Posts Tagged ‘Square’

Taxi prefers Square over regular credit card terminal

As I was getting from the airport to my hotel in Columbus, Ohio, I took a taxi. Upon disembarking, it was time to pay and I noticed a credit card device hanging at the back of the passenger seat (this seems to be more common in the USA these days thankfully). 

However, the driver told me not to swipe it there. He’d prefer to use Square as he would save on fees. So he plugged the Square dongle into his phone, swiped my card, I gave him his tip via the app, signed virtually, and the receipt automatically arrived via email.

A much better workflow for me (since I don’t have to deal with a paper receipt). But it got me thinking. Square charges a 2.75% fee up-front. This is by no means cheap. However it does guarantee the money in your bank account within a day or two.

I’m willing to bet that the device tethered to his cab might charge less (or close to equivalent?), but pay-out over a longer period of time. For whomever installed that device, they’re going to presume that no one uses the credit card terminal. This is the bonus of competition – the consumer isn’t affected (arguably, the consumer experience improved – it wasn’t too long ago that all taxis were cash-only affairs) and the driver wins.

Square helping the everyday entrepreneur

I arrived in San Francisco yesterday (Easter Sunday) and my usual shuttle service to Santa Clara had some issues fulfilling my journey (some 1h45m wait). So I took a taxi. As soon as I arrived at my destination, and he knew I was a techie, he said: “Look, a San Francisco startup has this cool device that helps independent entrepreneurs like me accept payments by all kinds of credit cards.”

He didn’t know what the device was called, but I immediately recognised it as the Square app (I’ve recently written about this space). On an Android phone. Found it interesting during tipping: 15%, 20%, or 25%. No option to enter your own choice. Enter your email address for a receipt (there’s also a phone number option, which I am sure I can’t use). Then the taxi driver writes one physically for you as well. I presume the driver gets money in his bank account in a rather short period of time.

How did it use to work? A manual scan on carbon paper with a device the credit card company provided. Probably submit the receipt and get paid within a much longer period of time. Or it used to be plain old cash — most drivers would never accept a card, preferring only cash.

Square uses: CentOS, Puppet, Ruby, Graphite, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redis. They also build the service on the JVM orchestrating Ruby on Rails, Sinatra, JRuby, MRI and Java. Incidentally, love the way they hire people — tell them what is required of them, then ask them to complete a task/programming example.

Square-like payment devices in Asia

Ever since I heard about Square, I was impressed. I was wowed when they used Square to accept payments at WordCampSF 2010 (May 2010). It all just felt right. Swipe the card, email the receipt. The experience felt like making a purchase at an Apple Store with their handheld point-of-sale systems. Square sadly never made it out of the USA and there were rumours that VeriFone and others were going to do similar things. Naysayers claimed security problems (square is magnetic stripe based, rather than chip-based last I used it). Alas, its 2012 and I’ve still not seen anything usable.

So it pleases me to see Swiff in Singapore and the fact that PayPal Here (product page) will also launch in Singapore. Malaysia seems to have SoftSpace. However its April 2012 now and the first reliably available service is Swiff.

Square is upfront with their costs – it basically takes 2.75% of the transaction. That’s considerably higher than the 1.8% charged by Malaysian banks. However it takes away the burden of renting a terminal which can set you back RM130-150/month, with the only option of a refund on that exceeding RM10,000 of transactions per month. And the chances that the terminal accepts “everything” tends to be slim (its usually just Visa/MasterCard). Swiff lacks fixed rates at the moment, and SoftSpace claims to be inundated with queries (but will support more security and have a chip reader).

PayPal might crack this though. They have experience with dealing with banks and banking regulations (Malaysia famously has BAFIA as law). Many tech-savvy people already tend to have a PayPal account (and if they don’t, maybe they’ll start one). They’ve also gone out with a flat 2.7% transaction fee.

I’m looking forward to more competition in this space. It can only lead to lower rates. And with bazaars, conferences, etc. this sort of thing can be very useful.