F*cking Chargebacks

So this blows....you got a chargeback. You've finished your event and now your client is not happy for one reason or another. Fear not, this is how you handle a chargeback. 

Credit card chargebacks happen when a customer, for any number of reasons (ranging from fraudulent use of a card to dissatisfaction with the good or service received), disputes a credit card transaction through her issuing bank.

Depending on the credit card brand, customers have 120 days from the sale or when they discovered a problem with the product to dispute a charge.  Whenever a chargeback is initiated, you'll receive a code from the issuing bank that gives a reason for the dispute.

It's important here that once you are up and running accepting credit cards that you take the necessary precautions in case something should go wrong. 

Whenever a chargeback happens 9 times out of 10 you will have the money taken out of your account while the transaction in question is investigated. Square has a new feature where they now offer chargeback protection where a certain amount or less (depending on your history) won't be taken out of your account while the transaction is pending. 


PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, Square, Authorize.net, all have ways of processing and managing chargebacks but all of them generally go in this manner. You'll receive an email with all the information on the transaction. The email looks something like this: 

The burden of proof now falls on the merchant to provide documentation that the charge is indeed legitimate. At this point if you are agreeing to accept liability for this charge and you believe the client is right, you can accept the chargeback, the client is returned their money, and nothing further is required on your part. Alternatively, once you get this lovely letter and you believe you are in the right, you can lock and load and write a killer persuasive essay. This is your opportunity to gather all of the documentation to respond to this chargeback. 


  • Signed Rental Agreement 
  • Signed Credit Card Authorization
  • Signed Credit Card Receipt
  • Email correspondence with client 
  • Any Client Approvals on design or artwork
  • Event Report of Attendant showing a completed event
  • Photos of the event showing the booth (if the customer's complaint was they didn't receive a product)
  • GPS coordinates of Attendant at their event

It's just like my mother said, you cannot have enough friends, money, or documentation. The more the merrier.

There is any other form of inquiry called a "Retrieval." This is where the issuing bank contacts your bank and asks for information regarding the transaction. This is just like saying, "Oh hey, we have a customer doesn't really know what this charge is, can you show us some stuff that you have that shows this transaction is legit?" I wouldn't worry about these too much, but I absolutely would include all of the information I just described. 


  • Respond Quickly
    Respond to retrieval requests and chargebacks promptly. Banks will simply process a chargeback if you don't respond to the dispute in the allotted time and there is no way to dispute it once they've made their decision 
  • Deliver Great Customer Service & Ensure Transparency
    Make sure that your client is happy and knows exactly what they are getting. The last thing you want is confusion with your customer thinking they are going to receive one product and you deliver another. 
  • Swipe Cards When Possible
    Swipe cards to prevent fraud, this is very simple. If you take credit cards online, make sure they are done securely. If you take a credit card by phone, make sure you have a signed authorization. 
  • Communicate
    Communicate with customers and make sure they understand what they are getting. 
  • Abide by Card Association Regulations
    Follow the terms of service set by the card brands. Any compliance violation can cause a merchant to lose its chargeback rights.
  • Make sure your name is clear on the credit cards statement. "ABC PHOTOBOOTHS" is easier to identify than "ABC HOLDINGS GROUP, LLC." Almost all credit card processors require a phone number to be listed on the transaction, make sure that number is current and up to date. 

After you've sent your documentation you sit and wait. Now is a great opportunity to re-evaluate your business and see what things could be better and to really learn from this experience (because it will happen again).

If you had a customer that was pissed off because they didn't get the booth they thought they ordered, make sure that your contract and website state exactly what they are getting and what is included in their package. 

If you have a customer that had an issue with cancellation or rescheduling, and there's a gap in your contract, now is the time to visit your attorney and fill in that gap. 

If you screwed up at your event, and you were taken to the cleaners by your client, now is a great time to updated your processes to make sure that doesn't happen again. 

If the credit card company decides in your customers favor you will get an email saying what happens next, if they were holding the money, thats now gone. If they weren't holding the money they will tell you the date at which the money will be removed from your account. 

If you won the dispute, congratulations! This is not an easy task! There are times where no news is good news and once you submit your information, you'll never hear from them again. Other times you will receive a confirmation email that you did in fact win, and if money was removed from your account, they will state the date to which it will be returned. 


Ryan Salinas is an Adele Lover, Entrepreneur, and Photographer...in that order. He has been in the events industry for over 14 years. If you have any questions about the article you just read, send him an email or visit his website!

Ryan Salinas