Bill Hallan column: 3rd grade math – A lesson in time management

By WILLIAM J. HALLAN – MRA President and CEO

I’m always a little bit disheartened when I walk into a business and I see a merchant using Square to process their credit card transactions. While I might shake my head, I get it. Square makes it easy to sign up for credit card processing. Their value proposition is simplicity at sign up.

However, that simplicity comes at quite a cost, both literally and figuratively. The rates Square charges far exceed industry averages; merchants using Square pay 2.75% for swiped transactions and 3.5% plus $0.15 for manually entered transactions. Customer service also falls by the wayside at the cost of simplicity; merchants needing support have the privilege of chatting with Square’s “Support Robot.”

Essentially, the success of Square’s model is based upon the assumption that merchants are willing to pay more and have limited customer service support for simple enrollment.

I’ve thought a lot about what that says about our society. It pretty much means we value our time over everything else. And not just our time in general, but our immediate time. How often do we sacrifice better solutions for a short-term convenience?

It’s cliché, but time truly is our most valuable commodity. Still, making decisions solely focused on our present use of time isn’t always in our best interest. Online shopping is a perfect example. In a few simple clicks we can purchase a product that is shipped to our front door in just a couple of days. How often though does the product arrive and it’s not quite right? The fit is too big or the color looks different from what we saw online. We ship it back and order again. We could have had the right product much faster by simply visiting a local retailer.

Long-term time management is an important principle we teach our children, and we should follow our own advice. My 9-year-old daughter Olivia is in the third grade and she’s learning division. While she might know the answer to an equation right off the bat, we make sure she shows her work to demonstrate that she knows how to find the solution. Yes, it’s tedious and takes longer, but she and her classmates are establishing building blocks so they’ll be able to solve more complicated problems in the future.

That’s why it pains me to see a merchant using Square. It’s a merchant prioritizing a few minutes at the beginning but losing in the long run. A retailer using Square is the same as a consumer buying from Amazon. Square’s an out-of-state company that’s not invested in Michigan. Through MRA’s merchant processing program you’ll pay less, and if you need support, you’ll talk with our team in Lansing.

When I started writing this article it was not intended to be a sales pitch for our merchant processing program. It was meant merely as a commentary on how we often make decisions based on the present and not on the future. The more I wrote though, the more I thought, “You know what? We’re better, and we’ll prove it.”