UPDATE: Requiring Minimum Credit Card Purchases is a Violation

A day without ice cream is like a day without sunshine.

Likewise, a day without an email from Steve of Amy’s Ice Cream is like a day without getting hit in the head with a brick. At least, that’s the twist this Rocky Road may turn if his latest missives and our retorts are any indication.

All the gore you crave, after the jump…


After we posted Steve’s email addres, as he said that he invited anyone with feedback to email him, Amy’s Ice Cream received several supportive letters from readers of The Consumerist. Steve forwarded these emails to us.

We replied, “See, not all our readers have horns.”

He then sent an email,

“Just a few of the emails I have received since you put my email address up. I am still waiting to pass judgement on your BLOG, all that BS about; “brine” and “made from left-over toffee ice cream”. I really think you should wait to pass judgement on people and their businesses until after you have visited them and seen them for yourself. 95% of the emails we receive are from customers that have had a wonderful experience. We are a good company that cares about our customers and our employees. Even “Mike” who sent in the original sign and all, I think has been recovered.
Anyway, just a few thoughts…
Come see us anytime,
Amy and Steve

We replied, “Not all jokes are as sweet as a scoop of vanilla.”

He shot back:

Jokes and personal attacks are two different things. I am happy I chose the high road on this one…

We retorted:

    “We never passed judgment on Amy’s Ice Cream, nor are we responsible for the actions of our readers.

    Mike’s letter and original complaint provided a window onto a bigger issue, that consumers don’t like minimum credit card charges and isn’t it odd that these charges are explicitly prohibited in every single credit card’s merchant agreement?

    The brine you mention, we were referring to the mean letter sent to you, the letter was briney, not your ice cream.

    The left-over toffee, that’s the award we’re talking about. Again, not your ice cream. Look at the picture, you have to admit that hunk looks odd.

    We never personally attacked you or Amy.

    If you consider it a “high road” to describe our blog as “bullshit,” raise your sights.”

Both the brine and toffee were mentioned in this post.

Steve riposted:

That’s not true Ben, you made all sorts of judgements through, “jokes” “attached file Steve sent” etc…. Just curious, how many hits you get a month? Don’t get mad Ben, can’t we all just get along?

Amy and Steve

We suppose that might count as a sort of elliptical judgement. Last month we got 330,000 hits.

Sure we can get along.

We’d be happy to swing by the ice cream parlor some day. Before we do, however, you may want to clear up some of your health code violations.

After all, how sanitary can the conditions be if the owners constantly have their foot in their mouth?

Previously: Amy’s Ice Cream thread


Edit Your Comment

  1. thesilentnight says:

    “After all, how sanitary can the conditions be if the owners constantly have their foot in their mouth?”

    HAHAHA. Well said. Also Steve, how about accepting some responsibilty for your actions and the conduct of your business? Will this never end I wonder …

  2. I think this whole thing has gotten blown way out of proportion. While I think posting a minimum credit card limit is annoying, I hardly think Amy’s ice cream parlor is the only retailer doing it, and I hardly think anyone needs to drop the hammer on them for making a policy that is pretty common throughout food sellers. I think they made a common mistake and corrected it. They may have grown slightly larger than a “mom and pop” store but c’mon here people: they’re no Wal-mart. We need to keep our eyes on the prize here.

    If Amy and Steve are guilty of anything, it’s caring about what is being said about thier business and feeling the need to defend it. They are just worried about what a big internet backlash could mean for business, and rightly so. But I really think it would be a big mistake to continually bad-mouth them over something as trivial as a minimum credit card purchase.

    In New York you can end up in a $30/plate restaurant that doesn’t take credit (Peter Luger’s comes to mind). Maybe 1/5 of bodegas take them. For God’s sake just keep a $20 bill on you. Do you use a credit card when you stop in to buy a candy bar, or a bottle of water, or whatever?

  3. LTS! says:

    Aren’t his 15 minutes up? I need to get a new watch.

  4. Ben says:

    Did you ever take a business class where you had some kind of project where you pretend to open a business and then give a report at the end, only to have one guy not do the work but try and hang on for the grade so your final report is just a lot of people sniping at each other?

    This subject is getting to be like that. Maybe it’s time to just let it go. There are other fish to fry…

  5. CorporationsAreAwesome says:

    How do you get a big Internet backlash?

    Seems like one excellent method would be to write several e-mails trying to defend yourself but don’t spend too much time thinking them through so as to cause the most confusion possible.

    Originally, who is really going to stop going to their favourite ice cream shop because they didn’t allow some other guy to use his credit card? And at least you have now heard of Amy’s.

    But if you come across as angry and ignorant in a bunch of e-mails, you may actually start to concern some potential customers.

    I am sure Amy’s ice cream is a delightful taste adventure, they really should ship some to Ben so that he can do a taste test. Then he can let us know if people should drop everything and get out to Amy’s to give their life some meaning and hope. Cause someone has to.

  6. Paul D says:

    On a brief trip to my local independent music retailer yesterday, I noticed they have a “$5 minimum for credit card purchases” sign next to the register.

    I almost said something…

  7. Am I the only one more interested in the picture than Amy’s Ice Cream on this one? Amy’s was wrong, and they were made an example of…but shouldn’t they go in peace now that they have remedied the situation?

  8. Jay Levitt says:

    I gotta go with Steve on this one. The original CSR’s letter left a bad taste in my mouth, and the first Amy response wasn’t the greatest either, but Consumerist has been posting nothing but uninformed vitriol and hackish snark on this and other matters, and in general seems to be getting more and more screechy in the past month. What started as a great platform to share consumer dissatisfaction and give us a voice has turned into a tabloid-style shriekfest on the order of alt.aol.sucks circa 1995. Anymore, I can’t even begin to consider thinking about forming a potential opinion until I’ve not only clicked the follow-through links but Googled elsewhere for the real story. The credibility’s not there.

    C’mon, Gawker. Don’t be squawkers. We need a NY Times for consumers, not a National Enquirer.

  9. Kluv says:

    Sorry, Ben, I gotta agree with Steve. I love the site, and what it has the power to do — but I don’t understand these repeated snark attacks on a business that, when it comes down to it, is trying to do right by their customers.

  10. e says:

    Yes, can we get over Amy’s now? I like this site a lot, but Amy’s is one of my favorite things about Austin – crazy credit-card rules or no. Let’s get back to txt msg spam! Or something else. Puhleeze.

  11. Danilo says:

    Kluv says: “I don’t understand these repeated snark attacks…”

    You do understand this is a Gawker blog, right? Snark is their entire business model. (God bless them.)

    As to Steve and Amy, they’ve both come across as total jackasses in their exchanges with Consumerist and I’m not shedding even the smallest tear for them. Maybe they’re nice folks, in fact I’m sure there is a good chance they are, but I just can’t bring myself to offer even the slightest amount of respect for how they’ve conducted themselves and represented their business.

    Again, you want to see how a real business deals with its customers? Check out John Pepper. That’s professionalism. That’s what small business owners should be attempting to emulate.


  12. Jay Levitt says:

    Kluv: I know you weren’t addressing me, but there’s snark, and then there’s snark. There’s intelligent, hypocrisy-shredding, truth-to-power-speaking wittiness, and then there’s “so’s your mom” obnoxious UNIX-sysadmin reflexive-contrarian ranting. It’s Dennis Miller and Jon Stewart vs. Morton Downey Jr.

    The former takes the talent and skill to use language as a finely honed sword. The latter takes nothing but a bad attitude and a big rock.

    I’d been hoping Consumerist was gonna show some talent.

  13. thesilentnight says:

    “a business that, when it comes down to it, is trying to do right by their customers.”

    Was that before or after they breached their agreement, tried to get customers to pay their costs of business, and then refused to accept responsibility?

    I agree that this topic is as much a dead horse as is trying to persuade everyone there’s something wrong with this model of business practices (excluding the fact we all have biases here). Forget the fact you love the ice cream or that you love small business or that you hate credit card companies. Take one last objective look, read all the facts about what happened, what responses were generated from the parties and what rules apply, and then just say goodbye. End of story.

  14. ValkRaider says:

    “Do you use a credit card when you stop in to buy a candy bar, or a bottle of water, or whatever?”

    Yes. It’s 2006 you know…

  15. AcidReign says:

    …..I’d go pay cash at Amy’s, IF they have good ice cream. My local Ben and Jerry’s serves stuff that tastes like the old “Ice Milk” my mother used to buy to save money…

  16. Roadgeek says:

    Some valid points have been made on both sides of the debate. Perhaps it is indeed time to let this rest for the time being. Amy and Steve have an excellent product; but so do others shops in Austin. They have amply demonstrated through their business practices and the responses given to complaints by customers that while they may have excellent taste in ice cream they also have a fuzzy grasp of contract law and business ethics. Business must be good.

  17. Ben Popken says:

    Katie writes:

    “I live in Austin and don’t go to Amy’s Ice Cream for other reasons, and I’m a little late coming into this story, but I think the logic behind their requiring a minimum credit card purchase is off. If they are charged a percentage of the total, it’s going to cost them the same percent of their gross whether I spend $1 or $100. If they were being charged a dollar for each transaction, I could understand — it would mean they’d lose 25% off of a $4 ice cream but only 10% off a $10 purchase. But that’s not what is happening.”

  18. infinitysnake says:

    Not aqll cards prohibit a minumum,,Amex, for example, discourages it but does not forbid it.

    Also, not every merchant pays percentage, some have minum transaction fees- 5 or ten cents, etc.- not that it’s an excuse, mind you, but minumums, imo, are not nearly as sneaky as the ‘cash discount’ and other ways they work in those surcharges.

  19. armyturtle says:

    Steve, I like how you think 95% of the happy emails/compliments that you are getting is all there is to the matter of feedback. What you don’t realize is that statistically somewhere around 90% or higher of customers with a bad experience never report it and just never come back. Why wouldn’t they report it?? Perhaps they have better things to do with their time than stop and make a formal complaint EVERY TIME they encounter some shitty service somewhere.

    If you had truly bad customer service experience somewhere, what would make you think they’d [the company] actually try to actively implement a remedy if the experience was bad in the first place? In most instances you wouldn’t waste more of your time – after all it’s not your company and you aren’t going to personally benefit from some crappy business actually improving a bit.