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Paying with Square’s mobile payments solution at some Starbucks locations is often more of a hassle than it’s worth, according to an illuminating Fast Company report.

Square raised $25 million from Starbucks last August in conjunction with a massive $200 million round of funding, and with that, the two made a deep partnership where Square would process all of the coffee chain’s credit and debit card transactions. In November, Starbucks started letting customers pay with the Square Wallet mobile application.

Apparently, that rollout may not be going so well, with some baristas confused and unsure of how to take Square as a payment option.


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Fast Company says it tested the service in about 24 locations across the country. On the worst trips, the service did not work, and on average, it was “buggy.” Fast Company reporter Austin Carr recalls this recent experience:

“What? Square?” the clerk asks me, as she turns to another Starbucks employee behind the counter. “Can we pay with Square?”

“I don’t know,” the other employee responds. “No.”

“But there’s [a Square] option here,” the clerk says, as the two huddle close to the register’s screen. The clerk tries to scan my iPhone with her barcode reader, repeatedly tracing it up and down over the surface of the device, which is running Square’s Wallet app. A minute or two passes. No luck. “I don’t know how it works,” she says. “It won’t scan. It’s weird.”

The line of customers behind me was getting long. I felt uncomfortable. I decided to pay with cash instead.

Now, to be fair to Starbucks, it has about 7,000 locations that accept Square, and whether you get a barista that knows what they’re doing is hard to predict. Fast Company’s sample size wasn’t huge, but based on the reporting here, employees aren’t being trained very well (or at all) when it comes to Square.

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