Several of the wineries at the California Family Winemakers event, August 2011 at Ft. Mason were trying out the Square credit card reader. This nifty little device is available for both iPhone and Android. Event organizers were trying to help wineries break even on their booth and wine costs by letting them sell and deliver wine at the event. A good idea.
To use the square payment system a merchant needs to plug the little device into the audio jack on an iPhone, iPad, or Android-based smartphone. Swipe a credit card through the slot and the Square software takes over, converting the credit card information into what amounts to an audio file, encrypts the data, and sends it off to the Squareup.com servers. Squareup charges $25 for the Square plus 2.75% of each transaction. Frankly, for small businesses (and very small businesses), this is a great deal.
As we said, event organizers were trying to help wineries break even on their booth and wine costs, by letting them sell and deliver wine at the event. A good idea for the wineries, but most wineries didn’t sell very much wine. We think the execution needs to improve a lot for next year’s event. Here were the shortcomings this year.
Marketing: Event organizers didn’t remind guests about the shopping opportunity
Although we do recall the event web site and initial email saying somewhere that wine would be sold at the event, we didn’t think it was very prominent. The mail didn’t explain how this was going to even be possible, much less wonderful. In fact, the mention of wine sales was so “bottom of mind” that we forgot about it.
Event Signage: Too subtle
When we were at the event, after about an hour we finally noticed the teeny, tiny little bottle and ribbon attached to the booth signs of some wineries. Finally we asked and learned, eureka, as if for the first time, that wine was being sold at the event this year.
Handling & delivery — Mickey Mouse™
We asked for clarification: ” Do you mean people can order wine here today for shipment later to their home?” The answer: “No, people can take home bottle(s) of wine right from Ft. Mason.” We didn’t see any guests carrying bottles around, but there must have been some. A sign next to the security guard at the exit said to be prepared to show the “green sticky dot” on the bottle and a receipt, if you were carrying a bottle of wine.
Bottom Line: We’ll definitely shop next year if the event handles wine and helps us load it.
All we can say is that toting around a bottle of two in a backpack or sack sounds like a real discomfort and hassle. It would really detract from the wine tasting/browsing. We’d plan on buying some wine next year — now that we know we can — if the event organizers can figure out some kind of optional system for “pick-up” at a loading dock with a receipt, naturally. Especially once a guest has more than two bottles in tow. (We suppose people without cars weren’t taking more than a a few bottles in a backpack.) Or maybe security can issue small shopping carts! But with the crowds at this event, that solution sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Given the sorry parking situation at Ft. Mason and the mob scene at the tasting, we would settle for a guarded area where we could park our wine purchases until we left. Then we could fetch the car, load it in front of the building, and leave quickly.
Frankly, the event organizers owe both the wineries and the customers a little more attention.