Digital Payment Technology Meets Street Newspaper Vendors

Digital payment technology is now being made available to the Real Change street newspaper vendors in Seattle to accept payments. A new scan-to-pay application, developed by Google, with an initiative to help the colporteurs to receive cashless payments, aims to benefit the homeless newspaper vendors of Real Change.

Residents of Seattle will now be able to receive a digital version of the Real Change newspaper when they scan a QR code on the vendors’ badge through their mobile phones. It will display the photo and name of the vendor to confirm the identity to make the payment. They can then complete the payment and receive a link to download the digital edition of the newspaper. The digital edition of the newspaper costs $2.99, of which the vendor receives $1.49.

Google has pledged that it will not make a profit from the app; it can be downloaded free for use on Google Play. The digital version of Real Change is currently only available for Android customers but it will be expanded to Apple iOS and Windows platforms gradually.

Real change is North America’s leading street newspaper that provides work for about 800 homeless and low income people annually. Real Change meets vendors where they are and provides a 90 minute orientation which includes agreement to the code of conduct, brief sales training, and an invitation for involvement in various program activities. After the 90 minute training, vendors can start selling the newspaper.

A similar payment app, SnapScan is used by customers to purchase a nonprofit magazine, The Big Issue, in Capetown, South Africa. However, the magazine is not published in a digital version like the Real Change newspaper. To use the feature, customers register on the SnapScan app and link their credit card. To purchase the magazine, customers scan the QR codes displayed on the vendor and confirm the payment using a pin or a signature.

Another mobile payment app Sr. Pago, developed for the vendors in Mexico, allows the street market vendors to conduct business without having a bank account. They can redeem the cash in one of the 12,800 Oxxo convenience stores in Mexico. Sr. Pago is available as an app on Nextel smartphones.