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Starbucks Chooses Square for Payments (squareup.com)
180 points by MIT_Hacker on Aug 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

I've heard of killer apps but I wonder if there's such a thing as a killer vendor/customer.

I hate being too dumb to work at places like this. :(

I think you're right. Starbucks is absolutely the best possible partner/customer to help Square make "Pay With Square" a broad reality.

Furthermore, I think that Starbucks made itself the best possible partner/consumer for "Pay With Square" by pursuing the Starbucks Card program outside of traditional payment solutions. Ostensibly, they stumbled upon the opportunity for such a non-traditional payment system, and thus validated the Square strategy prior to the partnership.

Absolutely, there are deals that 'make' the company. Look at Google's initial deal with AOL, that was pretty huge for Google at the time.

It was Google's deal with Yahoo that catapulted them to mega success! They were Yahoo's OEM for search and Yahoo was Internet's home page at that time.

You are right of course, I keep seeing various reports over the years of the AOL deal [1] which clouds ones memory ...

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/02/aol-google-search-d...

Out of curiosity I looked up some of the earliest HN stories on Square, posted about 2 years ago:

Square http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=970565 (0 comments)

Square Worth $40 Million Before Launch http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=970880

Jack Dorsey on Square, How it Works & Why it Disrupts http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=971596

Square: All Hype and Little Value for Small Business http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1148953

Ha. The last link (points to a FeeFighters blog post) has the hallmarks of a "next big thing"--namely, dismissed first as a "toy".

cf. http://cdixon.org/2010/01/03/the-next-big-thing-will-start-o...

Interesting move considering Starbucks already had a pretty effective mobile payment app. I use it regularly, and it works very very well.

Link to an article that explains it as well: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/technologylive/post/...

Interesting: "As part of the joint venture, Starbucks will invest $25 million in Square and hold an equity stake. Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and CEO, will join Square's board of directors."

Strange: "After ordering an item, they waive the phone on a scanner."

Just a lazy journalist; spell-check won't fix heterographs.[1]

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym#Related_terms

You already let the Barrista tag your coffee with your name at Starbucks. Its only natural that now you get to pay for coffee with your name.

This is a big deal. Quite honestly I've never understood the benefit of the traditional Starbucks app, where you swipe your phone in front of their scanner. How is This any different than giving them your cc or sbux card. Paying by name is super convenient, and could help reduce the lines especially with regulars. I've tried it recently at sight glass and it works great.

With the app, you don't have to carry the Starbucks card with you. Not a huge deal but some people will enjoy one less card. With just the credit card, you don't get rewards.

Square have still yet to break into the European market despite claims from their vanished blog that they were planning to in 2012. This was at the same time as taking Branson on board.

It might stand that they're trying to strengthen their core business in the USA, Starbucks could be a good gateway for them moving forward into other countries.

It's almost impossible for Square to launch in Europe with their traditional product (Swipe) but they probably could with Pay with Square.

Their European rival had to jump through huge technical hoops (payments offsite, can't swipe, etc) to develop a product and it is a huge box off the phone and they are now trying to jump through more as credit card providers have raised their barrier.

I don't see how this benefits Starbucks.

My family has owned small businesses before and one of the more annoying parts is dealing with the credit card machine and merchant vendors. The rates were always high, the machines were kind of confusing to use and were expensive. The deposits might take a little while. A minor point for the younger people in the family running a business was that they weren't very trendy or hip looking, either.

Small business owners have little of either time or money. Anything you can do to improve that is appreciated. Although SBUX is much larger than the family owned businesses I'm familiar with, I'm sure they appreciate it, too.

We've only owned 1 restaurant and if we were high volume enough, being able to carry the register over to the table and have customers pay right away would have been useful.

If I'm reading Square's website correctly, there's a minimum $1 transaction? Our shoe store in 1990 probably wouldn't have cared. Our coffee shop today would care, though.

Is Starbucks going to stop accepting credit cards? Adding less confusing new machines to the confusing old machines does not result in less average confusion.

[sorry, that was retarded, I confused square with a different payment system. disregard.]

No. Square's product is all about accepting credit cards. From the press release:

"Square will process Starbucks U.S. credit and debit card transactions, which will significantly expand Square’s scale and accelerate the benefits to businesses on the Square platform, especially small businesses, while reducing Starbucks payment processing costs"


The Square Register product takes plastic as well as letting people pay via the geo-fencing Pay with Square app.

Starbucks will still be accepting credit cards, cash, and now even Pay with Square tabs!

But square collects 3%, which is much higher than most merchant accounts.

Really? Maybe for a merchant on Starbuck's level, but for small merchants, cc processors definitely charge more than 2.75%. Even if you get a lower percentage rate (impossible) you get charged 0.05 or more per transaction, plus a monthly service fee + monthly equipment fee, etc. Square is definitely a cheaper option.

It's very rare for a brick and motar merchant to pay more than 2% processing fee. 2.75% is the high end for ecommerce accounts.

card present business (like your local coffee shop) pays less than 2% and their monthly fees are also lower. 2.75% range is usually for online businesses (card not present).

I might be wrong but I am under the impression Starbucks runs their transactions as card not present, at least in Canada and I'd suspect also the U.S. This allows them to swipe-and-done a credit card without requiring a signature or chip verification.

The act of swiping your card demonstrates its presence. The fact that there is no signature or PIN requirement is a result of the type of business that Starbucks is (Mechant Classification Code), and the typically low transaction amount.

This thread is full of misconceptions about payment processing which appear to be simple assumptions stated as facts. Having worked for one of the largest merchant acquirers in the world, it reminds me of glad I am not deal with any of that any longer.

Thanks for the information! Is there data on the magnetic strip that wouldn't be provided in a card-not-present transaction, or do the processors take the machines' word that the card was present?

Citation? https://squareup.com says the fee is 2.75%.

And isn't it also possible they gave Starbucks a special deal considering the marketability and value of a deal like this?



When a Square customer walks into a Starbucks, that person's name, picture and order history will automatically pop up onto Starbucks' terminals. It's hard to exaggerate the benefit of such.


I don't see why. It's opt-in, and that behavior is advertised when you download the "Pay by Square" app.

You don't have to use it...

Me neither. No restaurant can afford 2.75% per transaction going to Square versus the 1.64% which goes to Visa/Mastercard/Discover[1]. Fortunately for Starbucks, people are willing to pay much more for their cup of coffee than it costs them to make.

[1] http://payments.intuit.com/pricing/

At the scale Starbucks will single-handedly bring them to, you really think they'll be using the default pricing?

Regardless, they're very clear on the post:

>Square will process Starbucks U.S. credit and debit card transactions, which will significantly expand Square’s scale and accelerate the benefits to businesses on the Square platform, especially small businesses, while reducing Starbucks payment processing costs;

Starbucks saves payment processing costs. That's benefitting them.

Square is probably charging cost, or even losing money on this one, just to gain the market share.

Loss leaders can be a good idea sometimes, but when you're dealing with the sort of volume that Starbucks deals with, losing any money at all per transaction is a truly terrible idea.

You don't mention they also charge $0.27 per transaction. If you do the math that means that intuit and square both cost almost exactly the same for a $25 transaction (square is a little ahead because they also don't charge monthly fees).

So for transactions less than $25 square comes out ahead. I can think of plenty of restaurants that are primarily lunch driven for whom square would make sense (not to mention coffee shops).

Comparing Square to traditional Intuit isn't apples-to-apples. Intuit's GoPayment is a direct Square competitor and has roughly similar pricing: http://gopayment.com/pricing/

Fortunately for Starbucks, people are willing to pay much more for their cup of coffee than it costs them to make.

One interesting problem with this deal is that it will call attention to just how much money Square users really are spending at Starbucks.

Imagine if most or all of the charges on your Visa bill were from Starbucks, such that you couldn't help but see the total staring you in the face every month. That's the position a Square user will find himself/herself in, at least until more merchants come on board.

It's nothing that you wouldn't already find out with Mint or many online bank accounts.

As part of the joint venture, Starbucks will invest $25 million in Square and hold an equity stake. Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and CEO, will join Square's board of directors.

With ~7000 stores, Starbucks can be a Walmart of sorts in terms of location based services.

Starbucks' massive influence in the payment space is an asset. They're potentially a kingmaker for payment providers. Who else, besides McDonalds, processes as many payments in as geographically diverse an area?

By partnering with Square in return for equity, they are making a play to capitalize on that position. If Square wins in this space, which is much more likely with Starbucks in their corner, Starbucks gets a massive payday.

If they just stick with their existing provider, who is likely already maxed out on their growth curve, there is no such opportunity.

I do. Have you ever just bought something on Amazon because it's just easier? Wouldn't you buy at Startbucks instead of seattle best coffee if it were "easier"?

btw, not that it matters, but Seattle Best Coffee is owned by Starbucks.

I think part of the benefit comes from discovery in the Square directory. Also, Pay with Square is a revolutionary idea which is now accepted at Starbucks

Okay. I've just not sure I want my name and face popping up on a console at Starbucks just because I'm walked in the place.

Especially not unless I have HUD glasses that will tell me the cute barista's name.

You have to enable the automatic feature, otherwise it's a manual slide to open a tab process.

The real question now is how long will it be until Apple integrates it's own credit card payment system into iPhones to kill Square.

Unlikely that such a thing would be deadly:

- Square likely has an exclusive or near-exclusive deal with Starbucks.

- Starbucks has fairly close ties to Apple, if such a system were coming they'd want to be sure Starbucks was involved (so they'd already know about it)

- Assuming #2 is true anyway, that would make the $25 million investment incredibly risky; their stock would be murdered once the news came out.

(Side note: assuming all of the above, this essentially kills any rumors of Apple buying Square; why would Starbucks bother investing in them and getting on the board?)

The interesting thing is at the Apple keynote they announced Passbook and showed a Starbucks card, the passbook product is lacklustre in comparison. This shows Apple is betting on this and Starbucks would rather go with a solution that fits in with their current message (using your name).

I'd totally forgotten about that demo. So either Apple doesn't have a first-party payment system in the works (I honestly don't blame them, it's hard business) that they've told anyone about, or they do and Starbucks said no thanks.

Actually, if Apple had an interest in Square, wouldn't it then be a shrewd move for Starbucks to invest and get on the board? Buying into a company not long before it's acquired can be a great way to make a buck.

It will be there in iOS 6. The Passbook framework will allow Starbucks to create a representation of my existing Starbucks card in Passbook, which also starts laying the groundwork for NFC integration one day by beginning to replace the wallet.

Passbook will also allow Square to do the same thing, which could be pretty handy for them.

Despite some reports, apparently Starbucks will not be supporting the Square pay-by-name/geofencing features: http://www.splatf.com/2012/08/starbucks-square-payments/

this is a huge deal

>iPhone, iPad, and Android devices

Hate the double "and", listing should be alphabetical always! cough cough (not ocd) cough

Ordering by relative importance is vary natural in spoken English. Depending on the type of writing / audience using the natural English rules vs 'proper' grammar is fine.

Perfect deal for seeding Square broadly. Awesome!

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