collect but family and work get in the way. A lot have given up and gone the online payment or check way but there are a few I'll have to remind at the next BBQ.
New people always must pay by the end of the Thursday because I hate taking entries out after we've started. We've had to remove 30 since we moved online in '99 but 19 of those were in '03 when we just got a bunch of dummy new entries or those who didn't realize it wasn't free (found us through web search, OfficePool64, SportSPL, or SportCo). It was an odd year. Since '12, we only had one year where we had to remove entries and that in '18 when we removed 4 (2 new people who didn't pay and 2 regulars who had missed out on paying for 2 straight years). So we do a pretty good job vetting the new folks and thankfully, it's the new folks that tend to pay immediately!
After cash, there were checks. And money orders. Then in '00, I started accepting PayPal. Good 'ol PayPal. Made paying the entry fee so much easier than collecting cash or checks. So I set up a personal PayPal account and there were no fees since personal accounts couldn't accept credit card payments. I set up a business account so I could accept PayPal payments ($10.61 credit/debit). Then in '10 I noticed my personal account wasn't getting the full $10 into the account. PayPal had changed the rules so personal accounts can now accept credit cards and thus there would be a fee (which the receiver, me, would have to pay) regardless if it was a business or personal account. And they were sneaky because when you looked at your transactions, it showed $10 but it wasn't until you selected a detailed view that it showed $10 received, $0.59 fee, and $9.41 net. It wasn't until I transitioned to a bank verified account, that people can then pay without a fee... but only if they were using their bank account or credit balance to pay. Most use credit/debit card option and thus, the fee. This is a problem because in '19 I had 119 of 162 entries (73.5%) paid by PayPal, which would mean I'd be short $70.21! My strong desire was to make the pot easy to understand so 162 -> $1620, not $1549.79!
I believe this fee has stayed constant all these years -- 30 cents plus 2.9%, which on $10 would be 0.30+0.29=0.59, or I'd get just $9.41. Except the person would actually have to pay $10.61 (0.30 + 2.9%(10.61) = 0.61) to make what I actually get an even $10 (10.61 - 0.61). And thankfully, nearly everyone does this when they use the credit card option or forget to choose "personal or gift option", since PayPal considers the default payment a business transaction and thus the fee even if you paid by bank account. More and more are getting wiser and choosing personal option so that they only have to pay $10 per entry instead of $10.61.
There have been other payment options that have come and gone such as Discover Money Messenger (dead Oct '13) and Chase QuickPay (dead as mobile app as of Feb 25, not to be confused with new QuickPay with Zelle) which we accepted. We got more traction with Google Wallet (merged with Android Pay to become Google Pay) and last year with Venmo (6 payments). Since Venmo and Chase are usually tied to a bank account in order to set up (you can sign up for PayPal without a bank account), it is easier to pay via bank account (even debit is free). Google Pay can be a credit card (fee) but has more free options (debit, bank, credits).
Things can change rapidly but for '21, will probably only tout PayPal, Google Pay, and Venmo, dropping Chase QuickPay. Of course, Venmo is owned by PayPal. No Bitcoin, which the entry fee would just be 0.0014 Bitcoin ($10). No Apple Pay, though it is possible since I have an iPad (good 'ol 128GB Air 2 from Oct '15 still going strong) but Apple is too proprietary (no Android app or web) and difficult to deal with. And they bought Dark Sky.
Today, after you submit your bracket the confirmation page has the $10.61 PayPal button so you can pay immediately, which helps me keep track of payments. Again, the savvy ones will then open up a new PayPal window to pay via personal reason so if it's more than a few hours, sometimes it is hard to track, especially if that person is paying through a company account or a friend's/spouse's account that doesn't match his or her name. Most will leave a note of their nickname which helps. I tend to already know which people will pay by check and will note that so that a few days later, I'll go the P.O. Box and pick them up. But last year we tied the lowest paid entries by check (12) since I semi-started to keep track of it in '04 (12 (14.1%) in '06) and by far the lowest percentage (7.4%).
About '10, all monies started coming to me (except for '13 when my wife Linh collected some monies from her co-workers). We had David F collecting money from some friends as well as Fernando B in our early years. But with online payments now in vogue, those friends started to pay me directly. It did make it easier to see who has paid or not but with entries growing over 100 every year, it was more complicated tracking everyone but I think I got a systematic way of doing it now as shown on the left. Online payments (134) now make up 82.7% of all payments and instant transfers make it easier to tag people have paid and there is less of me emailing reminders to people. Last year was a great year collecting with just one (of 162) I haven't collected yet (my good friend Brian S - one day, one BBQ we'll meet, after all this shelter-in-place craziness).
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Tids & Bits - ...the years referenced refer to the NCAA tournament year (e.g., 1995-96 season is '96)... we've removed 30 entries we thought were valid at the time: 19 in '03, 4 in '18, 2 in '02 & '04, and one each in '10, '11, and '12... our last Money Order payment was in '07 by Paul T (also in '06, thankfully he's stopped doing that going back to checks) - I didn't even know how to cash it until I asked my wife... we got 3 Discover MM payments in '12... we got 3 Chase payments in '12 and two in '13... we've gotten at least 5 Google payments since '14... PayPal actually flagged our site after '12's pool (also freezing my account so I couldn't withdraw) citing PayPal can't be used for "gambling" sites so we have to take the PayPal button down (this was off-pool season) so now we take it down after the pool and put it back up before the pool and haven't had an issue since... the notice also stated there was a complaint about adding the fees is a no-no but hasn't been a problem since (otherwise, I'd have to state the official entry fee is $10.61, not $10)... but now I withdraw the money often during the Sunday-Thursday window just in case... PayPal was used to pay for at least 97 entries the past 5 years... we had a high of 130 PayPal entry payments in '17 (of 178) (73.0%)... in '10, I asked 17 people (21 entries) who had already paid if they could pay the 59 cent fee (optional) and most did!... another year ('12) David had accidentally put the wrong PayPal link and for about a day, I was getting just $9.41 per entry (about 10) on my personal account and had to do the tough thing and email my peeps if they could kindly (optional, their entry would still count if they didn't do this) do a personal option to pay the extra 59 cents and just about everyone did, so I am so grateful to have such good people in our pool... I still get PayPal eChecks once in a while (last year with Neil O) which takes 3-4 days to clear... in '95 we called it the "First HWCI Official (Illegal) Betting Pool" and today, it's still technically that (fails: online, interstate; passes: no admin fee, <$2500, game of chance)... with more tests available (3.57 million tested), USA is up to 735,086 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 38,910 deaths as governors plan to slowly and safely re-open... Stay safe!
I don't remember when I stopped paying the UCLA folks (and became the collector), probably around '99...