Toronto

Square Canada doesn't have a tech issue: it's a Cuban coffee issue

The owners of a Toronto coffee stand say Square Canada has told them they can no longer use the popular payment technology because of concerns the coffee stand is selling beverages made from Cuban coffee beans.

Toronto coffee stand's collection problem stems from U.S. bank's Cuba embargo fears

Monica Mustelier owns Toronto's Little Havana mobile coffee shop. She says payments made through Square were not reaching her bank account. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

The owners of a Toronto coffee stand say Square Canada has told them they can no longer use the popular payment technology because of concerns the coffee stand is selling beverages made from Cuban coffee beans.

Square Canada allows customers to tap or swipe their financial cards to pay for things — in this case coffee from Toronto's Little Havana coffee stand.

Little Havana's co owner, Monica Mustelier, said she'd been in contact with the technology company regularly since late August, after $14,000 in customer payments collected using Square never made it into her TD Canada Trust bank account.

In an earlier CBC News report, she said the company led her to believe the missing money was being held due to problems with an "acquiring processor." A Square Canada spokesperson had told CBC News, the situation wasn't "one-off" — but wasn't widespread, either.

It turns out, that's not the case, Mustelier says.

According to Mustelier, Square Canada told her the tech company uses the U.S. bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. to process payments, and the bank cannot or will not release the funds due to potential concerns over Little Havana's Cuban coffee beans.

"I was kind of shocked and mad, because we're a Canadian company using Cuban goods bought and sold in Canada," Mustelier told CBC News Monday.

Mustelier legally imports the coffee beans through a Montreal distributor.

It's currently 'cash only' at the Little Havana mobile coffee stand. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

Today, Valerie Jackson, Square Canada's communications manager, confirmed to CBC News the issue isn't a tech problem after all.

"I want to clarify that Square is not experiencing a technical glitch. While I cannot speak with you about Monica's individual case, I can tell you that Square's Customer Success team spoke with Monica yesterday, and she now knows the reason," she wrote in an email to CBC News.

The U.S. has a financial and commercial embargo against Cuba, severely limiting dealings with Cuban interests. Mustelier is Canadian and says she has no idea why a U.S. embargo is affecting her Canadian business.

"For the U.S. sanctions against Cuba to affect us so directly is a shock, because I know Canada and Cuba have good relations," she says.

Money missing since August

Mustelier had been using Square technology for the past three years without incident.

Then, in late August, thousands of dollars Square Canada was supposed to transfer into her bank account never made it.

Ever since, Square Canada had been working with Mustelier to find out what went wrong.

"I don't know why they would be using a third party in the States to process Canadian funds," Mustelier says about Square Canada's use of the U.S. bank.

"If I knew Square's policy, I probably wouldn't have used them in the first place," she adds.

She says Square Canada has told her, the company is still working on refunding her the $14,000.

In the meantime, Mustelier is now looking for a payment system that uses Canadian banks only, to process transactions.

CBC News has contacted Square Canada for further comment on its plans.

About the Author

John Lancaster

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

John Lancaster is a senior reporter with CBC News focusing on investigative and enterprise journalism. His stories have taken him across Canada, the US and the Caribbean. His reports have appeared on CBC Toronto, The National, CBC's Marketplace, The Fifth Estate-and of course CBC online and radio. Drop him a line anytime at john.lancaster@cbc.ca.