This story comes rather unsurprisingly from California. A bookstore by the name of Columbia Booksellers and Variety Store was forced to close both their brick-and-mortar location and their online store thanks to the tech company Square, Inc. suddenly terminating Columbia’s use of their payment processing services.
“This came out of the blue. There was no warnings, they did not call us to say, ‘Hey I think you might be in violation.’ There was nothing,” said Michael Sharps, who co-owns the store with his wife, Rosanna. “They just shut it down and said the decision is not reversible.”
Michael Sharps said they’ve kept largely the same inventory since they started, which ranges from clothing and books to era-appropriate toys and personal accessories. They also opened the business using Square, a popular point-of-sale processor that allows sellers to easily integrate other important business functions all under its platform.
So what does the culprit appear to be? The non-firing replica guns the store says they’ve always sold:
Among the shop’s merchandise from the start has been replica guns — including about 20 styles of pistols, revolvers and rifles — which are all non-firing, non-operational and cannot be modified to shoot live rounds. In essence, Sharps said, they are highly accurate-looking and fairly pricey toys meant for display.
Square, Inc., which has a longstanding aversion to anything firearm-related, wasn’t exactly forthcoming about the problem but the bookstore owners kept digging for answers. This is what they found:
The email, and Sharps’s subsequent correspondences with the company, were provided to The Bee for review. That initial email read in part, “We reviewed your account and found that your business is prohibited by Section 3 of the Payment Terms and/or Section 4 of the General Terms.”
In subsequent emails with Square, Sharps tried to determine the specific violation, as the sections cited cover a wide range of restrictions. That includes boilerplate language about not using the services for illegal activities to more specific restrictions prohibiting its use for gambling, adult entertainment and multi-level marketing businesses among others things.
After a close reading of the terms-of-service sections in question, Sharps thinks their service was canceled for “sales of (i) firearms, firearm parts or hardware, and ammunition; or (ii) weapons and other devices designed to cause physical injury.”
The thing is, the store doesn’t sell firearms. Those replicas can’t even be altered to function with live ammo. They’re nothing but cool-looking paperweights.
What did Square, Inc. have to say for themselves? Not much . . .
Square also would not comment on whether replica, non-operational firearms were considered a violation of its weapons terms, and whether there was an appeals process for accounts deemed in violation.