Is It Hip To Use Square?

The one benefit of having such a fantastic group of readers is I can always count on them to help fill the gaps in my direct knowledge. Case in point, I’m hoping that someone out there has had some firsthand experience with the credit card reader and processing service from Squareup.com…

A few colleagues have mentioned this service to me over the past month but no one has direct experience using it. Online and Apple App Store reviews are mostly good and it looks like an extraordinarily simple solution for taking donations during a live fundraising event, which is exactly how I’m interested in using it. In particular, during an upcoming fundraiser in the LA area for the HEARTbeats Foundation (full disclosure: I am an executive committee member for the foundation).

Of course, good old fashioned checks are the solid standby but given that LA is more of a tech oriented crowd, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to have this service handy. It’s a good excuse to carry my iPad around with me during the event plus it’s no more expensive than using PayPal, which is what the foundation uses for online donations.

Speaking of online donations, everyone should head over to the HEARTbeats website and do two things:

  1. Make a donation.
  2. Sign up for our benefit album release notice.
Square's card reader looks pretty simple, doesn't it?

The album is simply fantastic. We have Christine Brewar, Jessye Norman, Lynn Harrell, Placido Domingo, Blind Boys of Alabama, Joan Baez, Sting, Maroon5, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews as well as arrangements by John Williams (who also conducted our studio orchestra recording session) and Randy Kerber. We’re looking at a June/July release and until then, we have photo galleries of the recording sessions available at the Foundation’s website.

Your donation will support our ongoing efforts in Nepal to help children in need harness the power of music to better cope with, and recover from, the extreme challenges of poverty and conflict. This will be accomplished by providing year-round direct services to children and families of need in the form of on-site musical and artistic involvement within a therapeutic context. Our program specialists will work with and document progress for a core group of children as well as provide ongoing services for as many additional children in the immediate area as possible via the brick-and-mortar HEARTbeats drop-in center in Bhaktapur (BTW, naming rights are still available).

But I digress…

If anyone out there has some firsthand experience with the Square credit card system (website), I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to post what you know as a comment or send me an email. At the very least, it could be a handy tool for others out there and if I end up using it during the event, I’ll post something about my experiences with it.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “Is It Hip To Use Square?

  1. I’ve been using the Square reader for about 6 months now and love it. I’m using it to process credit card payments for private lessons as an alternative to the constant battle of cash and checks. Initially I had a lot of problems getting cards to read and process, so I’d have to manually type in the credit card numbers. An update to their software about 4 months ago seems to have fixed that – most cards swipe the first time, some take a second swipe.

    I’ve suggested the solution to a couple of local performing organizations, but none have taken me up on it to date.

    • I wasn’t thinking about private instruction but it doesn’t take much to see how beneficial something like this would be for that avenue. The only downside compared to checks/cash is the service fee Square charges, unless you work that into the payment as a fee of some sort.

      Question: do you use the cellular connection or have you also been able to use a wi-fi connection as well?

      • The service fee is worth it to me to avoid the constant trips to a bank to deposit checks. I’d also been using PayPal for a while to do automatic billing for lessons to generate a level of commitment since they had already paid for the lesson automatically.

        I’ve used both the cellular & Wi-Fi connections. Normally I use cellular simply because the location that I use this at doesn’t have Wi-Fi available, but there have been two or three special situations where I’ve used square on an iPad in a Wi-Fi hotspot where it worked great.

    • Didn’t get a chance to get back on here yesterday to look at the conversation, so a bit late to your comment.

      The fees are a flat rate that includes the credit card processing – they handle all of that for you as part of the percentage of the transaction that they take, similar to PayPal.

  2. Drew,

    Our barber has been using this for the past couple of months. I get an e-mail receipt. It sure beats writing him a check or paying cash. He has a Verizon smartphone on a Droid OS (I think).

  3. The Colorado Springs Philharmonic has been using Square (about half the office staff has iPhones – and I have an iPad) for the past few months for our onsite credit card processing, as we rent at our performance venue. It’s really simplified our payment process, and even our older patrons have not showed any hesitation about the email- and text-only receipts.

    We too had some issues with cards not scanning on the first swipe, but once everyone got the hang of the swipe reader it’s gone quite smoothly.

    We primarily use it for just one thing: sales of guest musician CDs and seasonal packages (we do a “Date Night Double” pack from Thanksgiving through Valentines – basically partner up with another performance arts venue to offer tickets and a few extras, like dinner gift cards as a gift pack). All our subscription packages are processed back at the office.

    I’d highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t want to drop $300-$500 on a merchant card reader from their bank or Verifone-like service, and I’m completely convinced that the “open letter” (http://www.sq-skim.com/) that Verifone offered up last week is because their scared out of their minds by services like Square. Verifone’s claims in the letter seem quite ridiculous when one considers that every credit card has all the information encoded on the magnetic strip in plain view printed on it, and if someone wants to steal it with their iPhone they can take it to the back counter and snap a photo of it in about 5 seconds.

    I highly recommend the service for small and medium size performing arts groups that need a reasonably priced, straightforward solution for credit card processing on the go.

    • Many thanks for the very informative firsthand account Nathan! That’s very helpful on a number of levels and I’m very glad to see that a nonprofit group is having some success with it.

      Another big thank you for mentioning the Verifone letter. All things being equal, it would make sense to have their claims tested by an independent organization but in the end, your point about obtaining information form a card’s magnetic strip is pretty solid and reinforces the basic idea that anyone’s credit card in the hands of an individual with criminal intent can pretty much guarantee that their card will be compromised. It has far more to to do with intent than hardware.

      BTW: one of the benefits of having a user account at Adaptistration is you can edit your comments directly after they have been approved!

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