Quick Authorize.Net tip: how to set up an open-ended buy now button

Recently, a friend who is also a web developer called about a client of his. The client, we will call them “TimCo”-  to protect the innocent-  is an industrial products company in Western New York. TimCo needed a way for their customers to be able to go to the TimCo website, enter the amount owed, and pay their invoice online. TimCo wanted this to be done as simply as possible, with as few security considerations as possible. They also wanted to use their existing processor, who is compatible with Authorize.Net, and did not want to pay my friend for any custom coding.

What the heck is a “buy now button” anyway?

Those of you reading this who have an e-commerce background, or are young enough to speak with a “vocal fry” and be naturally tech-savvy, may be thinking of a solution already… a buy now button, right? A buy now button is a simple piece of code, usually generated by a payment gateway’s merchant portal, that is created by a snippet of HTML that can be pasted into a website. Those of you that don’t have a web background are likely spitting expletives as you read this blog through your “2x Dollar Store readers”, wondering what the heck a “snippet of HTML” is.

It goes like this; you want a way for people to pay you online for something simple: an event ticket, a single product. You don’t want the hassle of a full-featured cart with international shipping tables, hospitality tax databases, “split pay gift card reload functions,” and 200 pages of PCI cardholder data security questionnaires…you just want a simple thing people can click, and buy the darn thing.

That’s what a buy now button is. You log into your gateway, Authorize.Net for example, click on whatever they call their buy now button, in this case, “Simple Checkout”, fill out some info like: “What’s the name of what people are buying,” label the button “Buy Now,” “Pay Here” or whatever, and hit “Generate Button.”

“Generate Button” sounds really fancy, but all it does is spit out a line of code..called HTML, that you can then cut and paste into your website. Then, like magic, the button appears, and you can get paid.

Fine! Then what is an “open-ended” buy now button?

An open-ended buy now button allows the end user, in this case, TimCo’s clients, to fill in the amount of the purchase themselves. For a simple “pay invoice” function this is really handy. Invoices do not need to be uploaded or synched; the end customer can simply click “Buy Now” or “Pay Now”, enter the amount, their name, invoice number, card details and go on with their day. But, this is where our mythical TimCo and their very smart, yet occasionally maniacal web developer got into a pickle. You see, when you go into Authorize.Net to set up “Simple Checkout” you are presented with two choices. “Create a Buy Now Button,” or “Create a Donate Now button.”

TimCo is not taking donations, they are selling industrial products; so they chose “Create a Buy Now Button.” As often is the case in the world of e-commerce, logic, and reality were not on the same page it turns out.

The developer called me, his favorite volunteer consultant, and said: “Authorize.Net’s buy now button does not allow customer determined amounts, this client can’t build a new button for every invoice.” So, being a volunteer (we try to only work with high-risk merchants, and industrial widgets are decidedly low-risk), I explained the odd, counterintuitive way that an “open-ended” buy now button is set up in Authorize.Net.

Here is how you set up an open-ended buy now button in Authorize.Net

  1. Log into your AuthNet account
  2. Click Tools
  3. Click Simple Checkout
  4. Click Create Donate Now Button, not Buy Now
  5. Click the option for “customer determined amount”
  6. Click + Add Item.
  7. Enter an item name. This will be displayed to the customer on the order payment and receipt pages.
  8. Click Save to continue to the Simple Checkout Button Page.
  9. Then, edit the “Donate Now” button’s appearance, and select a button that fits your business, in the case of TimCo – “Pay Now.”

The trick is the 4th step. To allow your customer to choose their own custom amount, you need to select “Create a Donate Now Button,” and then change it after the fact so that it reads “Buy Now.” Don’t ask me why, but it’s true. Lastly, for those who are wondering what a “vocal fry” is, here is a great explanation from the online magazine Mental Floss.

-Matt