Category Archives: Reviews

Square Register for iPad (review)

It looks like Square addressed most of the issues I brought up in my first review!

  • Item management
  • Multiple Price Points
  • CSV support for importing & exporting with Excel

If you are selling stuff (and you don’t need Quickbooks integration and therefore don’t already use Intuit’s GoPayment app), there’s no reason not to use Square!

square-register-purchase

The original release of the app was a little too simple:

  • a keypad for entering the price
  • a “charge” button for when you want to process the card
  • an optional “title” for the transaction,

Now after about three years, it’s on its way to becoming a full point of sale system! (..pretty close, but still “on its way.”)

For the three of you not yet familiar with Square

In 2010, it was started by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter. He was — heck, it’s about as ubiquitous as the iPad itself. If you want to know the history, read Wikipedia! :)

Here are the basics. It’s an app that allows you to process credit cards when you sell stuff. Instead of hand-typing the card numbers, you use a little square card reader (you knew the name would be relevant eventually) which plugs into the headphone jack.

The pricing scheme is turbo simple: swiped transactions are 2.75%, and hand-keyed transactions are 3.5% + 15 cents. (So don’t forget your dongle!)

That’s it! The app is simple to use, and the fees are simple to decipher. It’s free to sign up, there are no monthly fees, no PCI compliance fees, no inactivity fees, no cancellation fees, no “nickel question tax“, none of that! You pay just a little bit when you sell stuff.

The fine art of selling stuff

The scenario — someone walks up, points at a thing you’re selling and says, “I wanna buy this!” and you say, “excuse me while I whip this out!” — and out comes Square.

Who wants some pictures!

Click on the thing they want, select the options (size, type, color, model).

multiple-price-points

Big ones cost more

Swipe the card, pack up the item, shake hands and smile, wait a day or two, and boom! You got money!

Pull up to the loading dock

Out of the box, the app starts empty. No items, no nothing. So just how did I get all that data entered so neatly into the app?

Steve Jobs once referred to PCs as being like trucks. They do the heavy lifting, while mobile devices (the “cars” in this analogy), do the everyday stuff. When it comes to the “point of sale” process, the tablet is the front-end, and the PC is the back-end.

Long long ago in the before time, we used to add items to Square directly from the app — go into “Edit” mode, press the plus sign, press “Add New Item”, hand-type the description, set a price, then if it had another price, click that option, click and type and click some more, and then repeat all that for the next item.

Now you can you use Excel to do all that. Then again, why shouldn’t you be able to use Excel? It’s been doing for that 28 years. Tablets aren’t built for this kind of stuff  (yet).

  1. Log into squareup.com
  2. Go to the “Items” tab
  3. Download the template file
  4. Open it in Excel (see below)
  5. Add details
  6. Save it
  7. Import it back into Square, done!

Specific Details:

export an excel file with the import button

export an excel file with the import button

Once you open the file, you’ll see something like this:

item-spreadsheet

Much bigger screen than my iPad.

  • Column A: Item ID.
    • Don’t fiddle with this. That’s Square’s index for each entry.
    • You can add new items (rows) — items which don’t have an ID in column 1, but when you upload it back to Square, be sure to re-download the file and overwrite the copy on your computer. When you upload, Square automatically generates those IDs.
  • Column B: Name.
    • The title of what you’re selling, in my case it’s the name of the photo.
    • (BUG!) Square does not like commas or apostrophes in the name field. The Square website interprets those as field delimiters, and all the data will get shifted over by one column.
  • Column C: Category. (optional)
    • If you want to group up your items. Say, if some of your photos are of similar subject matter, or if you’re a coffee shop, and you sell different types of things (category “coffee” will include cappuccino, espresso, macchiato; category “sandwiches” will include ham and cheese, po’boy, bologna and mustard on rye.. that sort of thing).
  • Column D-F, G-I, J-L, M-O, etc. The columns for each “Variant”: Name, Price, SKU.
    • Name — text field. For my purposes, this is the size of the print.
    • Price — currency field. This is the price of each size. Do not use dollar signs. (I use whole numbers, but I guess you can use cents and things.)
    • SKU — optional. Say, if you need to narrow down to a specific type of item. (I don’t use such a thing, but you might!)
    • You can have as many variants as you want.
  • Final column: Tax.
    • Yes/No field.

Guidelines:

  • If you have a list of items in another spreadsheet, just copy and paste.
  • Do not edit the field titles, unless you are adding more variants.
  • Do not add or change anything in Column A.

The instructions on their website have more details than are relevant for this blog post.

Specifically, here’s how I got my titles (and thumbnails) of all 60 of my new Italy photos:

(My prices listed below are my prices. Yours are probably different based on manufacturing and economic factors which are beyond the scope of this blog post.)

  • Title your photos in Lightroom. (Type the titles into the “title” field.) If you’re not using Lightroom, well, you should.
  • Export the photos
    • jpeg, medium compression, small = 1024px
    • filename = “title” field only
  • Open a command prompt in that folder (yes, shell out to DOS for a second)
    • Export the filenames to a text file with the command “dir > filelist.txt”
    • Edit the filelist.txt file by hand (use notepad++ to use the alt key for column editing) and trim out everything that isn’t the title of a photo — remove header text and file extensions.
    • Once you have a list of titles, copy and paste that list at the end of column B (Name). Sort by name if it helps.
  • Add the same category to all of the new ones.
  • Create Variants (groupings of three columns) — My variants are based on size, and I have two sets of sizes depending on whether the photo is 3:2 (standard) or 2:1 (panorama). It’s pretty easy to paste a bunch of these once you find a way to group the items by their respective sizes. Put all the standard’s together and all the pano’s together, enter the data for the first one, then fill down!
    • 4 variants for 3:2 standard (Name column, Price column. SKU column is empty. Do not include dollar signs.)
      • 18×24 print, $75
      • 12×18 canvas, $150
      • 16×24 canvas, $195
      • 20×30 canvas, $295
    • 4 variants for 2:1 panorama
      • 18×24 print, $75
      • 12×24 canvas, $175
      • 18×36 canvas, $350
      • 24×48 canvas, $550
  • Taxes: Either add “Y” to every item in the list, or remember to set the “tax everything” option in the app.
  • Thumbnails. I generated those JPEG files above, but there’s still not a quick way to set them to all 60 photos. I still have to manually add them.
    • It’s faster on a PC — log into the Square website, edit each item, and drag each photo one-by-one.
    • You can do it on the tablet, but you have to import the photos into the photo library (Sync them with iTunes, or maybe there’s a way to copy them from Dropbox, not sure.)

Still to do

Since there’s a “Still to do” section in this post, I’ll add a few things I think Square should add.

  • I would like to keep customer data (with permission from the customer, of course). I would like the Square app to send contact info to my Mailchimp list so I can put all my customers together and tell them how awesome they are. (Or heck, even let me record the customer data back in the Ring It Up app.)
  • Batch import/update thumbnails for all items. This by-hand stuff is tedious. We don’t have turn the tablet into a truck, but maybe an SUV.
  • Inventory of my items. I want to know when I’m running low on stuff. (And somehow support ‘editions’ of my prints. I know my current prints aren’t in limited editions, but with the ability to manage this with the same app that allows me to sell them, you never know!)
  • Quickbooks integration. (yeah, just to poke at your competitors. :)

That’s all the nitpicking I have for now — let’s get back to thanking Square for taking us so far from the days of having to use an old-fashioned, knuckle-busting receipt imprinter!

Considering other credit card apps – GoPayment vs. Square

UPDATE 09/09/2013

My full review of Square Register is much more up-to-date, but the post below is here for historical purposes.

After a year of using the combination of Ring It Up (RIU) and the Innerfence Credit Card app as my “mobile cash register” (see my blog post from Jan 2010), I have noticed some competition. But why would I consider switching to something else?

  • Fees suck. Monthly fees, cancellation fees, re-activation fees, PCI compliance fees, multiple fees per transaction. I’m reminded of the taxman from the 1980 movie “Popeye”.
  • Innerfence charges $79 for their hardware credit card reader (unless you’re a brand new customer, which I ain’t no more!)
  • The Innerfence solution isn’t just a single company:
    • I was required to set up accounts with Authorize.net (payment gateway), and Merchant Focus (merchant account). When you sign up, you fill out one big set of paperwork. It’s convenient that it’s “one big set of paperwork”, but it’s like getting a mortgage: The EULA totals to about 15 pages in 12-point single-spaced type, written completely in LawyerSpeak. Then when it’s filled out, you have to fax it all back. (It’s the 21st Century, folks. Why the hell do fax machines still exist? They use the landline telephone network, which defeats the purpose of me using a mobile phone, which is the platform I’m using to run the very app I’m being required to fax all this paperwork for! Think about it!)
    • Merchant Focus (or was it Authorize.net, I don’t remember who does what..), didn’t allow me to take American Express. I had to contact Amex on my own and create a merchant account with them — yet a THIRD company to deal with. Then they charged me $7.95 a month whether I had transactions or not. (They are kinda nifty though.. One of the perks of signing up for American Express is that they give you free “American Express accepted here” signs to display at your location. Yeah, they’re made of metal, and I’m totally keeping those!)
    • If you cancel your service however, you have to contact each company separately. But when you call to cancel your respective accounts, that’s when the companies start getting all sweet on you: Amex was willing to eliminate my monthly fee all together (but increase my transaction rate), and Merchant Focus was willing to reduce my monthly rate from $10.00 to $5.00. (I guess in order to get the best rates, you’re supposed to use them for a few months, then threaten to cancel your account.)

Recently, some challengers have entered the arena: Intuit’s GoPayment, and a little thing called Square.

DISCLAIMER: When I mention how the fees for the following solutions are so much “better” than those offered by Authorize.net / Merchant Focus, they are better for my financial situation. If you are considering any of these services, calculate some estimated transactions to see which solution is best for you. You will need the following: total number of transactions per year, average cost of each transaction, active number of months (if you run a seasonal business). Even though one solution might be less expensive in the long run, personally I find (albeit, intangible) value in not having to pay monthly fees, and not having to manage accounts with several different companies at once.

Intuit GoPayment

I haven’t yet signed up, so this review won’t be as in-depth as it could be.

Intuit, an 800-pound gorilla of the personal/business financial solution market (makers of Quicken, Quickbooks, TurboTax, and the wickedly-cool mint.com) has decided — along with most of the modern world — that the smartphone universe is the kickin’ place to be. They have an app called GoPayment, which works on pretty much everything: iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Win7 phones.

It’s a two-prong approach, in that you have an app and a hardware card reader. They offer their little white card reader for free, but they also offer the Mophie card reader for iPhone users. (Is the Mophie reader free too?)

The startup screen

Once the app starts (and once you’ve logged into the service), you are presented with the payment screen:

Fired up, ready to go!

Upon completing a transaction, it gets entered in the “Past Charges” screen:

Payment History

The app also offers a rudimentary inventory list:

Inventory List

And by rudimentary, I mean it doesn’t have very many features: Name, Description, Price, Tax. (That’s all you’re getting.)

Item Info

Before I move on, let’s compare that to Ring It Up, shall we?

(I just felt like doing that… anyway)

How much does GoPayment cost?

Pricing

Pros:

  • NO MONTHLY FEES!* (I’m looking at you, Innerfence..)
  • The connection to QuickBooks is (probably) a lot more convenient than having to fiddle with CSV files in Excel. (I say “probably” because I don’t have Quickbooks.)

Cons:

  • Except for syncing with Quickbooks, there’s no API and therefore no connection to other apps (..my precious Ring It Up!)
  • Something about the interface is kinda ugly, and I can’t put my finger on it. (It reminds me of Windows 3.1 for some reason..)
  • Intuit requires a credit check when you sign up.
    • I know they’re trying to cover themselves, but eh..
  • (UPDATE:) They accept American Express, but you’re charged Amex’s fees instead of Intuit’s
  • * – Monthly fees for “high volume accounts” eh?
  • The point-of-sale/inventory features are extremely limited compared to what I’ve become accustomed to with the Ring It Up app. (Just for kicks, let’s post the photos again: GoPaymentRing It Up. This is fun!)

Square

I have already signed up for Square, so this will be a more in-depth review.

(UPDATE: 04/19/2011)As of version 1.6, the Square app for iPhone supports sales tax! No more fiddly calculations! They also changed the interface, so my screenshots are out-of-date.

Everybody has heard of Twitter, right? Well, one of their founders, Jack Dorsey apparently became so frustrated at how complicated and expensive credit card processing is for a small business that he decided to show them all how it’s done.

https://squareup.com

Just like GoPayment, it’s also a hardware/software solution. Their (iconic) card scanner plugs into your headphone jack, and the app is written for both iOS and Android.

enlarged to show texture

You start the app, and (assuming you’re logged into the service) it’s ready to take your transaction info:

Plug in the device, get the icon in the middle-left, and you’re good to go!

You enter a price, then (if you want) you can enter the name of the thing you are selling. Also, click the little camera icon and take a photo of what you’re selling.

Problem: if you have items with long names, you’ll be doing a lot of cumbersome typing — there’s no quick way to automatically enter this information (unless you have the iPad app). But if you have a photo of the item, you can include it next to the description (once again, it’s no Ring It Up, but it works):

Type the price and item detail

(Square finally has an entry for sales tax on the iPhone app! This screenshot is out of date.)

We have options!

If you haven’t received your “square” card reader, you can manually key the card number. This costs extra.

It’s better to scan it with the “square”

Here’s an interesting thing: The interface lets you know about your limit:

[old screenshots removed]

UPDATE (a while back..) — Square changed their limits! If you actually swipe the customer’s card, Square won’t hold your transactions very long. But if you hand-type the credit card number, and those hand-typed transactions total over $1,000, then they’ll wait 30-days to give it to you.

Once a transaction goes through, you can email the receipt to your customer. And if you enable Location Services, the receipt will include a map of where the purchase was made! Snazzy!

Pros:

  • The most simple pricing structure on the planet.
    • NO MONTHLY FEES.
  • Nice looking interface, slick animation
  • No credit check during application process
  • Accepts American Express without a separate contract
  • Cute little scanner!

Cons:

  • ** – Manually-keyed transactions are a higher rate: 3.5% + 0.15 cents. (so be sure to use your card scanner as often as possible)
  • No inventory management (unless you have the iPad version.. which I don’t, so I can’t do my snarky screenshot comparison like I did with GoPayment)
    • With the iPhone version, I have to manually enter the item description for every. single. transaction.
    • UPDATE! I tested the Square app on an iPad for a week. I meticulously entered a bunch of items, and looked forward to the next show when I could happily click on those items instead of hand-typing them in while the customer is standing there waiting for me to get done hand-typing them in — but alas! For whatever reason, the app forgot about most of my items! Yes, I started up the app, and most of the stuff that I typed in was GONE! (Granted, this was about six months ago. Let’s hope they’ve fixed this.)
  • It’s a mostly-closed system (even if you have the iPad version!)
    • No automatic data input — It doesn’t have an API, and therefore doesn’t talk to other apps.
      • That means it doesn’t replace the Innerfence app: I can’t use RingItUp for inventory management / point-of-sale and then press the magic button in RIU to feed the payment info to the Square app for processing.
      • The author of RIU is patiently waiting for Square to release an API, but they’re being awfully slow about it.
    • Limited data output — It allows you to download a CSV from the website, but like with any CSV, you’ll have to fiddle with the formatting to properly merge it with your existing financial data.
  • Can’t delete test transactions from the website.
    • Now this is just plain silly. What good is a list of data when it has invalid results in it?

* I didn’t want to have to buy an iPad just for a single app. (Why those features couldn’t also be in the iPhone version, I have no idea.)

(UPDATE 03/15/2011) – On March 9, Verifone’s CEO let the world know how insecure and “dangerous” Square’s little card reader is.

When using Square, the credit card data is not encrypted until it gets to the app. (However, it is encrypted before it’s transmitted over the internet, or else it wouldn’t be PCI compliant.) This means someone could write a malicious app (like the one Verifone demonstrated the video) that allows the vendor to keep the customer’s card information and use it for nefarious purposes, if they so choose.

Scary, eh? Do you know what’s also scary?

  • Old-school knucklebusters don’t encrypt card data either! A vendor could simply read the imprinted card number right off the sheet of paper! OMG!! (And vendors are required to keep those imprinted sheets for three years.)
  • Anybody could buy a USB credit card reader off the internet and pretend like they’re a business.
  • If you’re in a restaurant, and you hand your credit card to the waiter, what happens when they “walk off to the back room” with it? You think you just paid for dinner, but they might be back there using your card to buy a case of iPads to send them overseas for profit. Who knows! OMG, get your tinfoil hat ready!

This is what we in the industry refer to as FUD – “fear, uncertainty, and doubt.” Verifone is scared of Square’s business model and is doing anything it can to stay afloat.

Conclusion

How do I feel about these two solutions?

While writing this review, I realized how spoiled I’ve become by all the features in Ring It Up, and how it seamlessly talks to the Innerfence app. I’m dead-set on using RIU, and neither one of these platforms has enough point-of-sale features to pry it out of my hands.

  • So, I guess the first part of this review is to see which one is the most compatible with RIU.
    • On that front, they both fail — Neither one has an API for sharing data between apps.
  • Fees:
    • They’re both whooping Innerfence quite handily.
    • Even where GoPayment has a monthly fee for high volume accounts, it’s still $12.95/month where Innerfence is $25/mo. (Square doesn’t charge extra if I exceed $1,000/week, but it doesn’t give me a fee discount either.)
    • Square processes American Express at the same rate as everything else. (Unless Amex is in a generous mood all of a sudden, their rates are usually higher.)
    • — Winner by a knife-edge: Square.
  • Features:
    • GoPayment has basic inventory management, but so does the iPad version of the Square app. (But since I don’t have an iPad, I have no idea how robust the feature set really is. There’s a slim chance that it could supplant RIU, but I’m doubting it.)
    • …I’m getting the impression Square really wants me to buy an iPad. I’m considering it, but the first app I’m getting is the HD version of RIU. Then I guess I’ll get Roambi. Square, you’ll be third out of spite.
    • — Winner by a technicality: GoPayment.
  • Interface:
    • I’m sorry Intuit, but you guys have to ‘pretty it up’ a little. Your app isn’t quite as “lickable” as the Square app. (On an iPhone, the prettiest app wins.)
    • — Winner, assuming that I enjoy slobbering over my phone: Square.

I may have already made my decision by signing up for Square first, but I don’t know.. They’re really close. If one of them can either get an API going, or boost their inventory management features to supersede Ring It Up, that would make it a lot easier for me to make a decision. And since there’s no disconnect fee for Square, it would be easy to jump ship if I have to.

Competition is a beautiful thing, and both of these services represent the new way of processing credit card transactions. No matter which of these services comes out on top, I’m so glad they are teaming up on the “old school” ways of doing things. There’s no reason this needs to be complicated.

KelbyTraining Photoshop Seminar in OKC (review)

(graphic from KelbyTraining)

This was my first experience with a Photoshop seminar, and it was pretty mindblowing. For those of you who have never seen an expert go completely bonkers with a mindbogglingly-complicated program such as Photoshop, you’re missing out. If you’re struggling with Photoshop and find yourself sitting in a corner mumbling, “adjustment layers and masks are so hard, I wish I would just die!” — this seminar is for you.

On January 27, this was an all-day event held in the (massive) Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

They told us to show up early because seating would get swallowed up fast. When I got there, it was four rooms expanded into one, and it had four (or five?) rows of tables that ran the entire length. Everybody else apparently thought the same as myself and we were spreading out leaving empty seats between us. As more and more people kept coming in, all the latecomers sat where they could. What I thought would be the edge of the crowd soon became the middle. Being mildly claustrophobic, I grabbed an unused chair and moved to the back wall thinking nobody would find me there — but about a dozen more followed my lead. By the time we got started, it was standing room only, and I’d guess there were easily 300 people in that one room.

Photoshop nerds, lol

Our teacher that day was Corey Barker, one of KelbyTraining’s Photoshop/Illustrator wizards. And I mean that — he was slinging around digital magic voodoo witchcraft like I’d never seen before!

First and foremost, I consider myself a photographer and therefore tend to limit myself to certain parts of Photoshop. That is, I rarely “transform” my layers, and never use the 3D feature. I have only experimented with the artistic filters, and I didn’t even know Photoshop had a “step and repeat” function. From my point of view, Photoshop had been getting quite bloated over the years, and I was beginning to wonder who could possibly need all of these features.

I have since stopped wondering.

There wasn’t just one thing that was impressive in this seminar, it was the package deal. It wasn’t just that he could make sparkly light effects twist around a model, or extrude a ring of fire into 3D and put some spotlights on it — it was that he could do ALL OF THOSE THINGS. He wasn’t following a script either. I asked, and he had this entire routine memorized. (He said he had done it 12-15 times over the past year or so.) I was becoming impressed with the person displaying the very massive Photoshop skills that I was there to learn in the first place.

You might think, “well, I can watch a few online tutorials and get the same information for free that you just paid $100 for.” Yes you can. You can also download music from iTunes directly to your phone instead of paying nearly $100 to go to a concert, but you would be deluding yourself if you believed that those MP3s would be giving you the same experience as the concert.

Now that brings me to the next thing I learned — the company he works for is full of people who make their living by going “on tour” teaching others these crazy things that they’ve figured out. Why don’t public schools operate that way?

Heck, why don’t more computer nerds operate that way? I had never before seen a group of people get excited and applaud upon seeing somebody twiddle a couple sliders on a computer screen. Computers don’t have to be these boring beige things that are used by boring beige people. They can be magical, and this seminar proved it.

Anyway, KelbyTraining and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) have these seminars all over the place, but their big one is called Photoshop World. It’s an annual 3-day event, and this year it will be in Orlando, Florida. (only $350 / round trip… I checked, I had to.)

In conclusion, you may see some little graphics appear in future blog posts with some crazy effects all over them. I’m still buzzing from all the stuff I learned that I have to use it all!

Ring It Up (iPhone app review)

(UPDATE 03/07/2011) – Considering other Credit Card Apps – GoPayment vs Square

I just purchased an iPhone. Everybody and their dog already has one, which means I don’t have to explain what it is. But since everybody knows everything there is to know about people who own iPhones, I have to contend with the rumor that I now tweet my farts on Facebook while doing 90mph on the turnpike. Oh, joy.

The important part of owning something that the population at large has not only deemed a status symbol but smothered its users in layers of uncomfortable stereotypes involves trying your best to ignore the pop culture status of the thing and seeing if you can actually do something useful with it. Where do we go from here? Ask yourself, “Is there some aspect of my existence that needs the swift kick in the pants that only this new pocked-sized device can deliver?” Whatever you’re thinking, hop on iTunes and see if there’s an app for that!

In my case, I was growing increasingly frustrated at having to use a knucklebuster for handling credit card transactions. Enter “Ring It Up” (RIU):

It doesn’t go “ka-ching!” when you sell something, but it does everything else that you would expect a pocket-sized cash register to do! It’s got an onboard database, and it lets you ring up customers when they buy your stuff (hence the name).

There is some data entry involved, but that’s just part of the deal of running a business — sometimes you just have to sit down and type up a bunch of stuff into a computer, and managing the Product List is one of those times.

What’s all this mean? Will this help me fend off the mounting barrage of Farmville requests on my Facebook account? Sadly, no. But it can do this:

  • scan barcodes
  • connect to third-party credit card apps
  • print receipts by connecting to a third-party printing app
  • sync with your desktop


Barcode Scanner

The scanner uses the engine from the RedLaser app. You can populate your inventory by scanning the barcode for each item, and then when you need to ring them up, scan the barcode and the item will be added to the order.

My photographs don’t have barcodes on them, but this app might just change that!


Credit Card Authorization
(NOTE: This part requires a transaction account through a financial institution which can cost a lot of money. See the documentation for the third-party credit card app for more details.)

Ring It Up hands this part over to a third-party app (see its Partner Apps page). Once you’ve told Ring It Up which CC app you’re using (in Settings), you can press the credit card icon on the top-center, and it will switch over to the other app automatically:

I picked Credit Card Terminal by Innerfence because it was $0.99 (subject to change), and I remember seeing  it on TV — come on, it’s the best-looking CC app out there!

(This requires a merchant account (Merchant Focus) and a payment gateway (Authorize.net), which will total about $25/month, or your transactions will go into the void.)

By now you’re probably thinking “so I gotta buy this app, then I gotta buy this other app, then I gotta sign up for a couple bank-like things that just transfer money!?” Yup. That’s exactly how it works.

Anyway, here’s a cost breakdown for getting the credit card transactions up and running (prices good as of 1/11/2010):

  • Ring It Up = $30
  • Credit Card Terminal = $0.99 (may jump back to $49.99 at any moment!)
  • Merchant Focus & Authorize.net (sign up through innerfence.com)
    • monthly fee : $25.00 (tell Merchant Focus if your business is seasonal — they will only charge you for those months when you’re selling stuff)
      • UPDATE : Going ‘seasonal’ is a bit of a misnomer. Merchant Focus lets your account go dormant during the off-months, but Authorize.net charges $25 to reactivate your account. Therefore, it is only a cost-saving measure if you’re out for over two months.
    • per transaction fee : $0.24 + 2.09% for qualified transactions (or 3.79% for non-qualified)

For example, If you’re in business for three months out of the year, and you make 50 (qualified) transactions, with an average of $150 per transaction, here’s how much it will cost you:

  • apps ($39.98) + 3 months ($75.00) + 50 transactions @ $0.24 ($12.00) + 50x $150 transactions @ 2.09% ($156.75)
  • Total Sales = $7,500
  • Total Cost = $283.73 (3.78% of sales) … remember to add $25 if you’re reactivating a formerly-dormant Authorize.net account

If you’re in business for all 12 months, and you make 200 (qualified) transactions, with an average of $150 per transaction:

  • apps ($39.98) + 12 months ($300.00) + 200 transactions @ $0.24 ($48.00) + 200x $150 transactions @ 2.09% ($627.00)
  • Total Sales = $30,000
  • Total Cost = $1014.98 (3.38% of sales)

You didn’t think this was going to be easy just because you’re using an iPhone, did you? :)

(But honestly, there’s nothing really stopping you from just using just Ring It Up along with a knucklebuster. Propay is just fine for small transactions, and the total annual cost is probably $100, tops. I’m just too lazy to keep up on all my excuses as to why I’m using an imprinter in the 21st century, keeping track of all the paper-pushing, and taking all the paperwork home and manually typing in each receipt on a website until my fingers bleed. It’s 2010, I shouldn’t have to do data entry! Besides, where’s my flying car!?)


Printing Receipts

I haven’t used this, but it sure sounds handy. According to the documentation, it’s compatible with the Print n Share app by EuroSmartz.

(The only problem is that I can’t find a screenshot of how to set it up. I wouldn’t be surprised if it just magically worked, everything else does!)


Sync with your desktop

Trust me, this is handy!

This serves two purposes:

  1. If your phone gets hosed, you won’t lose all your sales data.
  2. If you think the onboard database is a bit limited (I’ll get to that), you can export the data to your desktop and tweak it there!

In order to sync with your desktop, you must be connected over WiFi — a USB connection will not do. The CSV files will come over as comma-delimited, qualified in double-quotes, formatted in UTF-8, and with headers included. You can then open the files in a spreadsheet (Excel) or a database (Microsoft Access) and go hog wild!

In fact, over the past couple years I have already been using an Access database for managing all of my inventory, sales, and scheduling. Why not use RIU as the mobile version of this much larger database?

The 320×480 screen on the iPhone is well suited for allowing the device to fit in my pocket, but in terms of data entry, it has a lot to be desired compared to the flat panel that’s right in front of me as I write this.


Any Problems?

The only problem with the existing feature set is that the “edit” button on the More tab doesn’t work.  This means you can’t move around the buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Other than that, the only things I encountered were just a couple features that I wish it had — a couple really esoteric things that most people probably wouldn’t use. :)

First : Since I sell my work at a different location nearly every weekend, I have to adjust the sales tax almost constantly. It would be nice to set up a list of locations with their corresponding tax rates. While ringing up a customer, I could use a “Location” selector on the Sales page to automatically populate the tax rate for the order. (It’s not so bad though.. I think I can remember to keep the tax rate up to date.)

Second : Due to the (seemingly unique) way I keep track of my work, I would like items to have attributes that determine the selling price. For instance, the size (12″, 18″, 24″, 30″ and 36″) and frame style (metal frame, wood frame, or only matted) determine their selling price of each of my prints. Each item in the Ring It Up database does have a page of attributes:

click for big

This was the first place I looked for a way to add cost-changing “dynamic” attributes to inventory items. I would expect to press the “Edit” button” and then see a plus sign next to an item called “Add an Attribute”. I would then give the attribute a name, then populate it with values. Each value would have a price associated with it. When a customer purchased an item, the app would have me “build” the item by populating each attribute before placing the item on the receipt, and the total of each selected attribute price would determine the final price of the product.

As you can see in the screenshot, there is no control for such a thing. The price for each item is a simple text field, and no other attribute can affect it. I suggested to the developer that he add dynamic attribute functionality, but in order to accomplish it, it would “fundamentally change the way Ring it Up works.” This would also make inventory management difficult: How could you keep track of the quantity of each image when the order is built on-the-fly?

Solution : After some experimenting with the CSV import/export feature, it makes a lot better sense to consider RIU the front-end, while my Access database is the back-end storehouse. Access generates the product list and pricing scheme for RIU, while RIU stores the orders for merging back into the Access database.

Since I wanted to display the edition number and frame style on the receipt, and there was no other place to put those fields, I decided to have Access cram them into the product name and description fields, respectively. This led to a couple side effects, but I put them there so I know what to expect:

  • Since each item contained the edition number, and no two copies of the same image could have the same number, each inventory item was rendered unique. Therefore the maximum quantity of each item would be “1”.
  • Instead of 25-or-so inventory items (the list of unique images), I would have about 75 entries in the list (the total number of framed and matted prints I carry around to each show). This takes a while to scroll through, but it’s still better than having to keep track of it by hand.


In Conclusion

PROS : Your customers will stand in awe at your mighty electronic payment processing power. You can also sync your data to your desktop for maximum awesomeness!

CONS : It doesn’t cook breakfast, but I’ll bet *ahem* …there’s an app for that!

—–

More Information : http://www.pingysoft.com/Ring_It_Up.html