- Author: Molly Nakahara
70% of all purchases are made with plastic!
Did you know that cash is used at only 25% of point of sale purchases? Predictions are that cash will be used even less as more alternative payment methods become available. Debit and credit cards are used for over 70% of purchases. Customers enjoy the flexibility and ease of using plastic to pay for purchases. And research shows that consumers spend differently with credit cards than they do with cash! "Mental accounting” is the idea that people treat money differently based on a number of factors: where the money came from (salary vs. gift), the size of a transaction, and the form the money is in when a purchase is made. That last one is important – people tend to spend more money paying by card than paying with cash; i.e. when they don't actually see those dollars and cents leaving their hands. You should not use a credit card reader because it is a stealthy way to dupe your customers into purchasing more of your gorgeous veggies. But it is undeniable that accepting cash only sales severely limits the number of potential customers you may have at a farmers' market.
But what about the fees?!
All credit card processing companies do charge a service fee, usually around 2.75%. It may be a good idea to set a minimum for card purchases – $10. You can also feel comfortable passing the processing fee to customers by charging a convenience fee per swipe (consumers do this all of the time- think about the fees for pumping gas or withdrawing money from an ATM.) In my personal experience as a farmers' market vendor, customers often forget to grab their cash or hit the bank before a market and are relieved that they don't have to limit their market purchases. They enthusiastically whip out their plastic and are tickled by the user-friendly technology they get to use. Writing a signature across the screen of a smartphone is fun! Remember: you can always let people know that you prefer cash but having your credit card reader will help you build your customer base and make shopping at your market booth more convenient. It will probably also increase your sales.
How do I get started?
It is very simple to set up and use a smartphone credit card reader. You must have a smartphone that has a data plan (i.e. access to the Internet through a network.) Next step- set up an account with a smartphone credit card reading company. Square Up is the most used card reader available currently, though Intuit and Paypal both have similar products. I recommend Square. It is free, simple, used at many retail locations and customers are familiar with it. Once you have an account set up, you will receive a free credit card reader in the mail.It plugs into the headphone jack of your phone. You will also need to download the free app that accompanies the card reader. If you are feeling intimidated, ask a fellow market vendor for a quick tutorial.
Great sales tracking!
Once you have an account with Square, you can customize your account to track your sales. You can create “items” with specific prices or leave prices blank to fill in at check-out (in the case of items that you sell by weight.) A few quick taps of the finger and instead of a $30 payment without any details, you can record transaction details: 1 bouquet, 3 baskets of berries, and 2 pounds of tomatoes.
Another great tracking and management tool is the ability to set up employee profiles. Your employees can access your square account using a password that you assign. You are able to specify what each employee is able to do; ie accept payments, access sales records, etc.
A few tips
- You will need to update your card reader every year or so to keep up with the changing technology and improvements that Square makes. This is free to do and you will receive a reminder email. You can have as many card readers as you like- always good to have a back-up on hand.
- Square will save the personal information a customer enters to receive a receipt (either as a text message or email.) You can skip the receipt- I remind people that they will see the charge on their credit card or bank statement.
- The money you accept through Square is deposited to your specified bank account the next business day. For weekend farmers markets, this means you won't see the money until Monday. Don't forget to include these sales in your farmers' market accounting.
- Be sure to make a big sign for the farmers' market letting customers know that you accept plastic! Square will provide you with a small window decal, but you need a sign that catches the eye from across the market!
Using this technology is simple and many of you already possess the tools needed (i.e. a smartphone) to offer this simple service to your customers. Get started today!