My NPR friends and I cannot resist your transactional innovation

When Square announced it was debuting the iPhone-based Card Case transaction system at just a few stores around the country, I mobilized friends from work. One shop turned out to be blocks from NPR and was already a popular staff stop: Chinatown Coffee. A chance to see a big idea hit the street! I was already a fan of Square’s previous big idea.

Friend Marc hooked up his iPhone to the Square system, and we were on our way at noon. Upon arriving at the store, though, we found the system wasn’t ready yet. I tweeted my disappointment, and within a few hours I received a tweet back from the shop, saying the system was finally going. Marc went back the next day with friend Elise and tied his credit card to Card Case through the cashier (security thing).

The next day, we three went back to see the full process in action. It was pretty slick, and my sad aging Blackberry was definitely jealous.

Once inside the shop, Marc hopped into the app and checked in.

He gave just his name, and the cashier saw him inside an iPad app.

The cashier rang up the items on the iPad and charged them to Marc.

The itemized receipt immediately popped up on Marc’s phone. Done.

No cash, credit cards or paper receipts were necessary. Also, both the shop and the customer had far more usable data than with standard credit transactions (which Twitter-turned-Square founder Jack Dorsey is touting). The only speed bump during the transaction was a lack of photo identification, a key part of a store’s customer verification within the Square process. Marc hadn’t been able to get the app to accept a photo upload. Hopefully that issue was just an opening-days glitch.

All in all, the experience was solid and fast. The simplicity gave me yet another reason to get an iPhone. Since Marc was apparently the first Card Case customer at the coffee shop, a Post reporter talked to him today about the experience — look for a story in coming days. Should be a good test of Card Case security. Will a publicized user of a new digital transaction system get hacked? Godspeed, Marc’s credit card.

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