KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Sarah Best is a small business owner in West Michigan. Recently, service from her credit card processor was denied based on the company’s belief she practices voodoo.
“I provide spiritual supplies for African Diaspora religions,” she said.
For the past six years Best has owned and operated the website Conjured Cardea, marketed as a full service hoodoo, voodoo, witchcraft and pagan store, “any religions that would have come here during the slave trades,” she explains. “Any of those traditions or beliefs.”
Her online credit card transactions abruptly came to end when First Data, a credit card processing business, cancelled their business relationship, and Best says she is still unsure what she did wrong.
It started with a phone call that came just months after signing a contract with the company.
“He said, ‘This is First Data, and we are terminating your account because we do not provide service to sites affiliated with voodoo,'” Best said of the phone call.
“I was appalled and upset,” she said. “I felt terrible. I felt discriminated against.”
After getting that phone call, Best called the company to figure out what went wrong. She was told that the move was made by a rogue employee acting on personal beliefs, “all of them assuring me that they do not make phone calls like that,” she said. “That it must have been a scam or a prank phone call.”
But weeks later, her business hit a snag. Customers called informing her that credit card purchases were not going through.
“It’s like the credit cards are being processed, but they are not going into my account,” said Best. “(First Data is) still taking my money for these sales.”
It amounts to $600 in limbo. The day after those customer calls, she said, a letter came from First Data informing her the partnership was terminated due to a contract violation.
The letter never specified what violation had occurred, although Best said she had a hunch. “I would hate for someone to be denied service because of their cultural traditions or beliefs,” she said.
So again, Best said, she reached out to the company and was told by a manager that they will look into the situation. Sstill never got an answer specifying any contract violation.
“I definitely want the money that they are withholding, and after that I want nothing to do with the business whatsoever,” she said.
FOX 17 contacted First Data and provided them with the Best’s merchant ID as requested, and we are still awaiting their response.
Best said that she has moved on. She signed a new deal with a different credit card processing company and explained to the new company what she sells, hoping to avoid a similar problem in the future.