This morning I got an email from Square that you can finally make payments in Starbucks stores using Square Wallet on your phone. I was excited to try this, and went directly to Starbucks on my way to work.
Square Wallet is an app on your phone that lets you pay at retailers who accept Square as a form of payment. With a free Square account you can link it to a credit card, and pay with Square leaving your wallet at home. There are a ton of apps that do this, although none as popular or as elegant as Square.
But the real innovation that sets square apart is the ability to literally just pay with your smiling face. If a retailer takes advantage of this feature then you can simply walk into their store, place your order, and say “put it on Justin Dean.” They then look at your face and verify it with a photo of you that pops up on their register. Your photo appears on the register because it senses that your phone, with Square installed, is physically inside their store. When they click on your face on the register it charges the order to your credit card, and then sends the receipt to your phone. If someone else in the store says “put it on Justin Dean” then the clerk would be able to verify their face with your picture and deny the charge. If the clerk messes with you, or the other person just happens to look like you, then you’ll know when the charge goes through because it will ping your phone immediately. You can then go yell at the clerk, beat up the other guy, or worst case file a complaint with Square to get the charge reversed. If your phone isn’t in the store, then your photo and the ability to pay with your account will not even show up on the register.
This really is the peak of security, convenience, and efficiency. You could also say it’s a very green way to pay as there are no physical credit cards or paper receipts to worry about or keep track of. Since everything is tracked electronically, retailers can also use this to set up loyalty programs with Square (ie: get your 12th coffee for free.)
A few months ago Starbucks made a substantial investment in Square and announced that they would roll this out to all of their stores. That day is today. Unfortunately Starbucks did not roll it out this way.
This morning I walked into Starbucks, ordered my drink, and said “I’d like to pay with Square.” (I wasn’t comfortable yet saying “put it on Justin Dean” assuming that the clerk had yet to recognize this new form of paying.) She then brought up Square on her register, and then asked me to push a button on my phone. I had to open the Square app, push the pay button, and then a lovely QR code was displayed for her to scan.
The benefits of this were that I didn’t have to take out my wallet or my credit card, and I got a lovely receipt stored on my phone instead of a piece of paper. But it was nothing new, and was not any more convenient than the way I have been paying. The whole point of Square is that in addition to not needing your wallet, you don’t even need to take your phone out of your pocket. By requiring a QR code to scan, Starbucks really failed at implementing a new innovative way to pay.
I can already pay by scanning a code using the Starbucks app, which I’ve been using for over a year. A few months ago Apple added the Starbucks card to Passbook, and I’ve been using it ever since. The beauty of Passbook is that it senses I’m in the Starbucks store and pops up the card on my home screen even if the phone is locked. I then just display my phone to be scanned to pay. It’s wonderful, but I was really hoping the implementation of Square would mean that I don’t even have to take out my phone.
Since Square, the Starbucks app, and Passbook all work the same I will just continue to use Passbook because it’s the best and easiest implementation of this whole scan a code to pay method.
I can only hope that this is just a first implementation and that Starbucks will add the feature to pay with your face later. If they do they will be game changers in the retail industry and I guarantee McDonald’s, Subway, and all the other big chains will follow. This will be like it was when restaurants first started accepting debit cards.