“We don’t take credit cards, sir.”

What? Get with the 21st century, my friend! Yesterday I was talking on the phone with a professional services company we use occasionally at BZ Media (which publishes SD Times and News on Monday). We worked out the requirements for a straightforward project that would cost a few hundred dollars. However, for this type of project, it’s usual and customary to pay in advance. Thus, I was prepared with my American Express card.

Alas, this company doesn’t take credit cards. They must mail me an invoice. I’ll have to approve and code that invoice, and give it to our accounting department. Accounting will process it, and cut payment during a weekly check run. After that, it goes out in the mail. Depending on when I receive the invoice, it may be a week or two (or three?) before the vendor will be paid, and presumably will begin the work I’ve requested.

Ten years ago, this would have been normal. Standard operating procedure. Today, no way. I was peeved, and let my sales rep know it. He replied, “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘I only work here,’ but yes, point taken,” and promised to pass the message to his boss.

In this particular instance, the vendor’s insistence on Neolithic payment processing is not a dealbreaker, but it’s totally a pain in the butt. I don’t want to code invoices or process checks at my business. I don’t want to write checks for personal expenses either, by the way.

What’s the message for you, dear readers? Whether your organization delivers software or consulting or training, or even if you’re not in the IT business, this is a new decade and a new world. Many of your customers prefer credit cards; they wish to be agile and efficient, whether it’s an order being place over the Internet, over the phone or during a face-to-face visit.

Of course, some customers will insist on paying with checks, and certainly those customers must be accommodated. Not being able to invoice or handle checks is just as bad as not being able to take a credit card.

Yes, it costs money to accept credit cards. Suck it up. Budget those fees as a modern cost of doing business. If you are a small organization, you don’t need to have a merchant account or an expensive bank arrangement. Look at online credit-card processing systems like PayPal or Google Checkout—or even the Square. I’ve got one of these for personal use, and it’s great.

Next time a customer says, “I’ve got my MasterCard ready,” the correct answer is “Number, please” or “Swipe here”—not, “Sorry, we don’t take credit cards.”

Alan Zeichick is editorial director of SD Times. Read his blog at ztrek.blogspot.com.