Unexpected Consequences – Square

A few months back, I noticed that most of the small businesses around my home were starting to switch over to Square to take payments. In some cases because the old modem based credit card reader had broken. For many it was a way to save a few bucks on transaction charges from their bank, and to have a more flexible payment method.

Now I love this product. Because it’s a web based service, it is typically hooked up with an iPad as a cash register. Over time, Square learns about your credit card, and even emails you a receipt.

And early on, it occurred to me that there was an unexpected consequence to this easy way of paying (at least in the service arena). Once you’ve ordered, the cashier will typically flip the iPad toward you to approve the purchase, and on that screen, you’ll be prompted with some choices as to how much you’d like to tip.

If it’s a cup of coffee, it will suggest 1, or 2 bucks, with an additional selection if you want to manually enter an amount, and another for no tip. For larger purchase it gives you varying percentages (and you can still enter a specific amount or choose not to tip).

But what occurred to me after seeing this, was that they’d made it SO easy to tip, that I figured they’d be seeing more tips. And from my discussions with a couple of the owners of a couple of places, at least anecdotally, that is the case.

Before when you swiped your card, you had to think about what you wanted to tip, write it in, and hope that it got to the people you were trying to tip. With this system, you tap once on a screen to approve the purchase and the tip.

I love technology like this that incrementally improves life. Square makes the cash register better, and as a side benefit makes your barista or wait staff much happier.

Hi, I’m Rob Weaver