Best and easiest digital payment system for an outdoor market?
January 4, 2015 7:02 AM   Subscribe

People hate cash. I need to reluctantly enter the world of swiping cards and tapping phones in order to continue making a living. Help!

I'm a cash guy. I think it's easy, straightforward, and tactile. I love holding a big wad of it in my hand. Unfortunately, the world doesn't seem to agree.
I'm a seller at a weekly outdoor market during the summer. More and more frequently, people want to buy something but have NO CASH. They wander off towards the bank machine and frequently don't return.
I want to continue accepting and encouraging cash. But I also want a simple way to accept debit and credit cards so those hardcore cash haters will still give me their money.
And just to make it more challenging: I don't have a cell phone, and don't really want one. I have a laptop, and the marketplace has wifi, so I need a system that will work with a laptop.
How does all this work? Tutorials? Suggestions? Thanks!
posted by crazylegs to Work & Money (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you located geographically? Possible solutions will depend on which country you are in.
posted by needled at 7:06 AM on January 4, 2015

There's Paypal Here, but I don't know if it's available where you are.
posted by Solomon at 7:09 AM on January 4, 2015

I don't really want my smart phone either; I got it because it can be a personal wifi hotspot.

Your path of least resistance might be to pick up a shit-grade Android phone and use it with Square. Should work OK wifi-only if you simply fail to put a SIM in the phone.
posted by flabdablet at 7:10 AM on January 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

You can get Square and use it on any Android or iPad tablet or even an old iPod Touch, you don't need a smartphone.
posted by odinsdream at 7:14 AM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Only reason I suggested a phone is that I got mine for $70; haven't yet seen a tablet for under $100.
posted by flabdablet at 7:17 AM on January 4, 2015

There may be USB plug swipers for other POS services besides Square (including Paypal). Square is the easiest and most reliable company of this kind though (in my limited experience), and they only do phones/tablets.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:23 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in Kingston Ontario.
posted by crazylegs at 7:29 AM on January 4, 2015

If you're in Canada, I'd get one of those wireless credit card readers that pizza companies have. I looked into them (with Desjardins) and was surprised at how affordable they are. Debit fees are near-zero, monthly fees are reasonable. We don't accept credit cards, but the processing fees are standard. Most banks offer them. I usually see Desjardins and TD on the readers in stores here.

Another company I talked to was Zomaron -- we went with Desjardins because we use them for banking and payroll and are a big enough client that if there are problems we have some pull.
posted by jeather at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

FWIW, if a stranger offered me his laptop and suggested I log into paypal on his machine I'd say 'no thanks'. I guess you could ask people to pay you via paypal using their smartphones and check to make sure you got it on your computer, but to me the most obvious way to do this is buy an old iPod touch on craigslist and use square with it so you can actually swipe credit cards.
posted by arnicae at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

jeather - do these readers accept both credit and debit cards?
posted by crazylegs at 7:41 AM on January 4, 2015

Yes, they accept both -- I see them in markets and fairs a lot, as well as pizza delivery (and restaurants, stores, etc). Square doesn't accept debit in Canada, so I think it would be a weird idea -- if you are going to get something, get one thing that does all of it.
posted by jeather at 7:46 AM on January 4, 2015

> Only reason I suggested a phone is that I got mine for $70; haven't yet seen a tablet for under $100.

If you're looking to go cheap, they come down to around $50 for no-name brands running Android. WiFi is always there, but bluetooth is usually not available at that price (and not necessary for this function). Power connections aren't standard micro-USB, for example.

Square Register, which is the name of the gadget for reading cards, uses the 3.5mm stereo miniplug socket, so that's going to be the most critical thing.

Here is Square's list of requirements:
Google Android 4.0 or higher
A 3.5mm headset jack with microphone (audio jack adaptors are not supported)
Location services enabled
Access to Google Play

And you'll need Wifi set up to communicate the transactions, as mentioned above-- that may be done through a portable Wifi hotspot-- since this is low-data transactions, I'd be willing to be the cheapest plan from FreedomPop would work great here. Square can swipe in offline mode, but you run the risk of giving merch to someone who has a declined card. Ask other merchants what the decline rate is.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:10 AM on January 4, 2015

Additionally, consider offering a slight discount for using cash (or an increase for using a card) if that's what you want to encourage.
posted by cecic at 9:34 AM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Under the terms of many card processing agreements, you can't put a surcharge on for card use, so read the fine print. I've never read of anyone being hassled for giving a cash discount, though, which is essentially the same thing if you hike your prices a smidge.
posted by at 10:05 AM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came to also say square. It's the budget option that people trust. As for getting the dirt-cheap tablet or smartphone try's like cell phone ebay. (Just be sure to Google up the specs to make sure they meet the requirements. ..mostly it will be the android 4.0 or higher...they mostly all have gps and headphone jacks)
If it's cash you want to take, keep it in the back of the cash box, only bring it out when people ask, and charge an extra 25 or 50 cents for it "the fees they charge me are astronomical, don't you know"
posted by sexyrobot at 10:54 AM on January 4, 2015

Ask around...someone you know probably has a deactivated smart phone sitting in a drawer that will still work on wifi with square.
posted by tamitang at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Square will be taking Interac (our Canadian debit system) sometime early this year, so it will be the perfect solution for your problem.
posted by Meagan at 12:40 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Follow-up: Moneris' Payd system currently accepts both debit and credit and charges nothing for debit transactions, but the system costs $20/month to use. Certainly an option!
posted by Meagan at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2015

A Moto E is $129 or a G is $189 if you want a cheap smartphone that doesn't completely suck to use with Square or the Paypal reader or whatever.

Refurb (2013, do not get the 2012 model) Nexus 7s can be had for under $200 also. The LTE version is a bit more expensive.
posted by wierdo at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2015

People understand that it costs to use a card, but don't exaggerate the fees for Square or whatever you use as being "astronomical" and an excuse to add a surcharge (which may be against terms of service.) Everyone else selling at the market will be using Square or something and are happily telling people it is the low fees that make using it by small businesses possible. I know, because I do this when I sell at art fairs & people are surprised I can take cards of all types, including AMEX.

An alternative to adding a surcharge is to set a limit on what amount you will accept for a card purchase. Honestly, though, the sales you would have lost that you will now have because they can buy right now will more than make up for the fees. I, too, have seen people wander away to find an ATM; it is a surprise when they return, cash in hand.

You are fortunate that the market has wifi, since that means you only need a wifi-enabled device that works with the system you choose, not a cell phone with a data plan. Square makes it easy to set up an account & gives you the card reader (other serves may do so, too).
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 2:03 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Square or Clover. There's a reason people use these things.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:24 PM on January 4, 2015

As debit/interac is the number one way Canadians pay, more than either cash or credit, you really do not want to go a route that excludes it.

The major options appear to be Chase, TD, Moneris, Desjardins and Global Payments. RBC and BMO are associated with Moneris, CIBC Global and Scotiabank Chase.
posted by jeather at 5:51 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Square. I sell at comic conventions and love it. It takes anything with a magnetic stripe.

Get an iPod, a tablet, or a used phone. Don't bother putting in a SIM card.

Note: the US banks are shifting to chip-and-pin cards, and Square is putting out new readers soon that will read those. I've got one of those on order. The old magstripe reader was free, the new one will cost you a few bucks. It will still pay for itself pretty damn quickly.

(I am assuming that Canadian banks, like US banks, are still on magtripe cards.)

Alternatively: blow off an hour or so of a market day, wander around and chat with the other vendors. See what they use to take cards and why.
posted by egypturnash at 11:48 PM on January 4, 2015

The laptop thing is kind of a no-go, sorry. people are used to square on a phone/ipod/tablet. Many people would be weirded out by the laptop.

Browsing through your local craigslist, i found several 5th gen ipod touches(the current model, which will be supported with updates for quite a while) around $115-140.

Square sends you a reader for free.

I know a lot of people who vend everything from clothes to vegetables. Food trucks, you name it. EVERYONE uses square. It's just the standard. Everyone trusts it, everyone knows what it is already. They're also super good at pumping the money in to your account quickly(unlike freaking paypal), and quickly sending out extra/replacement readers. They also have lower fees than paypal.

It's the standard for a reason, and i specifically recommend an ipod touch because the battery life(even just on wifi) will far outstrip any cheapo android device, of which even the better ones most have meh battery life. You could get through several days of a big swap meet/etc without charging an ipod.

The other problem with a crap-tier android phone is you actually have to know what to look for OS wise to find one that works with square, and also getting one with a screen that isn't completely washed out in daylight and big enough for people to easily read/sign on. The screen on the ipod touch is very bright, decent sized, and generally excellent/readable. I also feel like, and i know this is subjective and dumb, it just looks more professional.(the included wrist landyard is slick too, you can just keep the thing strapped to your arm).

Another decent option is an ipad mini. just the original, basic one. Those can be had for $150 or even less no problem(i've almost bought one for $100 more than once recently). I know several vendors, and oddly several bars that use those for exactly this, with square.
posted by emptythought at 4:03 AM on January 5, 2015

I picked up a Square reader for $10 at the FedEx store near work. Took about 5 minutes to set up, which included a refund of my $10. Not some sort of credit or voucher, even--at the end of signup, I had the full purchase price in my checking account, even if I had never used the unit again.

Give it a shot, see if it works for you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:10 AM on January 5, 2015

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