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Here’s How To Avoid Leaving Money On The Table While Vending

Business owner Karla Spencer-George provides fellow vendors with tips for using Square.

Originally Published Feb. 19, 2013.

As a newcomer to the Omega Psi Phi National Convention, Karla Spencer-George learned a lot from other vendors who had been in the business for years. But when she pulled out her Square credit card reader they were all impressed with her ability to quickly process transactions using the device on her Android phone.

“They wished they were using it over the traditional processing machine, says Spencer-George, who enjoyed a 12-year career as an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin before starting Liberation Clothing & Gifts, LLC in February 2010.

She sells merchandise that promotes Black history and culture, including T-shirts, documentaries, books, calendars, and paintings. While the business is mostly online, Spencer-George also sells her wares at Black-run events such as the national and regional conventions of Black sororities and fraternities, Black History Month fairs, science fairs, Juneteenth celebrations, and natural hair symposiums.

Spencer-George decided to use Square at events because it was quicker and less expensive than the credit card processing machine. At any event, credit card payments can make up 35% to 65% of the products she sells. She found out that although the Square device was only $10, she could redeem that money back after setting up her account. It also helped that there were no recurring monthly fees.

In addition, Square allowed her to ring up repeat customers without retyping their emails or phone numbers to send them their receipts. She was also impressed with the Square software’s plug-and-play feature.

“You just connect the device to your phone or iPad and swipe, says Spencer-George, who also studied computer science in college. “I also see the fact that the transactions are paperless as a bonus to me and the environment.

Now a veteran vendor, Spencer-George offers tips below to ensure that you don’t miss out on a sale:

Complete advanced on-site testing

“It is vital that my credit card payment processor works without fail. Whether your event is at an outside fair or the underground lower level of an exhibit hall, you must go to the event site and complete a test Square transaction before the event.” If you can’t go to the event site in advance, call your Internet service provider to discuss coverage in that area. Also, if the venue offers secure Internet for merchant transactions, consider purchasing it.

Keep no single point of failure

To avoid being a victim of Murphy’s Law, use two mobile devices with the Square software. That way, if one device dies, you have another one. I use both a Droid phone and an iPad. I use a wireless hotspot separate from my Droid phone for the iPad. This will help the charge of the Droid phone last longer. Finally, I bring a laptop to use the old-fashioned merchant account if all else fails.

Charge all devices

Since you may not have access to power at your event, remember to charge all of your devices the night before. I charge a Droid phone, iPad, laptop, wireless hotspot, and portable wireless charger before every event.

Use a stylus

Invest in a stylus for touch-screen devices. Have your customers sign for transactions using the stylus instead of their fingers. Using the stylus is more professional and easier for your customers to write with.

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