Square outage costs small-business owners thousands in lost revenue
It was around 2 p.m. Thursday when Adam Blackbill realized he wasn’t getting sales reports from his three ice cream shops.
Blackbill has used Square to accept payments for his central Pennsylvania business, Urban Churn, since 2014. He’s used to occasional outages. But as the hours dragged on, he got concerned, as his employees couldn’t input orders and he couldn’t send invoices to wholesale customers or withdraw money.
‘Everything we process is through Square, even online,’ he said. ‘As an ice cream business we’re about to enter our winter season, so every sale matters.’
Urban Churn, which sells all-natural and gourmet ice cream in unusual flavors like sauerkraut or roasted cricket, was one of a slew of small businesses that found themselves thrown into chaos after Square and Cash App, two financial services platforms run by Block, sustained an outage. That caused problems processing sales and even stopped employees from clocking in and out of their shifts.
The problem seemed to have been resolved by Friday morning, but users say a substantial amount of damage was done. Blackbill estimates that his company lost $8,000 to $10,000 in revenue.
Harry Coleman, the proprietor of Empanada Harry’s bakery and Smoke and Dough smokehouse in Miami, says he spent much of the day watching sales walk out the door.
‘People don’t carry cash anymore, so we had a bunch of people just leave without buying anything,’ Coleman said. ‘People don’t carry cash and people don’t want to take 10-15 minutes to drive to the ATM.’
He says that being unable to make sales at his smokehouse during dinner on Thursday was especially painful, adding that the outage cost him around $2,000.
Unlike some users, Blackbill says Square’s offline mode worked at two of his three stores. According to Square, offline mode allows businesses to process payments when internet service is unavailable. Once internet is restored, the offline payments get processed automatically, it says. But as of Friday morning, Blackbill said about 30 of those offline transactions appeared to be missing.
Beyond the lost money, users told NBC News they are frustrated that Square didn’t reach out to tell them what was wrong. Instead, many of them found out on X, formerly Twitter.
Square emailed some users and posted a message on X Friday morning. It described the problem as a ‘systems outage.’
“We know you trust us with your business, and these situations add challenges to running your operations. For that, we are truly sorry,” it said.
“I didn’t get email or any notification from Square that they were the ones having problems. That’s kind of a bummer,” said Vincent Shay, the owner of the Mermaid Market on Port San Luis Beach in Avila Harbor, California.
Shay says he assumed for several hours that his Wi-Fi was the problem. He says he ultimately closed his shop early because it was impossible to make a sale.
Users said Square also hasn’t done enough to make things right. They want compensation as well as an apology.
“We hope they look out for us now and give us some kind of free processing or something’ to make up for the losses, Coleman said.
Blackbill, meanwhile, says he’s been able to overlook Square’s imperfections in the past, but now he’s looking at switching to other payment processors.
‘It was never something that would make me want to switch or try to find another platform. But there would be some downtime recently, some hiccups, and for something like this to happen, we never had this happen at this large of a scale.’