Square and its parent company Block have apologized for a nationwide outage on Thursday that impacted businesses' ability to collect customer payments, but one can easily see how an outage like this is not the same as when Instagram goes down.
It took until 3:55 a.m. Friday for Square to fully take ownership of the outage, which also affected its Cash App product. The company has not yet given any reason for the outage.
"We know you trust us with your business, and these situations add challenges to running your operations. For that, we are truly sorry," the company said in a tweet.
But apologies don't make up for critical dollars lost — and in some cases it likely meant the loss of a full day's business. Newly opened Gumbo Social (5176 Third Street) in San Francisco had to resort to handing out free gumbo on Thursday after its Square terminal ceased functioning.
Chef-owner Dontaye Ball tells the Chronicle he lost easily $1,000 in sales, and he felt betrayed by both the apology and the fact that he feels "too in bed" with Square already to switch to another system in a hurry. He compared the company's apology tweet to "I apologize for cheating on you, but I’ll be home at 8."
Some businesses, like Blue Bottle locations in SF, just posted "Cash Only" signs to their doors — which, as many of us know in an age of so many cashless payments, likely means a lot of customers went elsewhere.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, businesses as far away as Australia reported being impacted by the outage. Likely as a consequence of this snafu, shares of Block fell 5.5% in trading early Friday.
Salt Lake City-based chef Viet Pham, a Food & Wine Best New Chef who's appeared multiple times on the Food Network, tweeted at Square that his business was out at least $18,000 in revenue from last night.
.@square, we lost out almost $18,000 worth of business - what are you going to do about that? How are you going to address that???— Viet Pham (@chefvietpham) September 8, 2023
The owner of Oakland's Lion Dance Cafe, C-Y Chia, tells the Chronicle that the restaurant relies on Square for its time-card and payroll system, in addition to payment processing, and employees kept arriving to work Thursday saying they couldn't log in to the system to clock in.
"Do we have to close tonight?" Chia recalls thinking. "Who carries cash anymore?"
Chia further tells the Chronicle that the payroll/time-card system has had issues "at least once a week" for some time.
It seems that not enough communication was going on to inform businesses that they should start taking offline payments, and Square said Friday that it would be processing those, but they may show a delay in going through.
At 11:30 PT Friday morning, Square confirmed in a tweet that all services were back up and running, and issued another apology.
"We apologize for the inconvenience this disruption caused to your business. Once the outage has been fully investigated, we plan to publish a full review of this issue and determine what steps we can take to prevent it from happening again," the company said.
But the outage is likely to both spur some defections to other payment processors, and spur discussions about reliant small businesses have become on this single service. Unlike when a free service like Facebook or Instagram has an outage, the impacts are far more meaningful when a small business potentially loses one-sixth or a quarter of its weekly revenue.
There was plenty of anger being vented on social media as well about Square's official updates, which extended into the wee hours of the morning without an apology or explanation. All these updates basically said "We're working on it."
Others noted that the error message appearing on Square screens during the outage seemed to blame the problem on the business's internet connection.
@square is letting us down. They are not being transparent about the problem. Deliberately telling customers they have no internet connection when they know square’s servers are the problem. #squareoutage #squaredown #DeceptivePractices pic.twitter.com/YEgB2I07B2— LegalDiva (@visionarylife) September 7, 2023
In any event, this won't be the last you hear about the Great Square Outage of 2023.
Top photo: [email protected]