I guess the title says it all, but the other day I set out, determined to figure out how to accept credit cards at craft fairs and conventions and various other "real world" places that I sell my stuff. A while back, I had applied to be part of the beta test of Square which actually integrates with your cell phone to allow you to swipe credit cards (pretty cool!!), but since they're still in the early phases of testing the system, there's no guarantee (or even speculation) that I will be accepted into the pilot program in time for my selling season. So I needed an alternative.
I considered that at many places, like outdoor craft fairs, I won't have electrical access or usually even wifi, so payments using the computer were out - as were most electronic card readers/scanners. I could purchase one of the old-school capture-your-credit-card-through-the-magic-of-carbon-paper devices, which isn't too expensive, but I'd have to process all the receipts the same day (which can be done online) and in the interim risk that the card would be declined (not a giant gamble for me, since I don't make many million dollar sales, but also a pain in the neck because my items are too "low value" to have recourse if the card declines or is fraudulent). But mainly, it was the processing fees that got me. Many of the services that allow you to process credit transactions charge a monthly and/or annual fee -- which, again, isn't crazy expensive (~$35/mo) but I don't do enough in-person sales to justify it.
So then I explored the various options that are available as iPhone applications. Again: awesome gadgets and slick interfaces, but the fees were too steep for me personally.
And then it came to me: DUH! I already use PayPal for everything (as do a lot of people), so why not just make an easy way for people to pay me via PayPal? PayPal also accepts credit cards for people who don't have PayPal accounts, so that pretty much covers all my bases. Yeah, there's still a per-transaction fee charged, but it's lower than most credit card services and there's no annual fee or monthly fee to use PayPal. Best of all: I already am familiar with PayPal and I know how to transfer my money out of there (or use it to buy more stuff!) - AND there is a PayPal debit card available, so that you can actually spend the money from your PayPal earnings, just like a bank account (I'm deeply interested in this).
My solution: create a page on my website that will coordinate PayPal purchasing AND be mobile-phone friendly! That way, I can offer customers my phone to use or if they have internet access on their phone, they can process the transaction themselves. And if the venue happens to have wifi, then I will provide my laptop for use as well.
Because my inventory changes at every show, it didn't make sense to set up an itemized list with pricing. Plus, I'd have to account for every possible combination of costs or partial cash payments... too much trouble. Instead, I used the PayPal merchant services to create a "donate" button which allows the buyer to specify the exact amount they want to pay.
I went one step further and customized the payment button (instead of the bland, yellow PayPal button) to match my site colors and graphics (I made it myself in Photoshop).
See my payment page here: http://www.giddygirlie.com/pay Please note - this is a "live" page so if you complete a transaction, you will actually be sending me money. So don't do that, unless you wanted to buy me lunch today! ;-)