Nabanco, the big credit card processor, has fallen out of bed with Dial-a-Mattress Corp. - in a big way.

Nabanco "behaved in ways that we normally associate with gangster movies," the mattress retailer charged last week in severing its ties with the company.

At issue is $75,000 that Daniel Flamberg, marketing director for Dial-a- Mattress, said Nabanco "hijacked" from daily transactions, "as if they anticipated that we'd have a large number of chargebacks, or we'd go bust and not pay them."

In an unusually caustic press release, Dial-a-Mattress also faulted Nabanco's customer service, which it said was "inferior."

Mark Pyke, director of risk management for Jacksonville, Fla.-based Nabanco, said the company acted in good faith in establishing an escrow account for potential chargebacks and informed Dial-a-Mattress in writing of its action.

"It is unfortunate that Dial-a-Mattress is leaving us, but Nabanco is within its rights to protect itself."

Eric Turille, senior vice president of First National Bank of Omaha, a leading processor for telemarketers, said it is not unusual to request an escrow account as there are certain risks associated with telemarketers.

Mr. Flamberg said that Dial-a-Mattress was never informed of Nabanco's action and that his company has a "sterling track record" with "very low chargebacks."

Mr. Flamberg complained that Nabanco also required reserves of the company's franchisees, which, "you can imagine, made them feel real warm and fuzzy toward us."

Mr. Pyke said that "as a normal course of business we monitor our accounts, and we felt it was appropriate to establish an account."

Dial-a-Mattress said its sales volume increased to $65 million in 1994, 60% higher than the previous year. Ninety percent of those sales are paid by credit card.

New York-based U.S. Data Capture Inc., a four-year-old company specializing in telemarketing and mail order firms, will be the beneficiary of the spat, handling transaction processing for the round-the-clock retailer.

Lately, telemarketing has been in the news for shady practices and consumer rip-offs, and Dial-a-Mattress's owner, Napoleon Barragan, has been making headlines of his own.

Convicted of tax fraud in late 1994, he agreed to pay $1 million to New York State. Serving a one year work-release jail sentence, he remains at the company.

Although Mr. Pyke would not comment on the issue, Mr. Flamberg suspects Nabanco is reacting to that situation, which has raised questions about the future of the successful New York-based firm.

"When we're riding high, they're very happy to take their fee. Well, the days are long gone when banks can tell you to roll over and cluck like a chicken."

Dean Leavitt, president of U.S. Data Capture, said his company will now handle all processing, deposit funds via the Federal Reserve, and provide customer service. "Any concerns we had regarding (Dial-a-Mattress) were addressed completely and to our comfort level," he said.

Mr. Leavitt would not be specific but said the "boutique" processor handles hundreds of thousands of transactions per month, worth hundreds of millions in dollar volume. He said that in terms of account size Dial-a- Mattress ranked in U.S. Data's top 50.

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