Finally, To the Future of A CASHLESS World: Squareup and Smartphones
I am a touch odd – in the fact that I despise actual cash and sun dried tomatoes. The practice of carrying actual cash in my wallet has always stressed me out to no end, from the time I had to handle my own expenses. Its because you are asking me to predict the future. Can you predict the future ? Its because, you are asking me predict how much I might need to spend this evening. I don’t know is the simple response to that question. It might be five bucks for a couple of Americano’s at the local Starbucks over a book, it may be fifty bucks over beers with friends on a decent night, it may be hundred bucks over the latest New York Times bestsellers at Barnes and Noble, or it might be a couple of hundred bucks when am feeling pretty adventurous with my Christmas shopping. I don’t know, and I simply do not want to think about it. I am a huge proponent of not thinking, when I don’t need to, so please do not ask me to.
So, have you ever thought about why certain cheap (I call them – classless and crass) shops do not accept cards ? It is because when you pay using your visa, master card or american express, the card company takes a fraction of the transaction Ofcourse, the shops that are so inexorably cheap think that they save, if we only pay in cash. But what are you really telling me, when you say you don’t accept cards ? Essentially, you say you don’t value me over the parasitic margins of profits that you make if you don’t use my card, right ? But from my perspective, it is all about user-experience, if I purchase a good from you, I need the monetary transaction to be as fluid as possible. When you don’t value my user experience, you not only lose my business that time, but you lose it forever. In the end you lose more than you gain. There is no way I would step into a shop that only accepts cash – I am fairly positive there are a number of great tasty little food joints around the city. I do – I passionately despise shops that take only cash. They put themselves before the customers. Ofcourse, I understand in some cases that it is driven by sheer economics and the shop owner can use every penny she can get, that’s fine. I do not have a problem with it, I just will not give you any of my business.Why would I ? Its a free market and I have millions of options – for a tasty dinner.
To each of those shops that demand cash – Welcome to the 21st Century. Not only are you one step behind now, but two gigantic steps behind technological evolution. Its not that dissimilar to using Office 2003 in a modern day setting. You may as well close the doors tonight, and find another craft.
I went to Comet this time in Ann Arbor – if the Gods wanted a cappuccino, this is the cafe they would go to in my home town. As one of my statistics professors in Michigan so elegantly phrased it, ‘Coffee is the nectar of the Gods, right ?’. I saw a neat white (apple white) square block connected to an iPhone, using which the barista swiped my card. No card machine, no huge card reader monstrosities, no wires connected to the wall – a simple rectangular white square not too dissimilar from a poker chip. It was attached to the iPhone and she swiped my card in it. I paid my five bucks for the cappuccino, signed electronically, even got my receipt sent to my email electronically – and walked out in less than three minutes.
Welcome to Squareup – founded by Jack Dorsey, the original inventor (and later ousted) of our Tweet-Universe. That is ingenuity draped in elegance. Jack basically changed the way we pay for goods – for decades to come. Every small retail shop and organic cafes can have a Squareup now – because it only charges 2.75% of the transaction in return (much lower than other card companies). Squareup just went pro – it recently signed a partnership with Starbucks, and the eventual intention is to not even make us carry a card to get a cup of vanilla latte. You have an app called ‘Pay with Square‘ for iPhones, iPad and ofcourse – Androids. When you download the app – you essentially enter all your card details such as your name and card number on your phone, and have it electronically saved on your mobile device. Your device will already determine the Starbucks stores in the vicinity that use Squareup, and it will display the various locations of the same. In this framework, you do not pay using your card details, but by using your own name.
As you walk into a Starbucks from a really hot day for an iced Americano, the barista at the counter has her Squareup. Her iPhone will already tell her that your name is ‘Maryam Dagher’, and you just walk up to the counter and say, ‘Hello, My name is Maryam Dagher, and can I have an iced venti Americano, Please ?’. She identifies your name on her mobile, processes the transaction and you walk out with your iced Americano in less than two minutes. No cash, and not even cards – and it can potentially extend to any business around the world.
Isn’t it technological heaven ? As we rapidly approach a world where we don’t even need to carry our credit cards, to purchase goods any more – I just wanted to provide an honorable mention to those shops that still require cash. C-A-S-H – the last time I used cash was when Jesus Christ walked this earth, and I heard even he tried to use his master-card, when he went out for coffee with Mary Magdalene.
PS: A special happy bday for one of good friends, who indeed bought an iced Americano at Starbucks, using Pay with Square