Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beware of merchants using Squareup

Update June 2012: I have started getting Square receipts with the type of card and the last four digits. See, Square, wasn't that easy?
I hate to post this because I think it is wonderful new technology for small merchants to be able to swipe credit cards and handle the transactions through their cellphones.

But if you are a business traveler, beware. As these little white square attachments start sprouting from cellphones, etc., you'd better check with your accounting department on whether it will accept the receipts you are emailed or texted.

Many remain skittish about email receipts (possibility they can be easily forged). But the one I got today from a merchant using Squareup is likely to pose a special problem. While it is a visual receipt, not just a text-only email, it merely lists "item" without any details, and it does not detail which credit card was used (only the generic Visa). This can be a special problem for travelers who might have multiple cards for various reasons.

Here, for instance, is what a typical receipt looks like.

If the merchant is using an iPad, there is the option to print a true receipt. But many, like cabs, use cellphones, and they don't invest in a printer (the point being to save money, right?). If not, email is all you get. So then you have to wait till it posts to your Visa account (assuming you have access to that account), print out the record, etc. If it's a corporate account, how willing do you think accounting is going to be to check dozens and maybe hundreds of these things (as they become more common) against the corporate account, especially since there are no account or reference numbers?

I also take a bit of exception to the preset "tip" percentages at the bottom of each screen with no way, that I saw, to enter your own (other than "no tip").

So caveat emptor.

(I've often wondered why companies like this don't have a feedback mechanism on their websites, since the customer, not the vendor, is the ultimate word-of-mouth promotion for something like this. As a result, I sent my feedback through the website's "press" email. I'd encourage others to do the same.

Here's a review of the company (officially called "Square"). Generally good, but some problems.

Update 4/1: After some extensive back and forth with Square's help desk - and kudos to the desk for continuing to talk with me about the options and take suggestions - there may be a way to get a detailed image of your receipt. Unfortunately, it is not obvious, and it may be off-putting to some: Sign up for a Square account, even though it might seem those are only for merchants.

Almost Everything on Square's website  (except the Pay with Square link) as of this post is merchant-facing, so the fact that you as a consumer can do this is not overly obvious. If you sign up for an account, you will be asked seemingly merchant-type questions for security. This includes the last four digits of your Social Security number. Square apparently uses all this information to dig into databases (credit reports?) and identify you. It will come back with a screen with those details, you confirm them, etc. You will be asked to click to have a Square card reader sent to you. You can ignore that and, after all that, you will have an account. One of the links in that account is "Receipts." I haven't run into a Square-enabled merchant since doing this, so I can't tell you how well it works.

I've suggested that Square engineer a consumer-facing link that skips most of that stuff and allows people to clearly sign up for an account to access their receipts. In addition, if Square had a big "convert" button in that account, then once it had me as a consumer, if I decided to start a small business, etc., it might well have me as a merchant customer (remembering that the demographic likely to use this for receipts is also the one that has the resources in both time, money and education, to do just that).

Labels: , ,


At 3/19/12, 8:36 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Great article. I was considering telling a friend who owns a small, traveling business about this product but I think I will tell him to continue to do his homework about products like this. Thanks for your insight.

At 3/30/12, 9:25 PM, Blogger Cynthia Morgan said...

Hmmmm. I hate that you posted this, too, because it's unfortunately inaccurate. When I was in j-school we were taught to check with the subjects of an article BEFORE publishing, and not to simply rely on what other reporters (or in this case, reviewers) wrote.

If you'd actually asked Square about any of this stuff, you'd have gotten better answers. Kinda disappointing, considering your profession.


1) Receipt. Square's terms and conditions require a written/ printed receipt--if you don't get one the vendor is in violation.

When I use a Square (outside my dayjob I'm an artist), I write out receipts by hand. Last I checked, a hand-written receipt was still a valid proof of purchase with most media accounting departments.

So, no, email *isn't* (or shouldn't be) all you get. And in any case, if you know your company requires a particular format or type of receipt, and can't accept an email receipt, you ask the vendor for the format you need. I've worked in the media for 20 years, and I've never met a reporter too shy to ask such questions.

2) Incomplete receipt. That's a problem with the vendor's accounting practices, not with the Square, and it's certainly not a tech problem. I have many, many paper cab receipts that have NOTHING printed on them at all or a scrawl that says 5 (or maybe S) let alone a nice, readable record of my purchase.

Again...if you need a complete receipt, ask. You have the same view of the Square application as the vendor, since you have to sign the bloody thing. If the information is complete, ask them to fill it in.

3) Tip calculations. A user can choose to turn it on or off. If it's turned off, the customer won't see it. If your receipt comes from a cab, well...the guy wanted a tip. Why would he turn that off?

4) Feedback. Square does provide support, by email. I've gotten responses as fast as one hour, although they usually take closer to 12. They send unusually long (and helpful) responses, and they will talk to you in person if the problem warrants it.

5) Ultimate word-of-mouth promotion is the customer? Not really--their interaction with a Square is fleeting. Vendors are doing the talking here, and they're doing a lot of it. Square (and its competitors) do have customer-facing products, but the card swipers audience is vendors, not customers.

Please, a longtime print and broadcast reporter/editor/producer and then AP news editor knows better than this.

At 4/1/12, 11:50 AM, Blogger Doug said...


Well, actually, I did do a fair amount of research, including others who have run into this problem, a deep dive into its help files online, and discussions with the accounting folks I have to deal with and elsewhere. So please don't presume things.

Subsequently, I've had an extensive discussion with Square's help folks, once I popped something in through their press office and was able to get a response (since everything on its site is merchant-facing and not consumer-facing except for its Pay with Square link). There may be a way to get a detailed receipt, but it is not obvious on the website - and I'll be updating here shortly.

Before I take yours point by point, I think you actually reinforce my points - as a customer, beware of those using Square because, as you point out, it's caveat emptor. So if the merchant whips out the Square device, know that you're going to have to be on heightened alert to ask for a receipt - argue for it, if necessary, and not be able to necessarily rely on the receipt Square provides. You can say this is always the case, but the reality is that it has pretty much become ingrained in commerce that when a retailer posts the logos that it accepts credit cards and you swipe your card, you get a printed receipt without having to ask. (On that note, I think Kmart, which gets few things right, has this one right - it gives me the option to just have a receipt emailed or have one printed and emailed as a backstop.)

You essentially argue that it is the merchant's problem, not Square's. I disagree. Square changes the dynamic, thus I think it has the responsibility to consider consumers' needs. I think you are disingenuous to essentially argue it is all the merchant's responsibility. Were the merchants individually emailing me the receipts, then yes. But Square is taking on that role as processor; therefore it also takes on some of the responsibility to listen to consumers' needs. One of the simplest things it could do that would alleviate much of this would be to provide the last four digits of the card on the emailed receipt.

Let's go point by point:
1) Saying the vendor is in violation is disingenuous. I don't have time, and I suspect you don't either, to read and memorize Square's TOS and to cite chapter and verse to the vendor. If, as noted above, Square is going to take on the interface role of providing a link to a receipt, then it should pay more attention to what consumers need in those receipts. My point is that the first time the consumer encounters a Square-enabled vendor, he or she may assume a full receipt is being emailed. Such is not the case. So he or she needs to know to ask for one. (By the way, I asked for one from a restaurant using Square and was told it did not have a printer. So, yes, I can get a handwritten one - but isn't the point of technology to make my life and the merchant's easier, not more complicated?)

2) The major incomplete point is Square's failure to include the last four digits of the card on the receipt it emails (and makes available via online link) - a standard practice on every other credit card receipt. This is Square's to solve, not the merchant's. Yes, I understand the other detail is the merchant's deficiency. That's a different issue and one that some travelers may also have to be aware of. But I know of few credit receipts that provide that kind of detail - if you need that for your accounting department you need to keep the original from the restaurant, for instance. So I'm not particularly arguing that the "item" entry on what Square sends you had to be detailed.


At 4/1/12, 11:50 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Continuing my response to Cynthia:

3) As to tips, you are being a tad disingenuous again. The ones I've seen, for instance, tend to give the consumer the option of no tip or 20%, 25%, etc. Frankly, I find that offensive. There are many times I feel a 20% tip is warranted, but there are times I don't. So my only option then is no tip (or leave one in cash, which causes its own problems for documentation.) I've not seen a Square app set up yet to allow me to put in my own tip amount. It may exist, but just saying' …

4) Go to Square's website as a consumer and you will be left scratching your head as to how to get your questions asked. Everything on the site is merchant-facing. Sure, you and I are journalists and so tend to bull forward. That's how I got my questions answered. But if I were to take the website on its face value, the impression is that I, as a consumer, don't count there. All I'm suggesting is that Square have a link that makes clear it is aimed at consumers. Maybe something like: "Have a question about a receipt you've been emailed?"

5) Your marketing analysis is incomplete. Indeed, Square's primary audience is vendors. But in today's social media world, the secondary channel, and an important one, is the consumer. It predates social media, actually - why do you think MasterCard, Visa and Discover spend so much money on advertising to the consumer? They understand that getting the consumer to use their cards gets merchants to accept those cards. Square's situation is not identical, but similar. If it wants to get merchants to adopt its technology, then having consumers asking for it is a good marketing tactic. Case in point: I recently went to an art show where one of the artists we bought something from whipped out an old paper receipt maker. She also had a smartphone. We got to talking, and I suggested she look into Square and its alternatives. She said she would.

Bottom line: I like the idea of Square and its counterparts. Anything that makes it easier and adds utility should be considered. The possibility of having electronic access to a sufficiently detailed version of my receipts instead of having to stuff things in the wallet, etc., is utility. But Square isn't sufficiently there yet and, as you suggest, it's caveat emptor. That was the point of my post. Thanks for reinforcing it.

At 6/18/12, 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This link shows how much of a nightmare using square can be.

At 6/18/12, 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The big issue with square is they are handing out the device like candy. Square is a merchant service aggregator. The merchant account is owned by Square, that is why there is little information required to open an account.

At 8/31/12, 3:15 PM, Anonymous Rachida said...

Although it's a snazzy concept, there are several reasons why Square is not getting it right. Customer service, funding their merchants, security etc... Check out my blog for a wealth of information.

At 9/26/12, 10:16 AM, Blogger Painted Body Panels said...

I have been using this company for months only to find out within the last few they have withdrawn $4627.93 from my account in a single month. We are a company specializing in customizing car parts for customers all over the country. It seems that these people will not answer the phone at all! Where are the customer service reps? I have called the only two numbers that I could find. One 415-375-3176 just is an automated voice message telling me to email to get prompt answers. I have emailed them and no response at all. The other number I got from their bank thru mine (JP Morgan Chase) 877-417-4551 and still the same crap as the 415-375-3176. Their company ID is 9424300002 and leads to no where. I am fed up with this company and want my money that I earned legitimately. This company spends all their money in advertising instead of hiring CSR's to help with issues like this one! DONT USE SQUARE!

At 1/2/13, 1:24 AM, Anonymous plastic card printing said...

The merchant account is owned by Square, that is why there is little information required to open an account.


Post a Comment

<< Home