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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Silent Auction Pro.

Questions:

Answers: Why would I subscribe or rent web-based silent auction software like yours versus buying a software program for a one time fee that we could use for the next several years?

  1. Software programs that have the same or similar capability as Silent Auction Pro can cost a few thousand dollars. That's money you have to pay up-front. With Silent Auction Pro you don't pay until after your event when you have money and you pay significantly less on a per-event basis.
  2. Silent Auction Pro is by design a distributed / multi-user solution. With many standalone systems, you install it on a single computer and may or may not be able to allow multiple users to access that system. One or two years down the road you will probably have to move the software and all the data from one computer to another which is typically not a trivial task. Hopefully that computer hasn't crashed, been stolen, lost, or went belly-up for some other reason. With Silent Auction Pro the system and your data is hosted on a secure server, backed up daily and constantly kept up-to-date. The data is accessible from any computer connected to the Internet.
  3. With Silent Auction Pro, because it is an Internet-based application, we can (and do) constantly improve the system by adding new features or implementing bug fixes. This is much more difficult to do with a standalone system so you are less likely to get updates.
  4. Purchasing a system effectively locks in to that solution for several years. With Silent Auction Pro if you don't like it, your initial outlay is minimal and you can move on. If you are interested in a multi-year contract in which you pay up-front for the system, please feel free to contact our sales department.

How much does it cost to set up a credit card merchant account with Silent Auction Pro?

Silent Auction Pro integrates directly to Vantiv Integrated Payments and PayPal for credit card processing. In general there are no set-up fees for establishing a merchant account with our partners. Other fees depend on who you choose. Please see our help page on credit card processing fees for more information on the different options.

What are the credit card processing fees through Silent Auction Pro?

Credit card processing fees depend on whether you choose PayPal or Vantiv. Please see our help page on credit card processing fees for more information on the different options.

Can I use my own credit card processing company?

While you can use a credit card payment processor other than PayPal or Vantiv, you will lose many important features that come with the integrated solution:

  1. Accept Ticket Sales and Donations Online: Using the integrated credit card processing you automatically have a website via Silent Auction Pro through which you can sell tickets online and accept online cash donations. If you have your own website you can provide a simple link to your Silent Auction Pro page for accepting tickets and cash donations. Obviously you can do this with external merchant accounts and other ticketing systems but you do not get items 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 below.
  2. Automatically Add Attendees via Online Ticket Purchases: When selling tickets online through Silent Auction Pro, attendee information is automatically entered into your Contacts database through a simple reconciliation process. This eliminates duplicate data entry required when selling tickets online using an external process.
  3. Support for Silent Auction Pro Online Bidding: Using the integrated credit card processing is a requirement to use Silent Auction Pro's Online Bidding component. This protects you by ensuring you get paid for items that are won online.
  4. Ability to Pre-Authorize Attendee Credit Cards and offer Express Check-Out: This is a win-win for both you and your attendees. By pre-authorizing attendee credit cards you can quickly and efficiently process payments at the end of your event and have paid invoice receipts waiting for your Express Check-Out attendees. This way they don't have to wait in the check-out line. The advantage for your organization is if people leave the event without paying for the items on which they bid and won, you can choose to bill their credit card and let them know you have their items ready for them to pick up. This can significantly simplify the after auction workload. You will not have this using an external account.
  5. Simple - One Step Check-Out: The integrated credit card processing in Silent Auction Pro offers you a simple one step check-out process where you can accept the credit card payment via the computer and immediately print out the attendee's paid invoice. Accepting credit cards outside of Silent Auction Pro requires multiple steps: Printing the attendee's invoice, Running the Credit Card, then Processing the Payment in Silent Auction Pro to mark the invoices as paid.
  6. Swipe Credit Card Information Quickly and Securely via your Computers: Using the optional USB Credit Card Readers you can quickly and securely swipe credit card information directly into the computer for payment processing. This speeds up the check-out process and eliminates the risk of exposing your attendee credit card information by using a manual paper process. All card information is encrypted and sent via a secure connection.

If you are interested in using the features described above, the first step is to establish a Merchant Account with PayPal or Vantiv Integrated Payments.

How do we receive funds from credit card process and how quickly? How are processing fees paid?

Monies charged on credit cards are posted to Vantiv's website immediately and then batched over to your bank account within 2 business days of the transaction. Note that charges posted the same day will be aggregated together and sent to your bank account as a single batch transaction. If for instance you received three payments on the same day, one $15, one $35 and one $50, your bank would see a $100 deposit. To reconcile that $100 deposit into the three individual transactions you can use Vantiv's Core Management System that shows each batch amount with a link to drill down into the individual transactions.

The processing fees are automatically withdrawn from your account at the beginning of the month following the transaction.

How do we pay Silent Auction Pro? Is the payment automatically deducted from our account?

Silent Auction Pro will invoice you for your event typically on the Thursday following your event date. The payment is due immediately and late 30 days after the invoice date. If you do not pay within the 30 days we will automatically charge the credit card you have on file.

Can I use any USB card swiper or do I have to rent them from Silent Auction Pro?

If you are using the integrated credit card processing through Silent Auction Pro and Vantiv and you want to use a USB card reader, then you MUST use one supplied either by Vantiv or by Silent Auction Pro. These card readers are encrypted with an Vantiv key to provide extra protection when scanning and sending card data through the Internet. Other card readers will not work.

Do your credit card readers read the embedded chip cards?

As of October 2015 the credit card industry will begin providing incentives to merchants to use credit card readers that employ embedded microchip verification by assuming the liability for charges processed using the new EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) technology. Today - if you as a merchant accept a card counterfeit card or a card that was stolen, you are responsible for those charges. After October if you accept a card that was stolen you are still responsible - unless it was a counterfeit card with an EMV (chip embedded) and the transaction was run using an EMV reader. There is no mandate that all transactions be done using EMV and likely never will be as this would prevent billions of dollars of transactions that happen online today.

Until this becomes a mandated solution, we don't anticipate providing EMV based readers. Here's why:

  1. Silent Auction Pro's customer base is almost 100% charitable organizations running fundraisers. The people who attend these type of events are generally community minded people, church members, school parents, etc. - not they type of people who are out trying to buy things on a stolen or counterfeited credit card.
  2. We have never heard of charge backs happening to our customers - which really just reinforces the first point.
  3. 80% or more of charges run through Silent Auction Pro are done using cards that have been entered by the customer themselves during an online purchase of tickets or perhaps signing up for online bidding. There is no EMV solution in this case because it's done by the customer through keying in their information through the website.
  4. EMV based readers are almost 3 times as expensive as the non-EMV readers. This would increase the rental cost of the readers from $30 per reader to $90 per reader - an increase we think would not be well received by our customers - especially given that we believe the EMV solution is not necessary for the type of attendees to a typical charitable fundraiser.
Can I export data from Silent Auction Pro into a spreadsheet or other system?

Yes, unlike other systems we don't try to hold your data hostage. You can export almost anything from Silent Auction Pro to a CSV (Comma Separated Values) format that can be used to import into other systems. Any table you see in Silent Auction Pro may be easily copied and pasted into Excel or other spreadsheet systems by simply copying and pasting the data.

Should I combine spouses in one contact record when entering contacts?

You can combine spouses / partners in one contact record but it is better to enter them separately as this improves your overall ability to communicate with your contacts. Most people have separate email addresses and phone numbers. By entering the spouses separately you can capture both persons data and use this when sending emails or perhaps calling them for any reason. While entering people separately in this way will assign separate bidder numbers, they are welcome to use either of their bidder numbers at your event

Why does Silent Auction Pro assign bidder numbers to donors?

Every contact in Silent Auction Pro is assigned a unique number. A contact may be a donor, attendee, both or neither depending on the event. If that contact attends your event, then that number is used as their bidder number. This unique ID never changes for a contact so that would be their bidder number for any event you hold.

How long is my data hosted with Silent Auction Pro?

With your paid event, your data is automatically hosted on the Silent Auction Pro's server for one year from the date of that event. This means that all your contacts / donors / attendees information as well as all the donation data is in the system and ready to use for subsequent events. Additional hosting may be purchased at a nominal fee if your next event is more than a year away or if you are skipping a year and want to keep your data in the system.

What happens if we lose the Internet connection or your server crashes? Is the data backed up?

With respect to the integrity of our servers, we have two servers and databases running in a master/slave configuration running on separate networks. Every transaction in the master is immediately replicated on the slave. We have automated systems in place - both internal and external - that constantly monitor the server and database health, and that will take corrective action if an issue is found. Obviously our technical support staff is also notified should this occur. If one server or database fails the system is designed to notify us and automatically fail-over to the back-up server / database.

We also do two daily back-ups of the entire database that are stored in a completely separate server / repository.

The other side of this is the Internet connection at your end. For obvious reasons we recommend that you verify the connection before hand and ideally have a systems / IT person on call in case you have a problem. We also recommend you have a back-up Internet connection option. This is very easy to do using a MiFi network running through a personal cell phone. Silent Auction Pro uses very little bandwidth and an entire event could easily be run through a MiFi cellular connection.

It is worth pointing out that if you have your data on a standalone machine, that machine could crash and you could lose all the data at any time. It also could get stolen, dropped, a glass of wine spilled on the keyboard, etc. The fact that Silent Auction Pro is running through the Internet and that you can access your data from any machine connected to the Internet and that it is backed up daily and also replicated on a separate server in our opinion makes it a much safer solution not to mention more flexible and convenient.

What are the hours of your technical support? Do you have night of event technical support?

The support desk is available from 8am to 9pm Pacific - 7 days a week and is free to customers who have purchased the Bidsheet Plus™ or higher level packages. If you have issues the night of your event you are welcome to call. For non-critical support questions we ask that you refer first to the online help and/or training videos as those will answer 99% of the questions we typically receive. The toll free number for technical support is 888-691-5993 x2.

You may also email questions to technical support at support@silentauctionpro.com. Emails are checked frequently throughout the day and typical response times are within an hour.

Why is there a Max Bid when creating Auction Items?

Silent Auction Pro creates a specific number of bidding spots on your bid sheets and pre-prints the actual bid amounts on these spaces. While you may turn off the pre-printed bid amounts, we don't recommend that you do so, as this prevents bidders from breaking your minimum bid or bid increments. The "Max Bid" is used in conjunction with the Min Bid and Bid Increment to calculate the number of bidding spots. For those who like math, the formula for the number of spaces is: ((Max Bid - Min Bid)/Bid Increment) - Bid Increment, with the last bidding spot being the Buy It Now price if you are using Buy It Now. If you have an item that you want a higher maximumm bid, you may set this when creating the auction item. If you want an unlimited Max Bid then you should probably use the "Silent Auction - Priceless" and turn off the "Print Bid Amounts" option on the bid sheet, or create your own Auction Type. You will still need to enter a "Max Bid" in this case to allow the system to calculate an appropriate bidding increment.

Silent Auction Pro attempts to round the bid values to "nice" increments of $1, $5, $10, etc., depending on the value of the item, so the calculation of bid spots may be slightly off due to rounding.