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QuickPay's QuickFix: PayPal

As many of you know, QuickPay is no longer offered by The Harbus. With the Club Fair this week, implementing an alternative is a top priority for student organizations. Also, there is a lot of confusion about why the service was taken offline in the first place and why there is not another solution in place (possibly offered by the Student Association). The purpose of this article is to provide some background on why QuickPay no longer exists and to suggest an alternative.

For those of you unfamiliar with QuickPay, it was an application built about six years ago by a handful of students in The Harbus to provide a mechanism for clubs to accept online payments for dues, tickets, apparel, etc. To cover its back-end vendor costs, The Harbus would charge the clubs a percentage of the transaction revenue (the fee was 3.5% of total dollar sales for the club plus $0.95/transaction last year). QuickPay eventually became the standard method for online payments within HBS.

Overtime, several issues developed with the system. First, once the original developers left, maintenance of the application became more and more difficult to the point that minor edits and fixes became unwieldy. Second, between the high costs of the hardware infrastructure for the system and the administrative costs involved in processing and distribution of checks to clubs, the service became a money-losing offering for The Harbus. The Harbus, in fact, continued to operate it at a loss for the last three years only as a service to the student body.

In response to student complaints of high fees, the Student Association began looking into taking over the operations of QuickPay from Harbus (possibly purchasing the system outright) over a year ago. However, the SA came to the conclusion that, with the legacy QuickPay technology, it would face the same costs and problems as The Harbus and, likewise, would have to charge fees at least as high as those charged by the Harbus in order to break even. With this in mind, the SA began looking into building a QuickPay-like solution from scratch last fall.

This past summer, however, after soliciting bids from several firms and doing a thorough search for other alternatives, it became obvious that it does not make sense for the SA to build and operate an online payment system; the biggest reason being the existence of PayPal. PayPal offers all of the functionality needed by student organizations and is far more advanced, robust and secure than either Quickpay or anything that the SA could have built in a summer. It also charges much lower fees (2.2%) than anything we could have offered through the SA.

The main task now is to transition over to PayPal. This will be difficult initially because of the learning curve for club officers (setting up a “store” is slightly more involved than it was with QuickPay) , but, in the long run, it should really benefit the student body. The cost savings in fees will be significant (the savings for one of the larger balls alone would be over $2000) and the convenience of having direct deposit to student group bank accounts will reduce the amount of overhead involved in collecting payments.

We realize that this is a difficult situation and, in order to make this transition to PayPal easier, have established a PayPal “help” page on the SA website (//sa.hbs.edu). If you have questions not addressed on the website, feel free to contact me directly at skhan@mba2003.hbs.edu.

[Editor Note: If you want to direct questions to The Harbus, please email business@harbus.org. Editorial comments and submissions should be sent to Harbus-Editor@mba2003.hbs.edu]

September 16, 2002
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