Hip To Be Square

28 02 2010

I love to go out to eat with friends. In fact, for me, eating is almost a competitive sport…not so much to see the quantity I can consume, but to see who can one-up the others by finding cool new places to try.

The problem comes at the end of the meal if the server is not willing to divide the check. What was once a great meal digresses into money-changing. “I only have Yuppie food coupons. Anyone got change for a $20?” And it takes a half hour to settle up the bill. Many times I’ll just grab the bill and hand over my Visa to the server.”Here…I’ve got it this time.”

The Square iPhone payment dongle solves everything. “Just gimme your card and I’ll hit your account for your part,” is what I’ll be telling my dining companions.

Imagine the possibilities for P2P transactions…Craigslist, garage sales, Girl Scout Cookies…you name it. Anything that once involved cash or checks between peers can now be paperless and instantaneous. And your server will love you for not keeping his table occupied any longer than need be.

Even better, the Square is the perfect solution for small businesses in need of mobile credit card processing. Wireless terminals are expensive and carry hefty transaction costs. Square allows Mom-and-Pop businesses to be ready to make the sale regardless of location…just as long as there is a decent cell phone signal.

The Square app provides for photo verification (if an image of the payee is stored online); all the payee need do is sharpen their fingertip so they can sign the iPhone touchscreen.

There has long been a need for alternative payment systems, both for businesses and between individuals. Cash is dead, and checks are so 1975. While the Square does not necessarily do away with transaction costs, it is a step in the right direction…a direction that minimizes the ability of third-party players to stick their hand in your pocket every time you swipe a card. TwitPay, PayPal and (yes) even iTunes are variations on this theme, with direct payments via Twitter, streamlined web shopping carts and payment gateways, and apps that can charge subscriptions.

It’s enough to make me want to grab lunch with some friends today. I’m not buying…but I’m happy to pay. If you know what I mean.

Dr “Fair and Square” Gerlich


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