A Technology Meetup hosted by the American Booksellers Association on Tuesday, October 8, invited three booksellers to share their experiences with various payment methods, including Square, PayPal, and more.
Technology Meetups are part of ABA’s ongoing education initiative for independent bookstores; Technology Meetups take place one Tuesday per month at 2:00 p.m. ET; ABA’s Marketing Meetups are held two Thursdays a month at 11:00 a.m. ET. A video recording for this session can be found on ABA’s Education Resources page on BookWeb.org.
Guest speakers for this session included Dave Lucey of Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina; Jocelyn Shratter of Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, California; and Cindi Whittemore of Ink Spell Books in Half Moon Bay, California. Here are some of the highlights:
Page 158 Books
- Page 158 uses Square as its point-of-sale system, which means it handles inventory management and payroll in addition to payment processing.
- Square accepts all credit cards as well as Apple Pay and Google Wallet; purchases over $25 require a signature.
- Right now, the store has not set a minimum purchase requirement for credit cards, although other stores might choose to enforce a $5 minimum or similar requirement on cards due to fees associated with using the service.
- Lucey recommended that booksellers who use Square try negotiating a custom rate.
- For roving registers, the store uses Square terminals on iPhones and iPads.
For offsite events, the store also uses digital wallet app Venmo and PayPal.
- Venmo appeals to a lot of customers, especially at schools, noted Lucey, who created a store account for the service.
- Customers shopping on the store’s IndieCommerce website can also use PayPal.
- For PayPal, booksellers can recommend customers use the Friends and Family option, which can cut down on some of the fees associated with the service.
- Page 158’s accountant has access to all of these accounts so they can view transactions. Payments are always tracked through Square no matter what the payment method is, so the store can easily keep track of the money coming in; the sales taxes the store must pay are determined by purchases run through Square.
- Page 158’s local community has paper gift certificate program, for which the store does not need to provide change if it’s under a certain amount; once a customer turns the certificate in, it’s in.
- When it comes to payment types, Lucey recommended that booksellers be willing and ready to take what customers are able to give, whether through Venmo, PayPal, or any other methods.
Bookshop Santa Cruz
- Bookshop Santa Cruz uses IBID as its point-of-sale system with a chip card system that takes all credit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet. The store also accepts gift cards through the GiveX system, plus store credit, cash, and chip cards.
- According to store policy, booksellers must ask the customer for ID if the card they’re using has “see ID” written on it, and purchases over $75 require a signature.
The store offers two kinds of store credit: its frequent buyer program and a carbon copy store credit.
- For the frequent buyer program, after every 20 items purchased, a customer can receive the average cost of those items back in store credit. The credit is awarded on a slip of paper, and if the customer loses the slip of paper, the credit is gone.
- If someone has used part of their store credit but not all, they receive a carbon copy sheet with the remaining amount for them to use.
The store’s downtown association also runs a program called Downtown Dollars, which provides gift certificates in $10 increments that can be used at multiple stores throughout town. This type of payment is set up in the store’s POS as its own tender type.
- Most alternative payment types that aren’t processed through the POS are given their own tender type, so the store’s accountant can keep track of payments.
- While PayPal is not accepted in-store, it is accepted online through Bookshop Santa Cruz’s IndieCommerce site.
For off-site events, the store uses Square on dedicated iPads, each of which have a wireless connection that is paid for monthly because WiFi at venues can be unreliable.
- During the holidays, the store will set up extra cash registers using Square.
The store maintains open purchase orders with local schools and organizations; some organizations can create a tab to be billed for their purchases later.
- Staff has connections with local schools either through having children who go to them or by other personal relationships, which aids in the vetting process to ensure that the store will get paid.
- If Bookshop Santa Cruz is partnering with an organization that it doesn’t have a personal relationship with, it will require payment up front.
Inks Spell Books
- Ink Spell uses Square, which allows the store to take all credit cards and digital payment methods, and it has a PayPal account and Venmo. Whittemore said that she always tells her staff to accept any kind of payment and the store will figure out the logistics of it later.
When the store signed its contract with Visa, the company did not want stores setting a minimum for credit card use. Merchants won a lawsuit against that stipulation, which is why it’s now a more common practice, but the store still doesn’t have a minimum.
- Whittemore has found that customers don’t like seeing a card minimum in-store; while customers will sometimes make small purchases with a credit card, she’s found that the expense is worth keeping customers happy.
- Rather than offering paper gift certificates, the store awards a small number of $5 “trade slips” each year to children in the community; the amount, recipient, and how long they can be used for is tracked through a ledger.
- Several area schools host yard sales to raise money to pay their purchase orders with Ink Spell. The amount of money each school owes Ink Spell is tracked through a ledger.