Square: One user's review

Square is very visible. Their hardware is immediately recognizable. As a shareholder, I always ask folks how they like it when I see it in use.

A couple of days ago, in a coffee shop in Maui, I noticed that they used square, so I asked the proprietor (while she served my iced latte) what she thought of the system. There were communication problems. She was Japanese and spoke with a heavy accent. She also spoke as if translating word for word, so I had to try and unravel the grammar, and she was very soft-spoken, my hearing has been somewhat damaged from years of standing in front of amplifiers as a rock musician.

But given all that, it was clear that she was not happy. So far as I could determine her main complaint was that the system was slow. Her business depends on speed of service and so far as she was concerned the user interface was simply cumbersome, forcing her to waste time in order to page through different screens in order to post a simple transaction.

I did not try to pursue configuration, I don’t know if this is inherent to Square, or if she had simply failed to configure the system to best address her needs. But either way, it was an interesting insight. I asked if she had taken the issue up with Square and she replied that she had with no remedy. It might have been no response, I’m not sure - But then maybe Square didn’t know what to make of the complaint either???

Every other Square user I’ve spoken with has been very happy with the system and service, but none of them have been so dependent on speed of execution for generation of revenue.

I’m still long and do not plan to sell any shares due to one user’s complaints. But, with my 30 years in IT, having designed numerous UI’s it seems like this would be an easy fix.

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I’m still long and do not plan to sell any shares due to one user’s complaints. But, with my 30 years in IT, having designed numerous UI’s it seems like this would be an easy fix

It also seems like we would be hearing a lot more about it. As a Software engineer, I notice UI design a lot and have seen plenty of bad ones, so I think there would be plenty of complaints. (Don’t get me started on the old Comcast remote control vs FIOS. Arrrrrrg!)

There definitely is an art (science?) to setting up the square POS when you have a large item selection with many modifiers.

I could very well see that if the system is not setup with forethought, it would be difficult to use.

If they have just one big long list of items, where you have to scroll to find the things, that would be incredibly frustrating. If you use categories and modifiers to organize things, that might make for a more efficient system.

Here’s a simple example:
Large Iced Coffee with double shot of espresso and a pump of vanilla.

Depending on how the system is designed, this might require pushing lots of buttons:
(Iced Espresso) (Large) [add]
[Add On] (Espresso Shot) [add]
[Add On] (Vanilla) [add]

That’s still a 9 button press, 3 item sale.
And you better have a Tablet setup and not just a phone, cause phone navigation would be a bear.

Unfortunately, the documentation doesn’t provide a nice walk-through of how would one come up with a good system for a food business. This is definitely an area where square could improve.

I think smaller players like Clover or ShopKeep probably make it easier.

PalmettoDude

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Thanks Dude,
I’ve seen Square in a couple of other restaurants but neither of them were the kind of shops where there was a line of people waiting for service. I know nothing of the Square UI. But, in all other cases where I’ve seen it, the transaction did not require an itemization, just a final price for goods/services rendered.

The first time I noticed Square was at a moving sale. The folks had some pricey stuff and the seller wanted to be able to accept credit cards. Square with a phone dongle was the answer. Even though it was a one-shot deal, I thought it was pretty cool. Square had enabled the seller to hurdle a major stumbling block. How many garage/estate/moving sales are there every day in America? Probably thousands. Thing is, I don’t know if Square makes money or loses it on a one shot client.

Nevertheless, for a more complicated situation (as in the coffee shop scenario) I would think that configuration would be the key. The way you described it sounds pretty much like the owner’s complaint, she said something about having to go through several pages for every transaction. I have no idea why she could not have just entered a final price for the order, but it sounded like she was somehow inhibited by the UI. Maybe, she just didn’t understand how to set it up optimally. Could also be that a local IT consultant set the system up for her inappropriately without actually understanding the business situation (I’ve seen that repeatedly).

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I have no idea why she could not have just entered a final price for the order, but it sounded like she was somehow inhibited by the UI.

Just recording the price tracks only the sale. Entering the item prices the order and tracks what is actually being sold. Very different results.

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At our bookstore, we use Square as a “dumb” credit card pad and just enter the total, but we have a dedicated POS system specifically for books. Square would be totally unsuitable as a POS in that situation.

Regarding the “one-off/infrequent” users: When you sign up for square (which costs nothing to anybody, the square cost is so negligible to add one more user), you get one free phone jack dongle (which probably costs square a couple of dollars).
Any transaction swiped going forward will net square a 2.75% commission.
So on a $1,000 day, square makes $27.50
Even if the user never makes another sale, square probably broke even (I’m sure square doesn’t retain the whole 2.75% they probably have to pay close to 2% to various 3rd party involved in these credit card transactions).

As another poster mentioned above, the reason you break out your products is so you can do analysis. what sells, what doesn’t, If you have inventory, that can let you know when to reorder, etc…
Square has an incredibly rich dashboard that tells you which time are most busy, which day you sell the most, how many return customers you have, manage a loyalty program, have a mailing list, etc…

From her comment about multiple pages, sounds like she definitely has a poorly configured system.
By the way, unlike some other POS, if you spend a bit of time and do a bit of experimentation, it is really not difficult to configure the square system, or even change things around so the need for an IT consultant is diminished. But that is one more thing a business owner would have to dedicate scarce time to.

If one were to look at other high-volume food establishments like Starbucks or McD, their POS is probably organized with the highest selling items having a hot button and all the specialty like hold the ketchup, add pickles and no bun (yes, that’s a thing on a burger…) are in sub-categories.

While the square UI is not as dense, you can probably pack about 20 to 25 buttons on a tablet screen. Dedicate 10 to your best sellers and categorize the rest.

That being said, I’m sure there are shortcomings as Clover and ShopKeep are fairly well established in the Coffee Shop/Food business, not to mention the existing restaurant POS systems found in most chains and higher end places.

Square is a general purpose POS that’s easy to use for Mom & Pop shops, artisans, specialty use like remote sales away from the main location, etc…

Incredibly flexible and super easy to setup and use - I’ve probably setup 4 or 5 different Square accounts over the years, but only have 2 currently in active use.

PalmettoDude

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Square is very visible. Their hardware is immediately recognizable. As a shareholder, I always ask folks how they like it when I see it in use.

At my local farmers market, almost every farmer is now using Square. When I ask, they almost always tell me they make many more sales now due to their ability to use credit cards.

When I get my haircut, the lady accepts CC’s due to using Square on her phone. She loves it as well.

my hearing has been somewhat damaged from years of standing in front of amplifiers as a rock musician.

Just curious, were you in a band that we might recognize?

Fool on,

mazske

All holdings are listed in my profile

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Just curious, were you in a band that we might recognize?

Most likely not. My most successful band was a psychedelic rock band in the 60s playing the Chicago area. We were called “The Holy Om” or just the “Om.” The name was derived from the writings of Herman Hesse. We played most of the major clubs like the Cheetah and the Electric Theater in Chicago and some of the lesser clubs in the Old Town area. We played mostly originals written by myself and the bass player (I played rhythm guitar).

Aaron Russo managed the Electric Theater. He offered us a management contract but we felt the terms unfair so we didn’t sign. He returned to NYC from whence he came after the club burned down under suspicious circumstances and later went on to manage Bette Midler for nine years.

Oh well . . . No regrets really, I’m still alive. Had I found fame and fortune in my youth there’s a high likelihood I would not have survived to enjoy it in my later years.

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Dude,
Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I’m aware of the benefits of detailed records, but this is a coffee shop, I’m guessing a one person owner/operator business. She really doesn’t need Square to tell her what her most popular items are. She knows. Inventory? She can look at the shelf and see the vanilla syrup is down to one bottle. Like I said, communication wasn’t great, and I didn’t want to hold her up with a lot of questions. But I really think just had the thing configured very poorly for her operation and didn’t know she could swap things around.

Oh well, she was still using the system. One unhappy customer is not going to damage Square’s business. But it seems that her complaint could be easily remedied by someone who knew what they were doing. But there is a lesson in there. Like maybe Square should have a certification program for consultants or something like that.

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