Square grows up, recognizes the future is not a cash-free utopia

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Square’s Business in a Box does what it says.
Square’s Business in a Box does what it says.
Image: Square

Cash registers and point-of-sale terminals are, for the most part, a business full of interlocking parts that change slowly, if at all. Payment services startup Square has managed to disrupt one part of this business—accepting credit cards—but there are others that the company is powerless to eradicate.

Instead, the company is embracing our paper-happy present with its new “Business in a Box” offering, which pairs an iPad case with two boxy, very un-Square objects: a cash drawer and a receipt printer.

“We pride ourselves on helping build the future of commerce, but we need to meet people where they are, and there are businesses whose customers want printed receipts,” Square vice president Jesse Dorogusker told the Wall Street Journal. “Cash isn’t dead just yet,” he added.

Not only is cash not dead, it’s likely to never disappear, for any number of only partly-rational reasons, from national identity to the importance of off-the-books transactions and gray markets. By acknowledging this—and by giving small business owners everything they need to accept both cash and credit cards while also providing physical receipts—Square could become the sole provider of the money-accepting and inventory-management parts of a business.

That’s not a trivial development, considering the patchwork of resellers and different providers many businesses currently rely on to provide all these different pieces. It’s also a sign that the company has, in a sense, grown up, and is recognizing that if it wants to gain mass market share, it has to play nice with the complicated and messy systems of transaction upon which merchants depend.