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.

At 5/20/13, 12:54 AM, Anonymous Gio Mauro said...

The amount of misinformation is STAGGERING. Cynthia is correct, if there are issues with your receipts, it's the VENDORS fault. Simply ask the vendor for a paper reciept. Period. Its that easy. My customers are handed a paper receipt with every transaction.

Secondky, Merchant service providers are losing business at such an alarming rate that SCARING consumers with allegations of security issues is the only recourse they have. Square has it right, it's a matter of fairness to vendors that do huge amounts of small transactions. Think of what the CC industry has done. They have forced a society, and soon the globe, into using them indispensably, create a quasi monopoli, and double dip both on the consumer AND vendor side. It is CRIMINAL, albeit genius.

All I can say is that square has made "dancing with the devil" tolerable, at least I'm not getting as badly burned. Squat ehas literally saved my small business. Shame on Mr. Fisher for misrepresenting the facts.

At 5/24/13, 2:01 AM, Blogger Doug said...

I don't believe I misrepresented anything at the time of the original post. There were problems. Some merchants claimd, at least, that they were unable to give printed receipts, and Square's email receipts at the time were inadequate.

I clearly updated when that changed. Square has made significant changes. That does not invalidate the original post when taken in its original context.


At 7/19/13, 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the negative information about Square seems to be coming from companies selling or advertizing competiting card processing accounts. I mean, is "cardpaymentoptions" really going to provide you with an objective, fair "review" when they are apparently a site created to sell the competition?

At 10/3/13, 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not a company or work for square up at all. I will tell you that the square company is the problem and is a HUGE SECURITY risk for customers and the merchants both. I have family that used the square both as a customer and a merchant and help with it all. I found that this company is not good to use at all. So, my advance is never to use square up at all. They are a huge security risk. Not only that they will keep your money on your purchases for 90 days before the merchant gets their money from your purchase. Which is very illegal in my opinion.

At 10/22/13, 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't work for Square nor for a vendor, but I do support an executive who encounters Square vendors while travelling. Square doesn't require its merchants to provide any details, and indeed show up alone as the vendor on the credit card statement (unlike PayPal, which devotes a few characters to identify its account holder).

My accounting office has questions every month about who and what the transactions are for, and it is probably just my charm that keeps them from shutting down by boss's corporate card.

It seems entirely up to Square to collect even basic information from its merchants, such as whether they are a taxi driver or a hair stylist.

That Square doesn't ask for this information seems suspicious itself. Maybe it wants the business of real life Walter Whites.

At 10/22/13, 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Used a cab in San Jose. They used SQUARE. I got charged numerous times for one transaction. Then when called SQUARE for help they said they couldn't tell me anything about the vendor cab, and why so many charges, phone number to the cab company (Credit Card just had Square's contact info) and when I asked for a manager, David Lee--employee of SQUARE said they didn't have any. I guess I'm disputing through my credit card. What a fraud!

At 10/25/13, 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an idiot for posting this. You couldn't be more wrong. Fact check moron

At 10/31/13, 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Have a small custom kayak co. we use square for our credit possessing. We are happy with them over all our average sale is 1500.00 and we receive our funds within 24 hours.

I am upset with all that say to be afraid of vendors using square as if all square using vendors are trying to rob the customers! As for the recipes I give all my customers a signed invoice with detailed info on what was purchased and how it was paid I also have a duplicate signed by them to keep in my files.

So please do not ASSUME that all square merchants are not safe as for not getting your money well do not proses a transaction with out a card present!

Square has been a good fit for us and we are ever so happy with the service given as well as the service we can give by utilizing them as our processor.

At 11/13/13, 1:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a new merchant customer of Square. For years, I have been butchered by traditional merchant service companies with a laundry list of fees added to the seemingly low percentage charges that lured me in.

Traditional processors must be scared to death as their con is finally coming to an end. Square and its' current competitors will be joined by many similar processors. All will have to become less expensive and more efficient to survive.

I believe that most of the negative comments are coming from operators and employees of traditional credit card processors who are using scare tactics to discourage the growth of a model that is eventually going to sink their ship. I say ADIOS!

So, the bottom line for me is that 1/2 of the complaints are baloney and the other 1/2 are legitimate growing pains that time will rectify. I will stay the course. The same criticisms that are now being expressed about Square were historically expressed about the "horseless carriage", telephone answering machines, personal computers, cell phones and the Internet. Welcome to the 21st century.

At 12/4/13, 1:04 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

We may lose our biggest client because we chose Square Up to process our credit cards.

Don't do it, or look for someone else before it's too late for you, and you experience something like this:

...So our 10-year-old LLC started using Square Up back in April 2013 when we saw their funds delivery turnaround time and easy mobile app access, and everything seemed to be going well at a pace of ~$6,500 per month in transactions, until... of our clients needed ~$12,000 in equipment yesterday (December 4) to recover from a fire that has shut their business down until this equipment is replaced, and after approving the transactions where they intended to hold the funds could be held for three days even if we decided to reverse the charges, SquareUp sent us a permanent cancellation email with no explanation.

Even after visiting the help section of their site, which was only a single point of contact in the form of a help request web page, and explaining our situation with a customer that they had been capturing funds from previously, they simply resent their original communication.

I don't know how we are going to get out of the horrible situation that they have put us in, but looking completely unprofessional is just the tip of the iceberg with our client.

Be smart, and find someone else with a smartphone app to process your cc transactions.

They didn't pull this trick on us until we had already processed three transactions totaling ~$12,000 and unless you are able to function without an entire day's number of transactions, plus the time to find another processor, I would strongly recommend anyone who sees all these frustrated people take a warning.'s definitely not worth the risk.

At 12/6/13, 7:33 PM, Blogger SUSAN DRAWBAUGH said...

Without going into taxing details about my company's problem with Square, let me just say that they are holding funds of over $500.00 that I was paid using Square over one month ago! As it turned out, there was a miscommunication with one of my biggest customers due to my company name not being recognized by their new employee, and therefore he disputed the charge after it was already paid. Square emailed me and told me how to get the chargeback reversed. Between my customer, their bank, and myself we followed all instructions - yet they are still holding my funds!! It's obvious that their answers to any questions or frustrations that I've had are copy/pasted in all of their emails to me. (they don't accept phone calls for customer service!) Horrible to do business with!! And completely unethical, since everything they've asked for has been sent to them. I don't know how they get away with it, but there doesn't seem to be a way around it unless I want to fly up to San Francisco to their office to get this worked out! But then I'm sure their doors are locked so that they don't have to confront any of their customers. Does anyone have any suggestions???

At 12/13/13, 11:13 PM, Anonymous MarviNg-ON1LABS said...

frost those square fools... i love them but i hate them more... i even returned to them but left wanting to stab 'em in the face... they froze over $10k of my money, sent me the bs email that they will hold my money for 180 days and if I didnt want to do thay i should refund my customers and have them pay another way. So i was like hail yeah I'mma refund all my payments then, and I requested the refunds for like 6 transactions at first. checked the next day... the status says refund rejected... Wth?!? after rubbing my eyes I read it again and yes that's what it did say.. refund rejected. I asked customer support wtf is that and what do you mean rejected?! they said they don't support refunds to prepaid cards when a tip has been added. I don't understand wth that means because i accepted visa or mastercard cards, and i hear from their lousy explanation is... hello we've decided to freeze your money and hold it for you for 6 months and if you don't like it you can try to return the money but we can't really support that. a simpler translation would be we is stealin yo money for 6 months because we can sucka. yeah i'm not so sure about that, either way... after this happened i was scared, angry and was looking for some reassurance... my investigation found that i'm not the only that they did this to, and apparently if you looked at their bbb site they have a ton of complaints all of which they resolved by flashing their user agreement even though it satisfies nothing but themselves and bbb. the common issue i also found amongst complainers is that they all claim to want to file suit against square, but those baseless threats aren't any good and as you can notice there hasn't been any reports of square being sued... and thats because no lawyer in his right mind would take a case like ours because the user agreement is pretty clear and protects the from you filing suit against them... however, here's the special bonus for all users of square that has been duped by their services and misleading advertising, you can't do anything to square because your blocked by their agreement simply due to signing up... do you know who can give them trouble ? your customers, your customer may file suit directly to square for theft. yeah thats right, you just simply have your customers file a police report against them because you pointed your customers to the perps that are in possession of their money. you understand what i'm saying ? don't even tell square whats up because they wont take you seriously as they think they are protected behind their user agreement. have your customers file the report... and list you as someone who aided them is resolving this criminal act of stealing... yeah im not a lawyer, but i'm not a moron either jack. you will never be next steve jobbs... your ignorance is damning, i mean i still respect you for your innovative thinking, but if thats all you got, and you dont give a damn about your own clients that you are hurting with your double edged sword then screw you. this is exactly what you deserve, finally some litigation and negative limelight on your shady services company. have great day pursuing your enemy everyone !! don't forget possession is 9/10ths of the law... they stole who's money ?! yes that's right your customers.

At 5/20/14, 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad to finally see someone finally recognizes the value of Square and the wonderful value and opportunity it offers a small vendor. The Rackets that have been processing credit card charges are nothing but that- rackets. They take and take from everyone every way possible. They are thieves that have the public by the throat and will not let go.
Square has to be the best easiest and most straight forward creation in the low innovation retail businesses. I can'y say enough for them. I support them, have a printer, enter lots of data and am so grateful I am going to try the "Square Market" as an on-line sales tool. THANK YOU SQUARE. The rest of you can go on and be happy paying through the nose for all the other racketeers that are skimming from all and every credit card charges. It seems to me an ingenious and simple answer to being ripped off by all the companies with charges and more charges for each and every charge they so called "process" .

At 7/5/14, 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is the shittiest company I have ever seen I am turning them into the bbb and also all of the ceos to the business you all are selling out of office depot being one as I already got transfirst pulled from there shelfs last week whose next oh right square up is next! good luck you have been turned in bbb and the ceos dip shits stop ripping people off and stop being fucking idiots trying to hide information and I don't trust you with my info either!


Post a Comment

<< Home