Cookie sales soar as Girl Scouts adopt smart phones, credit cards
New plug-in devices from Square and Sage Mobile allow some smart phones to become card readers.
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Now, the trend has flipped. About 35 of the 120 Girl Scout regional offices have adopted smart-phone payments, double the number from a year ago. Given the enthusiastic feedback and healthy bump in sales, Ms. Hamaker expects more to sign on next year.Skip to next paragraph
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A pilot program of 150 troops in northeast Ohio saw cookie purchases jump by 13 percent last year, while the Scouts without card readers saw no real improvement. This year, Graves handed out Sage readers to 536 troops; they had their largest restocking order in history.
Smart-phone payments arrive just as the United States is dramatically changing its spending methods. Americans wrote half as many checks last year compared with 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, credit- and debit-card purchases, collectively, nearly doubled.
These shifts have already affected small businesses, restaurants, and artisans, such as Square's cofounder Jim McKelvey. The company's creation myth revolves around a $3,000 glass faucet that Mr. McKelvey had trouble selling. Potential customers all wanted to pay with credit cards. So the serial tech entrepreneur (and glass blower) teamed up with Twitter creator Jack Dorsey to harness the supercomputer that now lives in people's pockets.
Smart phones already offer the processor, operating system, and Internet connection necessary for a credit or debit transaction. They only needed to craft an inexpensive magnetic-strip reader and the software to handle the purchase.
Best Buy, Radio Shack, and other retailers sell the peripherals for between $10 and $99, but Square now hands out the devices free of charge to anyone who signs up through its website. Graves said that Girl Scout troops received free readers from Sage, as well.
"Now I get calls from parents," says Graves. "Their phone contracts are almost up and they want to know, 'What phone should I buy? What will work with these readers?' "
For more on how technology intersect daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.