#15 App to take credit cards at an offsite event

NEIBA Question of the Week #15

The NEIBA Board members are starting a Question of the Week on the NEIBA Group at Yahoo! Groups (our Listserv). The goal is to share everyone’s common knowledge about bookselling or anything related to independent bookstores.  It is our hope that after the Board has run through with their questions other members will continue the asking.

This week’s question is:

We’re thinking of using an iPhone app to take credit cards at an offsite event. There’s a 2.75% fee per sale (3.5% if the number has to be hand-entered), no additional flat charges, and a method for refunds if a mistake is made.

Handy for instant card approval, instead of having to offsite-batch the cards on the machine and just hope they get approved (no phone line we can use on this site for verification). Receipts can be texted or emailed.

Sounds too good to be true…. Has anyone run into problems with these?

Thanks, Elizabeth Bluemle, The Flying Pig Bookstore

Carol Thomas, Small Churl Books

While I still have a wireless terminal for events, I know several people who are using an iPhone and Square, and are quite satisfied. The younger the customers, the more they prefer the electronic receipts, I’m told.

If my terminal fails, I plan to get an iPhone and do it that way myself, rather than go to the expense of replacing it.

Becky Dayton, Vermont Book Shop

I use Square and have never encountered any problems.

Janet Blevins, Knight Equestrian Books

I’ve been using Inner Fence’s CCterminal app for iPhone for more than three years and am quite pleased with it. Once Apple OK’d the card swipe attachment for iPhone and iPad, it has been close to perfect. I do note that there are several competing apps out there now, and it is worth it to read all the user comments and the fine print from company. Inner Fence’s current fees (including monthly service charges to them and to Authorize.net) are considerably higher than the terms I got (and still have).

Two others mentioned in user evaluations in the app store are Square and EXSCreditCardProcessing.com. I can’t speak to either of those, but I would definitely check them out if I were in the market now. But the basic use of iPhone as cc terminal is a no brainer.

Alice Hutchinson, Byrd’s Books

I just started using Square, as well.

Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books & Music

Square is great! We just used it last weekend for a large offsite conference, and it was SO EASY. It can run either on the iPhone or iPad with wifi or 3G. Then they deposit the $ in your bank account the next business day. If anyone has any specific questions I’d be happy to answer off-list.

Go forth & sell offsite! –Suzanna

Dick Hermans, Oblong Books & Music

We used the iPhone app at a farmer’s market a couple weeks ago and it worked very well. Money gets deposited the next day. We also did a pretty big conference last weekend using an iPad. There’s a bit more capability with the iPad app. You can set up inventory items and it will add up a multiple item transaction. Gotta love emailing folks a receipt. And people love to sign with their fingertip. Five star rating from me.

Pat Fowler, Village Square Booksellers

Ray from Vermont Festivals (Roots on the River) has used Square for a year or more with their phone, no problems for tickets and t-shirt sales at the festival. I have one, know it works, just ended up getting cash. Set it up to work with my 3g IPAD2. Verizon service was available at the Herricks Cove Nature festival site, on the CT River just North of Exit 6 entrance to I91. There was a vendor using it at NEIBA last Fall. Seems reliable. Better than no sale or 4% from a bank card vendor.

Elizabeth Bluemle, Flying Pig Bookstore

Thanks, everyone!

We did use Square tonight at the Alison Bechdel event, and it went really smoothly. People loved it. “I feel like I’m in New York,” someone said. They were also, like Dick’s customers, delighted to sign with their fingertip. Very cute. As long as we see the correct deposit in the bank on Monday, this will definitely be the way to go for us with offsite events.

Thanks again for your input, Elizabeth

Wendy Hudson, Nantucket Bookworks

I love Square, especially on iPads. We used it running on multiple iPads (borrowed some from friends) yesterday for our book festival, where we were selling in four different venues. Only issue is wifi access, so you may want a mobile hotspot or 3G enabled iPad.

I loaded all the titles as items in the Square account ahead of time so all you do is touch the icon and swipe. Faster than a cash register! Hoping that helps me track the inventory somewhat accurately, but that’s a project for Monday morning : )

Elizabeth Bluemle, Flying Pig Bookstore

I love the idea of pre-loading the titles into Square and processing the entire sale on the phone/iPad, instead of having to key in the sales on the laptop.

I suppose we’d set up the offsite event as a book fair in Anthology, and process it that way. And then delete those inventory items from Square before the next offsite event to keep things tidy and streamlined.

A couple of tests will show which saves more time in the long run….

Thanks again, everyone. I am always so grateful to have access to the collective brain.

Claire Benedict, Bear Pond Books

We’ve been using the Square for a few months and love it. We’ve found no drawbacks. The email or text your receipt option can slow you down when you’re at a busy event so I recommend bringing and old fashioned paper receipt book with you. You can also send receipts later if a customer calls a few days later looking for one. It’s a well thought-out service.

Wendy, how did you load the titles on the Square?

Annie Philbrick, Bank Square

With Square how do you then reconcile the sales with your POS like Wordstock? Do you sell them as a batch?

Judy Crosby, Island Books

We also use Square on our iPad and set up individual items which is extremely helpful when you’re selling more than one title. Makes things go much faster with no keying errors. You can do cash (I include checks here) transactions on Square, too. It helps keep track of what we’ve sold. When we come back we sell everything through the cash register and use cash, check and square as tenders so it all comes through on the z-tape and the bookkeeper knows what to expect to hit our account from square.

We love it and so do our customers!

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

Well, we don’t do any of this. I just load our inventory data onto my laptop and go off with a barcode scanner, receipt printer, and credit card swiper. It’s like taking the store (or one cash register, at least) with you. I guess I am the only bookseller who doesn’t use Apple products yet? We find the process is very easy, unless there’s no wifi where we’re going. Then there’s an extra step. We use Anthology software, not sure if other systems provide this kind of service.

Josie Leavitt, Flying Pig Bookstore

We have anthology as well. The square reader allows you to know immediately if a card has been declined. It also allows for faster processing and time consuming re entry of data when the event is over.

The reader works with almost any smart phone.

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

Don’t misunderstand me, with the laptop we get all the same functionality and speed we have in the store with credit cards, and uploading the event sales/inventory after the event takes just a few minutes. Very simple process.

Judy Crosby, Island Books

We have Anthology too but don’t have the off-site module nor do we do a ton of off-site events so it wouldn’t think it would be worth it for us.

Until just a few months ago we were still handwriting the credit card info and entering the transaction back at the store with fingers crossed that all would go through okay.

Square is certainly much easier (and safer) than me writing down numbers, etc. and it does work on multiple platforms. I have it on my phone, too but I like the ipad because it’s easier to use and to see – clumsy fingers and tired old eyes lead to mistakes…

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

Heh, we used to use the handwriting method as wellundefinedso glad not to have to do that anymore!

Caitlin Doggart, Where The Sidewalk Ends

We haven’t migrated to using apps off-site either. Like you, Michael, we use Anthology’s off-site sales module on a laptop which we invested in before the ipad came along. I do like the convenience of having the whole store’s inventory visible on our laptop and one step to “sync” what was sold with our store server after the event, although simply going to an event with an iphone and swiper sounds appealingly streamlined!

It seems like both methods involve some prep to keep the inventory organized – we then have a scanner, receipt printer, credit card swiper all plugged into the laptop plus a 3G card in case there is no wi-fi. We do process credit cards instantaneously via our regular processor which allows us our standard fees even off-site; it’s just like we are in the store.

When lightning struck our store two years ago on a rainy (therefore crowded!) summer day and our internet and computers were fried, we panicked and then brought out the 3G + offsite laptop and merrily rang up sales. Always nice to have these type of options as backup in-store too….