Square for Meat: still not there yet

31 Dec

Before we did our first market we went ahead and ordered up a pair of Square credit-card readers to use with our smartphones.  I initially had very high hopes for Square as I was looking over it’s capabilities.  In addition to the credit-card reader, Square has a web-based “register” that can do all sorts of useful stuff, like generate sales reports and inventories.  Unfortunately for us, the one feature set that Square does not support is pricing by weight.  All the cool features of the Square register depend on running all transactions through Square, which is made difficult when you can’t input variable prices. This meant that Square was relegated to a credit/debit-card processing role for us for the past two years, even though it is capable of much more.

As we look at growing our sales at our new market next year we’ve come to the realization that our checkout process is going to be holding us back.
All of our beef and pork comes labeled with only the weight printed on the package. We have to calculate the price for each individual cut and add up the total on a little adding-machine that we bought. After we’ve made change, bagged up the goods and sent our customer on their way, we record the sales on a sheet of paper.
We break down our sales by category: Beef, Pork, Chicken and Eggs.
It makes for really useful sales records, but it’s very slow and we’re prone to missing things.


I took another look at Square’s capabilities this past month and found that there have been a few changes.  While Square sill does not support pricing items by weight, they have come up with a few workarounds.  They’ve also come out with a POS/register system that supports scales, UPC scanners and the like.

The UPC scanner sounds like it could be really useful if it would work out right. Our butcher uses a Hobart Quantum scale to weigh and print labels for all of our beef and pork. This scale is capable of printing type-2 UPC codes on all the labels. The type-2 codes contain two bits of information in them. What the item is, and what the item costs. Type-2 codes were designed for use with meat, where weight (and therefore price) varies with each cut.
So we know it’s possible to get labels with individualized UPC codes, it’s now up to Square to see if they can read such codes. Square’s website is tragically devoid of much useful information, after browsing a few youtube videos it looks like I may be out of luck. I glean that Square’s software is limited to using UPC codes for a PLU (price look up) function. No word anywhere about Type-2 UPC codes.

I called up Square, and after explaining my question a few times and waiting a few minutes on hold, I heard back that they do not support Type-2 UPC codes.

The good news is that sometime in the past two years Square began supporting variable-priced items. We can at least get the prices printed on labels, input those prices by hand as a variable-priced item.

Looks like that might have to do.

I think it’s a problem they’ll get around to fixing, but not until all this chip-and-pin card stuff gets settled.

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