Pay With Square

I’ve been giving a lot of consideration lately to the concept of choice – more importantly, how we choose. It’s far from a new concept and I’m certainly not the first person to think about it, but a lot of my work these days is very much focused on what we want and how we get it.

My mornings usually start out with leaving the house to get breakfast. I could certainly make breakfast for myself and save money, but I’ve budgeted things like this in because I know it helps me focus. I work from home and most of what I’m doing these days is writing and thinking, and it’s pretty hard for me to get started when the place I was just sleeping is two feet away from me. So I’ve taken to leaving the house to grab a coffee and some breakfast – when I get home, I’m full and happy and took some time for myself, and I’m dressed and ready to move forward with my day.

Within six blocks of my apartment, there are ten coffee shops that I can think of off the top of my head. If you extend that number by three or four more blocks, the possibilities just become ridiculous. (This is not a complaint.) For someone who just wants a good latte and a scone most mornings, there aren’t many compelling reasons to choose one over the other – the coffee is very good at most of them. I often end up at the place closest to me only because of convenience – it’s 9 a.m. and I’m sleepy, so two blocks is ideal.┬áToday, though, I walked further to go to another coffee shop, entirely because they use Pay With Square.

Note: A good friend of mine works for Square, specifically on this team. Aside from indignantly asking “Do you mean to tell me you haven’t downloaded it yet?!”, he has exactly zero influence on how excited I am about the product.

Pay With Square is the newest product launch from Square, a company I’ve been following for awhile. I don’t know how much they’re popping up around the country, but here in San Francisco, they’re growing and growing and growing.

When I first downloaded Pay With Square, I looked at the list of businesses that were close to me. It turns out there are quite a few – not surprising, since the Square office is about three miles from my apartment. I was pleased to see a number of businesses that I like to frequent, though, particularly ones that have been known to not take credit cards or ones that sell products that feel a little silly to pull out plastic for (my favorites from the list above feature $2 cups of coffee and $1 cupcakes).

You’ll note that all the businesses here invite me to open a tab. This is based off of my phone’s GPS – from my desk right now I have only one business that has the “Open Tab” option, and the remaining businesses are 0.3+ miles from me. I opened my tab when I was a couple hundred feet away.

I wondered what the experience was going to be like. Because I’m a relatively nervous person, I psyched myself out in the last few feet leading up to the front door. It’s really not like me to actually say “Put it on Jen Rizzo”, because I’m going to sound like a great big dork. And for a split second, I thought “What if they’re super annoyed by people like me who want to put a $3 latte on a credit card?” That’s all in my own head, per usual. The woman who greeted me could not have been more pleasant, and it’s clear that I’m not the first person to order this way.

I strung some words together about opening a tab and Square, which led to her exclaiming “Oh, I just saw you open a tab! Jen Rizzo, right?” And it was done. I ordered my standard latte and a scone, she punched them into the store’s iPad, and I saw them appear on my phone. I added a tip, verified that everything looked correct, and hit the checkmark to close out.

The folks over at Square know what they’re doing. Good interface design should mean that the end user doesn’t have much of a learning curve, but my first-time experience was completely flawless. I never wondered what I should do or how something should work. We know that’s a huge barrier to entry for people – no one wants to look silly or ask questions they think must be stupid or be that one person who doesn’t get it holding up a line of bleary-eyed espresso-hungry commuters. The process was quick and easy, taking me less time than if I was fumbling through my wallet for cash.

There’s a more hidden benefit to the app, though, one that many other companies have had an opportunity to explore but no one seems to be doing all that well. Pay With Square almost functions as a solid mobile website for the businesses themselves, listing contact information, a menu, and an easy link to their Twitter account – all within the app itself.

This is the location’s main page, accessible from anywhere. Doesn’t require a tab to be open, doesn’t even require you to be terribly close. Since I know that Sightglass Coffee in SOMA has always been a big Square user, I searched for them just to check – they’re 2.1 miles away from me, and I can get all their information immediately.

My only complaint about the search function is that it’s currently business-based and doesn’t offer a location search. I’d love to be sitting on BART, heading to a meeting close to Montgomery, and be able to search for all the participating businesses around 2nd and Market. I’m only ever on BART for about seven minutes at a time, but that’s time I could be spending quickly flipping through menus, locations, etc. The ability to explore locations is a secondary benefit, certainly, but they’re just doing this part so well that I’d love to see them take it one more step.

Note, 4/23/12 3:03p: Upon playing a little more, I realized that there is, in fact, a map option. Awesome! I haven’t yet figured out a way to search by address, but the interactive map is very, very useful. Apologies for missing that on the first round. It’s accessible from the main list of locations by tapping “Directory”, which will pull up a drop-down menu.

Basic information. This should be pretty self-explanatory, but if you’ve ever been on the go and wanted to just find contact information for a coffee shop, restaurant, etc. – you know that it isn’t. This is my biggest complaint about restaurant websites every single time, regularly making me defer to Yelp rather than a simple Google search.

Having quick access to a menu is great. Not much going on in the way of visual design, but it’s easy to read and loads in no time. I’m not sure why all prices have a to go and for here option. Not a huge issue, certainly, and it appears to only be specific to this location – other menus I checked out weren’t set up the same way.

I love when restaurants use Twitter. You’ll often find photos of the dishes from that day, or a newly-tapped beer, or a sneak peek at a project they’ve been working on. I follow a lot of restaurants and bars on Twitter, and my plans for the evening are regularly decided by information I see there. Free advertising, you know? I love that the accounts are directly integrated into the app, here, rather than asking me if I want to load it up in my browser or in my Twitter app. I can appreciate the ease of just offloading a request onto another app, but those few seconds it takes to load something externally are a little jarring to the UX flow.

My list of visits is a little boring so far, but it’s exciting to know that I’ll be able to track these sorts of things. A running tab of my daily coffee might not be terribly useful to me, but I can see a lot of great uses as the app expands to additional businesses – tracking expenses, budgeting, etc. These things are easily done through your financial software, of course, but it’s always nice to have a backup.

Your list of visits is expandable, letting you know the details of each visit. One of my more embarrassing moments is from a day where I saw a $60 charge on my bank statement from an Indian restaurant where my delivery regularly comes to $25-30. I called them and sent everyone into a frenzy worrying about how I had been so overcharged, only to discover two days later after they had gone through their receipts that I completely forgot we had people over and were ordering for four instead of two. (I apologized profusely, but have never felt like a bigger idiot.) Needless to say, I am the sort of person who really likes itemized receipts. I am also the sort of person who loses itemized receipts, so I’m glad the Square team built in a system for me on the days where I wonder how I spent $20 on a latte.

Pay With Square is great. That’s all there is to it. It does one thing very, very well. It does a handful of smaller things much better than other products. It’ll be interesting to see how it continues to develop – Square has done a great job so far of focusing on one major objective and not cluttering the experience. I’m looking forward to what’s next, and I’m happy to continue supporting their product as I get my morning coffee.

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