Square-shaped hole in workers' wallets after payment system fails at peak tip time

Unexplained service issue blamed after customers unable to leave gratuities electronically


Square's payment system malfunctioned over the weekend for several hours, a glitch that cost workers at affected businesses a meaningful portion of their earnings during the most lucrative day of the week.

The company's status page at IsSquareUp.com tells the clinical part of the story. There were multiple service issues on Saturday, September 18 that were resolved after a few hours. No technical details are provided.

The messier version played out in small businesses around the US as workers at coffee shops, nail salons, and other service-oriented ventures found their payment screens unable to accept tips – which amount to more than half of the earnings of waitstaff and bartenders, according to the National Employment Law project.

Erica Escalante, owner of Café Reina in Portland, Oregon, signaled her dissatisfaction with Square via Twitter.

"@Square one of the busiest days we ever had and tips weren’t working!??! In this economy????" she wrote on Saturday. "I’m kindly requesting you refund processing fees so I can pay my employees what they missed out on today. This isn’t okay."

Many others voiced similar complaints, some of whom have asked Square to reimburse workers for lost gratuity, a critical source of income given that the federal minimum wage in the US has not changed since 2009.

A company spokesperson expressed empathy for affected workers and regret for the snafu.

"For about 3 hours on Saturday, Sept. 18th, our systems experienced an issue that prevented some sellers from being able to sign into their accounts or accept tips," a Square spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Register.

"We understand how important it is to never miss a sale and how critical tip collection can be for our sellers’ teams. We apologize for the issue and we will be sharing additional details on what we’ll be doing to prevent similar situations from happening in the future."

The Register asked Square specifically whether it plans to compensate workers for lost tips, but the company ignored that question in its reply.

We also asked for an explanation of why the problem occurred. Square ignored that question too. ®

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