Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images Images/Universal Images Group via Getty
Yesterday, scores of restaurants, bars, and cafés faced a major conundrum: The businesses couldn’t accept credit-card payments from customers who just wanted to pay for their lattes, because the tech platform Square experienced a nationwide outage. Given that many people don’t even bother to carry around cash anymore, this raised some serious issues, such as: Are people going to have to hit the ATM?
“It was horrible,” says Aaron Foster, who owns the Bushwick café and grocer Foster Sundry. “We didn’t know it was down at first. Stuff just sort of slowly stopped working. Orders stopped going to the kitchen display and the coffee display.”
Things were the same uptown. “We couldn’t input our orders to the kitchen. Then we couldn’t process credit-card payments,” John Nguyen, an owner of Banh and Com Tam Ninh Kieu, says. Like others, his restaurants turned to Venmo and Zelle. While in-person orders weren’t impacted, he says online sales were down. “Customers were not able to place orders once Square’s system went down.”
According to Foster, while Square advises business owners to switch to offline payment during outages, he was unable to do this yesterday. (Instead, he posted a sign with his personal Venmo QR code, asking customers to use Venmo or cash.) He says that the communication from Square yesterday amounted to “We are aware of the problem and are working on implementing a fix.”
In New York, other bars, restaurants, and shops — including Caleta, Gem Wine, I Like Food, Vine Wine, and Yellow Rose — were impacted. Those that opened later in the day were able to get ahead of the problem by posting signs and on social media to give customers a heads-up. Not everyone suffered the same headaches. “Everyone was willing to roll with the punches, no lag in sales!” Yellow Rose’s Dave Rizo says. “We only accepted cash, no Venmo or Zelle or any of that kind of stuff.”
Around 11 a.m. today, Foster received an email, which he described as “very patronizing,” from Square sharing that “our services are now starting to come back online.” (He says that when the store opened this morning, staff reset computers, and everything came back online.) Others were able to avoid these problems altogether. When asked if his business was impacted by the outage, Oh Boy owner Kyle Garcia answered succinctly, “We left that wack-ass shit.”