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Square CEO Jack Dorsey: 'There's always going to be a need for' cash registers

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

Square (SQ) released a new point-of-sale device on Monday, a fully-featured modern cash register for the 21st century. Called the “Square Register,” the device is the next big step past the current ubiquitous Square swivel stand that’s in many brick-and-mortar businesses. It’s  more than a glorified iPad with a card reader.

With hardware and software designed in-house by Square, the device is a culmination of years of feedback the company has received from operating as a point-of-sale provider.

“[It’s a] fully functioning computer, custom-built for our largest-selling customers to make sure we’re paying attention to their needs,” Square founder Jack Dorsey said.

A big part of the Square customer requests is customization. Square Register is a $999 two-screen device that accepts all forms of payment: phone, contactless cards, card swipes and inserts. It can be configured to each individual business’s needs. Both screens can be customized and the device works in tandem with Square’s suite of software to manage inventory, see data trends, and more.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and CEO of Twitter, speaks during an interview November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

A way to add tipping

One odd example of a request from customers involved Square’s tipping screen that often guilts customers into giving gratuity. “It’s definitely made a difference [in how often people tip],” said Dorsey. “You can’t hide the fact that you’re not tipping.”

Though the awkwardness of the tip screen successfully nudges millions into tipping, not everyone is happy with the option.

Square’s tip screen. (Wikimedia Commons)

“We have sellers who turn it off because they feel bad about putting that in front of their customers. One of the most surprising asks that we’ve had was ‘we don’t want a tip screen,’” said Dorsey. “Even at coffee stores because they just didn’t want to put their customers through that. So this [customization] takes those headaches off the table.”

Cash registers or mobile checkout?

“The world is packed with beige towers between the buyer and seller,” said Jesse Dorogusker, head of hardware at Square. “The small footprint is important.”

Square terminals are much smaller than these traditional cash point-of-sale devices that Doroguster is referring to. But with a nine-inch screen, the Square Register is the size of a couple of iPads, which prompts the question: Will it even exist in the future?

“There’s always going to be a need for something like this,” Dorsey said. “But certain activities have made this disappear. Caviar [Square’s food delivery app] is a good example of where the point of sale is moved into the buyer’s hands.”

The new Square Register. (Yahoo Finance)

It all depends on the company, and allowing each one to choose what works best for them is an important part of Square’s strategy. Dorsey said that for restaurants that struggle to turn over tables, delivery and quick payment via on-site hardware are both viable tools that can drive new customers and make things run more smoothly.

Contactless payments will take off eventually

In the U.S., credit cards dominate, despite Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay’s best efforts. Phone-based payment systems haven’t caught on. Dorsey, however, considers it the future.

“It’s a matter of time. Contactless has been really slow to see the adoption here in the United States,” he said. “Everywhere else in the world it’s at 70% adoption.”

Part of that, he said, was due to the fact that many cards worldwide have built-in contactless capabilities. With the phone as our only other option, the card remains king because the setup is just too onerous — even though Dorsey says it’s actually very easy.

“People have a card in their wallet already,” he said. “[They say] ‘I don’t need to do that right now because I have this thing that works.’ I think the incentives aren’t fully there.”

For Square, a change or extended status quo may not make much of a difference. Should Dorsey turn out to be wrong and physical points of sale become extinct, Square’s ownership of a complete suite of payment software and internet-based checkout systems will keep it relevant to merchants. And if not, they have a sleek-looking new register product designed in tandem with the businesses that still want to use them.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Confidential tip line: emann[at]oath[.com].

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