I have been a customer of Square since they were in beta and up until this experience have happily paid hundreds of dollars to them in transaction fees. Their software is excellent and when things are going well, the experience is the best their is. I have recommended Square repeatedly to others and have even gone out of my way to promote the service because it has been so valuable to me in the past. It is because of this that the horrendous treatment I have received as of late is all the more surprising and painful.
On April 18th I received an email from Square:
APR 18, 2012 | 12:05PM PDT
We have received notification of a chargeback to your account. If you would like to dispute this chargeback, please provide a detailed description of the goods or services that were sold for the transaction below. Also, if this transaction was manually entered (card not present), please provide signed card holder authorization and proof of delivery for the transaction. There will be a hold or debit (via your bank account) on this transaction until the dispute is resolved. We have outlined the process below for your convenience.
1. The buyer (cardholder) requests a chargeback/dispute from their financial institution.
2. The respective financial institution notifies Square and debits the funds from Square.
3. Square places a hold on the seller’s funds related to the chargeback.
4. Square notifies the user (merchant/seller) through email and requests information that will facilitate in the challenge process.
Type: Card Payment
Date: Mar 2, 2012 at 8:22pm CST
Payment card: REDACTED
Statement description: Jason Gullickson
As this case is time sensitive, if you would like to challenge the chargeback, please respond back within 15 days from the date of this email.
I followed-up immediately with as much detail as I could put my hands on without going back to the paper records:
APR 18, 2012 | 12:17PM PDT
We will would like to dispute this chargeback.
This transaction consisted of four items won during the REDACTED auction. We are looking into our records to determine what additional details are available about the specific items that were purchased.
At this point I contacted the company I had processed the payment for to marshal any additional information that could be had from the paperwork (should Square require more details) and waited to hear back from Square.
The next morning I received this email from Square indicating that they had withdrawn $175.05 from the bank account linked to my Square account:
Hello, Jason Gullickson.
We just initiated a debit in the amount of $175.05 from your REDACTED account. We are debiting your account because you have a negative Square balance. The funds should be withdrawn in 1–2 business days.
_For more information, please read our terms of service: https://squareup.com/legal/sign _
_If you have any questions, please contact support: https://squareup.com/help _
This was a problem. The reason being that I don’t keep a balance in this account (ironically to minimize my loss should the account become compromised). This being the case I imagined one of two outcomes:
1. The transaction would fail
2. The transaction would go through and incur overdraft penalties
First I checked the balance of the linked account and it was negative due to the charge placed by Square. I immediately contacted my bank to let them know what was going on and that I would be transferring sufficient funds to my account to cover this withdrawal. I then transferred $180.00 from another account, however due to the speed of EFT this would take a few days.
I then replied to the original email I received from Square explaining the situation and why debiting this account was unacceptable, and that I would be happy to fund my Square account through other means until the disputed charge was settled.
APR 19, 2012 | 04:03AM PDT
I received an email from Square this morning indicating that you will be
withdrawing $175.05 from the bank account associated with my Square account
due to a negative balance (which is due to this chargeback). There are two
problems with this:
1. As I understand it I have 15 days to dispute this charge, and have
already initiated the dispute process, so it is unacceptable to have funds
withdrawn from my account until this process has been completed
2. I do not keep a balance in the account associated with my Square
account as I use Square only to accept payments. Your attempt to withdraw
from this account will result in either a rejection of the transaction due
to insufficient funds or worse, you will receive your payment and I will
receive insufficient funds fees.
This is completely unacceptable and I require that you immediately stop
this transfer to avoid any chance that I will incur fees. If it is
necessary I can pay the negative balance in my Square account from other
sources, however as this chargeback dispute is still in progress I don’t
understand why I should have to pay anything until the matter is settled,
and should that be the case I will be closely reviewing your terms and
considering further action.
For the record I have never received such “guilty until proven innocent”
treatment from a company before and until now have sung the praises of
square and happily paid the fees associated with your service. If this
issue is not resolved immediately (today, 04/19/2012) I will no longer use
or recommend Square and will close my account as soon as this situation has
come to an end.
I will also attempt to submit this request to your “support” system if I
can figure out how to find a contact email address there.
Your prompt response is appreciated,
Jason J. Gullickson
I waited a few more hours for a response (at this point I had still not heard back from my first response to their initial message) and then sent one more reply to the original chargeback email and indicated that I required a response by 3:00PM CST on April 19th.
APR 19, 2012 | 10:23AM PDT
This is my third attempt to contact Square and I have not yet received a response.
If I do not receive an email response to these messages before 3:00PM Central Standard Time today I will seek alternate forms receiving a response.
Jason J. Gullickson
When 3:00PM had come and gone, I worked my way through Square’s “support” system until I could find a contact email address and contacted them again:
Subject: Disputed Transaction
One day ago I was contacted by Square regarding a disputed transaction. I provided the requested information and did not receive a response.
This morning I received an email indicating that Square had withdrawn the disputed amount from my bank account without warning. I again responded to the original message explaining why this was unacceptable and requested a response from square today.
A third time I responded to the original message with a request for response by 3:00PM CST. Again I received no response from Square by this time.
In addition to costing money, this mistake has now cost a considerable amount of time and has undermined any confidence I have had with Square. I have been using Square since beta and have recommended it repeatedly as well as having paid hundreds of dollars in transaction fees. This lack of response and manipulation of my accounts without notice is unacceptable and I write this with some hope that approaching the communication via a separate channel will not fall upon deaf ears as all of my other correspondence as so far.
Please respond to this message today if you have any interest in resolving this matter amicably.
Jason J. Gullickson
I promptly received this automated reply:
Square Support Notification for Case #: 597069
Case Updated: APR 19, 2012 | 08:23PM UTC
Thank you for contacting Square.
We are committed to responding within 24 hours, so you will hear back from us shortly.
In the meantime, feel free to return to the Square Help Center for answers to frequently asked questions.
Another day goes by.
At this point my bank has levied an insufficient funds fee on my account, however I was able to contact them and get the charges reversed (a welcome surprise). Interestingly enough my balance had returned to it’s original state as Squares’ charge was declined, which made it easier for me to be patient and wait for Squares’ response as they did not have my funds and it looked unlikely that their actions would result in any additional fees from my bank.
Well over 24 hours after my inquiry above, I received this message from Square:
APR 20, 2012 | 04:11PM PDT
Thanks for writing in. Please be advised that we respond to tickets in the order that they are received. If you write in repeatedly prior to receiving a response, your correspondence will be understandably marked as more recent, may be seen as spam, and you will naturally inhibit our ability to address your case in an efficient manner.
As a point of clarification, all funds associated with disputed transactions are automatically held in your Square account pending the resolution of said dispute. If there is an insufficient balance in your Square account to cover the total of the dispute, your linked bank account will be debited. Note that this does not mean we are deciding the case against you and these funds are not remitted to the cardholder unless we receive an unfavorable resolution.
It is our pleasure to inform you that this inquiry has been preliminarily closed in your favor. While this is promising, it is also conditional. Your funds are eligible for automated release on or around 30 April 2012 once additional confirmation is secured. No further action is required from you at this time. Unless you receive further correspondence from us regarding this dispute, you may consider the matter closed upon receipt of your funds.
While the tone was a bit disrespectful from a customer service perspective, I was happy to hear that it sounded like we were out of the woods, and that it would just be a few more days before everything was back where it should be. I was certain that I would no longer be a customer of Square but I had no intention of expending any more effort on the matter.
Then the next morning I received another email from Square indicating that they had again withdrawn funds from my bank account. Frustrated, I once again replied:
APR 24, 2012 | 05:46AM PDT
Jessica I received another email from Square this morning that said you
withdrew $175.05 from my REDACTED account because of a negative Square
balance, however since the beginning of our conversation the Square website
has never indicated that I have a negative balance.
Either this is a bug or something fishy is going on.
Please return my funds as soon as possible and close my account.
Another day goes by, and this time the funds had been successfully removed from my bank account (fortunately the transfer I initiated on the 18th had completed so I wouldn’t have to beg for mercy from my bank again to avoid additional fees). Finally I get a response from Square regarding the withdrawal on April 25th:
APR 25, 2012 | 03:44PM PDT
Thanks for writing in. The debit you referenced occurred because the first failed due to an insufficient level of funding in your linked account. Per the network regulations, the debit process is automated and will continue to attempt to hold the funds associated with the dispute until it is resolved.
Because the debit failed, release eligibility has been shifted to 4 May 2012 in order to verify that the most recent debit was successful. Understandably, when we receive notification that your linked account is under-funded, we will become concerned about your ability to meet the performance obligations associated with your past/present use of the service.
Let’s just stop here for a moment and consider the facts:
I used Square to accept a legitimate payment for a product which was delivered in person at the time of purchase
Square informed me of a chargeback
I immediately responded with information which later appeared to resolve the chargeback issue
Square repeatedly debited my bank account to cover the chargeback (which at this point looked to them to no longer be an issue)
Square fails to respond to any of my requests in a timely fashion
Square fails to meet even their own responsiveness promises
Square offers no consideration for the effects their actions may have on their customer (me)
Square accuses me of spammer-like behavior
Square considers me suspect of not meeting performance obligations
…and now I’m being told that the funds (which are no longer needed) which have been removed from my bank account (with no advance notice) will be held longer due to a transaction result (which I attempted to warn them about) that I had no control over.
Given this, I reply:
APR 25, 2012 | 04:32PM PDT
This situation has moved from frustrating to bizarre.
I have explained throughly and repeatedly the situation from my perspective
yet you refuse to offer any understanding or consideration of my position.
I have complied with all of your requests (and unlike you, in a timely
fashion) and yet you choose to respond to my requests for service with
thinly veiled threats and accept zero responsibility for what has
I understand that you are under no legal or contractual obligation to make
any concessions or demonstrate any compassion or interest in your customers
but I am stunned that this is a course of action you consider acceptable or
a component of a successful business model.
Eventually, Square responds:
APR 30, 2012 | 12:39AM PDT
_Thanks for writing in. As a point of clarification, chargeback/dispute policies are set by the network and are strictly regulated. Please review article 31 of the User Agreement ( https://squareup.com/legal/ua ) for more information regarding the transactional hold process. When a transaction is disputed, the funds that are the subject of said dispute must be held until a final resolution is received. As the merchant who processed the transaction, you retain the responsibility to ensure that your linked account is sufficiently funded to cover your obligations. Please note that when you receive a chargeback, Square effectively floats you a loan for the duration of the dispute process. Therefore, the transaction level hold is an industry standard regulation imposed for the merchant’s protection. _
No further action is required from you at this time. Unless you receive further correspondence from us regarding this dispute, you may consider the matter closed upon receipt of your funds.
Square Chargeback Services
At this point I give up and decide to wait it out. On May 5th I log in to my Square account and see that I have a positive balance of $175.05 (FWIW, the balance never indicated a negative number). I excitedly look for the means to withdraw this amount.
After hunting around a bit I find this statement:
“Payments taken during normal business hours (before 5pm PST) are available in your bank account the next business day.”
OK, according to the last email from Square the funds should have been released on May 4th, so why haven’t they been deposited in my bank account yet?
Ah, “business day”
Looking further down the page, since the “payment” happened on a Friday (at what time I do not know) the funds could be sent to my bank as late as Sunday (May 6th), and will be available on Monday (May 7th). That’s fine, I can wait a little longer.
May 7th comes and goes and the funds do not show up in my bank account. I wait one more day (perhaps it’s some strange timezone issue?) and again no deposit. I send yet another response to Square:
It is now May 8th.
Release my funds to my linked bank account within 24 hours or I’m going to the press.
Today is May 10th and unsurprisingly I have not yet heard back from Square, nor have my funds been returned to my bank account. Obviously some more aggressive measures will be required on my part to get my money back, but I wanted to share this experience with anyone who is considering using Square as a credit card processor, as an example of how you can expect to be treated when something even slightly unusual occurs.
I have had poor customer service elsewhere, and often it is almost an expectation but given just how good Square was, I was shocked that I received worse treatment from their support staff than even AT &T could dish out (at least AT&T didn’t take money from me and then fail to return it when promised).
Worst of all is their complete unwillingness to make any attempt to compromise in order to provide a shred of customer service or resolve the situation amicably. I don’t like doing this, but at this point they have given me little choice but to share with you my experience in the hope that others will become aware of the possibility and choose to do business elsewhere before you find yourself almost literally held for ransom.