Have you heard about the new “Square”? As in, “Are we square?” It’s a new square-shaped gizmo that gives people a way to accept credit card payments on their iPhone, iPad, or Android. It was invented by Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, a guy who knows something about new ideas that catch on with people carrying cell phones.
Prior to this, really only business owners could accept credit card payments. A standard credit card machine costs several hundred dollars, and credit card processing companies charge set-up fees and monthly fees (whether you make any charges or not), as well as high per-transaction fees to boot. That’s why ordinary folks don’t own a credit card machine. According to its Web site, the small Square device is free and plugs into the earphone jack, the downloadable app for it is free, there are no set-up or monthly fees, and the per-transaction costs are much lower. It’s secure, it E-mails the receipts, and it keeps track of all your cash and credit card transactions for you.
The New York Times calls the idea “beautiful, simple, and a joy to use.” Add to that “disruptive, brilliant, and irresistible.”
Disruptive? You bet. Not only is every kid with a lemonade stand--and every Tupperware lady and every cab driver and plumber--now going to be able to take credit and debit cards, big companies like department stores and chain restaurants would be crazy not to switch for the lower fees and free equipment. The credit card companies are not going to like this one bit.
What it does is make it easier for customers to pay small business owners such as women with home trunk shows, day care workers, even dog walkers. Many charities who couldn’t afford a credit card machine for fundraising events could now use this for charitable donations. You can even add tips to the total for people in the service industry. For better or for worse, it could...