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Why Operating a Web Service in Canada Sucks – Part II: Google Checkout

Google Checkout looks pretty cool (even though it was banned by Ebay) and has great potential for many very small businesses out there looking for a good online payment solution.  Unfortunately, like many other services including PayPal Website Payments Pro, it is not yet available to Canadian merchants. 

Now I can fully appreciate why the people at Google and PayPal would focus primarily on their US customers (it is the largest market and their home base), but for goodness sake, can they not communicate that a little better so poor saps like me don’t spend half an hour getting it all ready to go only to find out at the last step that it won’t work unless you have a US tax id and address. Of course if I had taken the time to read the fine print (below), I would have known straight off that it doesn’t work in Canada.

Before you start, you’ll need:

  • The federal tax ID number (or a credit card and an authorized Social Security number) for your business.
  • A text-only version of your return, cancellation, and shipping policies.
  • A shopping cart on your business website to accept online orders (unless you’re integrating via Buy Now buttons).


But no, I had to walk through everything and get all excited about trying out the service before getting to the final step that asked for my tax id.  Funny enough, the exact same thing happened to me about six months ago when attempting to sign-up for PayPal Website Payments Pro.  I think they have improved communications since then, but initially it stated nowhere that you had to be US based.  It was worse than Google because I actually finished the setup and then attempted to try it before I was thwarted.

Since I didn’t get to try Google checkout, here’s what some others are saying about it: Mark Evans isn’t too impressed, Mathew Ingram thinks they are in for a fight with PayPal, and Ian Lurie does a complete review here (thanks to Seth Godin for that post).

The frustrating thing is that this happens not just with payment services, it happens all over the web.  Just ask Mike when he spent a half an hour getting an awesome deal with only to find out he had to have a US address to receive the plane tickets.  Or talk to my fiancee who tried to order a gift for a friend at Williams Sonoma and the service is only available for US customers.  Baaahh.

I think Tara Hunt would agree with her Pinko marketing philosophy that it would be very worthwhile for these companies to get things setup for us hungry Canadians, or at the very least have a big banner that says US ONLY!

So, alas, this post was going to be about the great new Google checkout service, but now its a rant about expanding new online services to Canadians.  I really have to get one of those US addresses and tax id’s sooner rather than later.

  • Levi Cooperman

    Hi Chad,

    All really great points. All I can say is, it is coming!

    We actually now have a US based company and getting stuff processed through there is just a matter of time.

    Google checkout is on our roadmap and I know it has taken a long time, but it is lower on our priorities at the moment.

    I’m really sorry about those international fees, please send me a note to levi at freshbooks about that and we will do something for you there. The banks just recently started doing that and I have a conversation going about that over on our forum:

    Offering our own payment processing is a whole other story. At the moment, the gateways we are integrated with are doing a great job of serving small businesses. PayPal might be disliked by quite a few, but it helps a heck of a lot of small businesses accept online payment and boost their cash flow quickly and easily. Google is a relatively new player, but it sounds like they are providing a good service.

    Thanks for the comments…and I would never think of deleting your comments…unless of course you made fun of the Toronto Raptors ;) You should know that some comments get stuck in our spam filter and we always try to find them and release them.

  • Chad Wagner

    Thanks for the quick reply, I didn’t expect you to delete it, I just wanted to ask that if the thought crossed anyone’s mind they might reconsider. I appreciate the thoughtful response :)

    I’ll drop a note with the fee, it’s only 30 something cents but took me a while to figure out what was incurring the charge on my account.

    With payment processing, I require my clients to pay the service charge, so I just wish there was a way that if they chose or paypal, the correct fees would be added to the invoice so that I don’t have to pass it off onto the next invoice. I like checks, hate fees, and for my clients paying by credit cards, I want the service fee to be “official”, not me telling them… “Look, I am not gonna eat the 3% because you don’t have money in your account to send a check.” Know what I mean? Just a little awkward, and google checkout has such low fees (2.2% + $0.20) vs paypal. I just took a $3000 payment on paypal and it cost $90 to process, whereas google checkout is $60. Both the client and I would be happier with a service saving us $30/month. Ya know?


  • David

    Canada needs to quit whining! There is NOTHING stopping anyone in Canada from making a Google Checkout equivalent. I mean, I can’t get CBC down in SoCal–and *I* don’t whine about that!!

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  • Angela

    I think you are right David. We need to get our own service going or encourage and promote Canadian payment services like Alertpay :

    I also use Moneybookers which is based in the U.K

    Google Checkout now deserves the garbage bin just like PayPal.

  • ted

    canada is sucks must place I ever live in
    sucks to canadian citizen ship when we do not have right to be happy here

  • Georgie Boy

    you guys are all wrong about your reasons for lack of CC processors. it has nothing to do with our laws , nothing to do with intergration ,,

    it’s all about the cost of doing business in Canada

    it just isn’t worth it , all these people complaining about no google and stuff are little tiny sellers , anyone doing real business can get a merchant account in 5 minutes.. google doesn’t need the huge headaches and overhead to service canada when the pay off is peanuts..

    once you do business in canada you open yourself up to a whole bunch of crap like reaching your new customers,, supporting them ,, legal issues , a whole possibility of getting sued in Canada.

    its just not worth their time , notice the only thing working with canada is paypal and they say you agree not to sue them anywhere but instead use arbitration in California.

    too much hassle , not enough paper , if there was a huge demand for cc in canada you would see companies like alert pay take off and go through the roof

  • anon

    I disagree with the comments that Google Checkout is not offered to Canadians due to size of market. Although Canada’s population is small(roughly the same as the state of California); it’s online market is estimated at aprox. 28,000,000+ internet users (85%+ population online penetration.) Online retail sales in Canada has had double digit growth year after year and I’d be daft as a business owner to ignore or under-estimate the growing power of the Canadian market. If Canadian busines were peanuts to Google, then why offer other services such as Google Adwords, and the dedicated search engine etc. is #57 on the Global list of top websites (based on traffic). If there’s money to be made, Google is already all over it, or trying to be. I can’t offer knowledge as to why Google doesn’t currently offer checkout to Canadians, but I have no doubt that they are currently working on it, or that they will be in future. I suspect it is simply the logistics of dealing with the CRA that’s holding Google back. Just recently eBay was ordered by the Federal Court to disclose sellers information to the CRA (to source tax evaders): Perhaps, Google is avoiding or working around similar complications / privacy issues?

  • Tim

    Wow! There was me thinking of moving to Canada… Not until I can do business there methinks…

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  • Bob

    Sorry guys, Paypal does serve people in Canada, we have had a merchant account for at least a year. Not sure what you guys are talking about. Wanted to use Google Checkout, since it’s donations feature is better, but will stick with Paypal, since Google doesn’t want the business, and Paypal’s setup was fairly easy.

  • ryan

    Its not Google or paypals fault. Moneris is a vicous blood sucking Piece of @#$#@ that does not want to lose its energy illegal sucking hold of its monopoly. A great many years ago people that hate working and competition. We will call them accountants,lawyers, and bankers all got together and said we can make alot of money if we control a couple of brands under one umbrella. That umbrella i moneris. They are the equvalent of te NAZI party. They are ruthless and beyond evil. WAKE UP CANADA. Lets Get rid of the monopolies.

  • vince jelenic

    google checkout not in canada?
    that’s the least of worries.

    Went to Elavon, had apps all filled out, ready to order, stopped dead in tracks.

    When they found we sold ONLINE, they said NO.
    As a category “furniture” is not accepted for online sales, period. AS A CATEGORY it is considered “high risk”.

    Hell, we sell antiques, have been doing so for many years, had merchant accounts.

    Our solution, simple, our customers can pay with credit card through paypal gateway. Said goodbye to the banks’ cc processors, got rid of the card readers, and switched to using Paypal online form combined with smartswipe card reader.

    We no longer have leases, hidden charges, account fees, upgrades, security audits, or any of the other crap that moneris, monex, elavon, internetsecure and the others demand.

    I’d love to see google checkout arrive here, just for option.

    Should paypal cut off here? simple solution, cash, or cheque (or certified cheque in mail).. We are lucky, combined B&M and online sales. If ONLINE takes a dive due to the crap surrounding payments in Canada, well, we can always fall back on b&M store… worth a thought, diversify online, but also diversify offline, both with sales and payments, that’s the future.

    Reminds me of Mad Max survival type of society, but that seems where we’re headed.

    “TRUST NO ONE” — sheesh, kinda sucks.

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