Trendspotting: Square and the democratization of card swipes

We went to Ren fest this weekend. It remains cool. I’ll add, my first Ren fest was in say 1976-77, cuz my parents were semi-hip. What I remember from those days was the ubiquitous presence of wine skins.

Saturday, without any exceptions that I could spot, the mom and pop crafters and jewelers took payments with the little smart phone fob from Square. I had been seeing the Square logo around a lot lately. I asked a feller with a booth about them. Say, how fast does your money come down to the bank with Square? Overnight, he said. They don’t charge any monthly fees either, he said.

Wa-hut? I’m paying $70+ a month (with the same 2.75% or so swipe fee). I enrolled in Square when I got home and requested cancellation papers from my other service this morning. That’s how market competition happens baby.

It was 4 years ago or so that my side business hit critical mass. I needed to take card payments, among other things. My bank referred me to a traditional processor. This processor hemmed and hawed, and looked at my book of business. At multiple tens of thousands in annual sales it was yet a ways off from their ostensible 50K minimum, and over a 3 or 4 day vetting period it seemed like they were wholly unenthusiastic. Still, they did enroll me and I am sure they have no regrets about that.

Square enrolled me, period. It took about 2-3 minutes over the PC. With reduced fees and reduced vetting, I have to imagine the amount of business they are capturing is turning the traditional industry upside down.

One notable, practical difference: Years ago this traditional processor assured me Visa / MC / Discover would take everything I own, including my wife and children, if I compromised anyone’s card information and it resulted in a loss. Seems to me I signed 4 or 5 documents that acknowledged their power to do just that. There was none of that with Square over the PC. The culpability / liability there has been rethought or underwritten in a different way it seems.

Update:  Got home, and this had come in the mail. May have to go with Amazon.

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