Square payment outage wreaks havoc on Bay Area restaurants

FILE – Head barista Stephen Davidson, left, uses Square at Blue Bottle in San Francisco on May 14, 2013. A Square outage left Bay Area restaurant owners unable to process credit card payments on Sept. 7, 2023.

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An outage of point-of-sale platform Square left Bay Area businesses in the lurch on Thursday and early Friday.

C-Y Chia, the co-owner of Oakland restaurant Lion Dance Cafe, first noticed something was amiss on Thursday afternoon when their employees were unable to use the Square app to clock in. But it wasn’t until the team started setting up Square for online ordering for the night that they realized something was really wrong. 

“No one alerted us. … I was working in the kitchen, so I didn’t look at my phone until 4 p.m., when I saw a bunch of emails from customers and Instagram messages asking why they weren’t able to place an online order with us,” Chia said. 


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With less than an hour until the restaurant opened, it was too late to close. Instead, Chia decided to ask customers to pay with cash, Venmo or PayPal (Cash App, another popular payment service run by Square’s owner, Block, also experienced an outage on Thursday, according to the Associated Press). They didn’t have to turn anyone away, said Chia, but since they were unable to process online orders, they still saw a significant drop in business.

Thousands of other business owners across the nation also saw their payment systems go dark Thursday.

“Since around noon PT on Thursday, sellers have been unable to access accounts or process payments due to a systems outage within Square,” read a post from Square on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday morning. “We know you trust us with your business, and these situations add challenges to running your operations. For that, we are truly sorry.”


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Mike Raskin, co-owner of Oakland restaurant Edith’s Pie, also was affected by the outage. Like Chia, he said he received no alert from Square on Thursday afternoon notifying him of the outage. 

“We had to navigate through six tiers of support pages to find that there was an outage,” he said. “For a company that sends seven automated emails to businesses every day at minimum, to not prioritize letting people know what’s happening … it was very, ‘Are you serious?’”

Without Square, Raskin took to Instagram to ask customers to pay in cash, which he said was “nerve-wracking” as he feared it might make him a target for a break-in. It also led to a loss of business.

“We had people leave because they didn’t have cash … I probably had 15 to 20 customers during our lunch rush just leave,” he said. 


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Edith’s Pie ended up logging offline transactions on Square as well, without knowing for sure if they would go through once Square was working again. 

“We have one to two thousand dollars just floating around,” Raskin said. “Maybe we’ll get this money, maybe we won’t. Who knows?”

Gumbo Social, a restaurant in San Francisco, shared on Instagram that it had to “turn away over 50 guests” on Thursday because it could not accept payment through Square. Leaning Tower, a pizza spot in Oakland, opted to close for the day due to the outage, it shared on Instagram.

As of Friday morning, disruption of Square payment acceptance has been resolved, the company told SFGATE in an emailed statement. 


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“As we continue to get all functionality back up and running, we are investigating what improvements we need to make to prevent these situations in the future,” they wrote. “We apologize for the inconvenience this disruption has caused to businesses.”

Still, the experience has left a sour taste in business owners’ mouths. Chia said that they are considering pivoting to another payment processing service, as they are fed up with paying $20,000 to $30,000 a year for a service that often glitches out. 

“We had already been pretty upset with Square for a long time,” they said. “It keeps getting more expensive, it’s ridiculous. And it’s never worked very well, and customer service has always been abysmal. This was the last straw.”


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