Now You Can Buy The Contributor Through An App, Spurring Homeless Vendors To Open Bank Accounts
The app will show a vendor’s ID photo so that a buyer can be sure the QR card being scanned actually belongs to the vendor offering them a paper. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Now You Can Buy The Contributor Through An App, Spurring Homeless Vendors To Open Bank Accounts

The app will show a vendor’s ID photo so that a buyer can be sure the QR card being scanned actually belongs to the vendor offering them a paper. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN
The app will show a vendor’s ID photo so that a buyer can be sure the QR card being scanned actually belongs to the vendor offering them a paper. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Nashville street newspaper The Contributor is launching a smartphone app. It lets buyers pay via credit card with a quick scan of a QR code and a few clicks. The new technology means a whole set of changes for the homeless and formerly homeless vendors.

When you buy The Contributor with the app, the vendor won’t immediately have cash in hand to buy their next meal, or their next batch of papers to sell. Vending director Tom Wills says they’ll have to adjust to having money come through on regular paydays.

The app is free, but there will be a $.99 transaction fee on each purchase. Image via App Store
The app is free, but there will be a $.99 transaction fee on each purchase. Image via App Store

To accept cashless payments, they’ll also need something that’s rare in the homeless community: a bank account. Wills says The Contributor has arranged with Pinnacle Bank to make sure any vendor who wants one will be able to qualify.

That helps the paper do an even better job of one of its primary missions: introducing people back into structure.

Because they act as independent contractors, the vendors don’t have to take a step into the cashless economy by accepting the app. About 20 percent have signed on. Wills says many others have indicated they’re likely to request a bank account and QR code after they see the app work for their peers.

[box]How does The Contributor work?

Vendors purchase papers at the wholesale rate of $.75 a copy and sell them for $2. Each individual determines how many papers they want to sell; all profit and tips are their own to keep. To ease the transition to the payday system, any who choose to accept the smartphone app will be given 20 free copies in the week they receive their QR code.[/box]

Nina Cardona

Nina Cardona is WPLN's host for All Things Considered. As a reporter, she covers a wide range of assignments with an emphasis on culture, the arts and local history. A graduate of Converse College, she's lived in Middle Tennessee most of her life.
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