I finally had a chance to use Square in a real world checkout scenario a few weekends ago. My friend and local Ankeny Iowa artist Luke Hubbard held his 2nd Annual Garage Gala. My wife and I stepped in to take care of the check out so Luke and his lovely wife Jen could handle entertaining, talking to guests and mingling with people that wanted to know more about the art.
The one big change for the Gala this year was the acceptance of credit cards. Luke had taken cash, check, and Dwolla in the years past though really, it was just check and cash. I was a bit disappointed, but not completely shocked, that no one used Dwolla, sorry guys. Adding credit this year was a huge step forward and I was quite pleased with the results.
First and foremost, if you’re not aware of what Square is, check out their web site and it will quickly become obvious. With a little reader, they turn your phone into a credit card scanning station. Slick!
The main difference between Square and your traditional credit card machine is in order to take credit cards, you need a merchant account and gateway service to send the secure transactions to have money moved into your account from the customers credit card issuing bank. These are fairly easy to setup but there are fees involved and they typically want you to charge a certain number of transactions. With Square, there is no commitment. They simply take a little more off the top in order to provide a convenience of being able to take credit cards as often or little as you need. Perfect for those farmers markets, concert merchandise stands, and Garage Galas.
So what’s the catch?
If I had to say anything about the service, it would be this. Swiping the cards the first couple of times takes some practice. And Square realizes this so if you have several misses in a row, they will pop up a tutorial to give you some tips and allow you to practice. This helped get us up and rolling and I think it also helps loosen up the scanner a bit so it works better.
After my practice session, I was rocking and rolling. Typically swipes were 1 or 2 swipes max. And if that fails, you can always type in the number.
Most customers thought it was really cool that we could take credit cards this way. They were very happy with how slick it was. Enter the amount, swipe the card, have them sign the phone and either email a receipt or we had paper receipts with the various payments we were taking.
The one bad thing about this experience is that customers aren’t used to signing their name with their finger. One customer actually called it “creepy”. For next year, I think its worth purchasing one of the stylist that works with the iPhone and remove that from the equation.
The ease of taking the cards and the relatively low overhead costs make this a solid product. I’d recommend anyone that is a small business owner that doesn’t have a credit card system today to look into this product. Its ridiculously easy!