Real Change released an app for smartphones in April on both Google Play and the iTunes App Store that allows people to buy digital copies of the paper through a QR code on the vendor’s badge. Of the $2.99 the reader pays for a digital copy, $1.49 goes directly into the vendor’s account and can be withdrawn 24 hours after the purchase.
The app is free to install and offers a tutorial the first time it is opened. Three separate tabs allow potential customers to buy new copies, access and recover copies they have purchased and learn more about the organization and mission of Real Change.
For the most part, the app’s launch has gone smoothly. Vendors like Mohamed Soumah are behind the idea of Real Change offering a digital option in addition. “It’s good stuff, and it gets people to buy the paper [who normally wouldn’t],” said Mohamed.
“You’ve got to have the badge anyways, so it’s great,” said Sabina Lopez, who recently sold a paper through the app. “I think it was pretty cool!”
There are some vendors who have encountered technical errors, including one edition that did not appear properly on the app for a short period and transactions that have not gone through within 24 hours.
“A lady tried to buy the paper the other day,” said Michael Epps, “but it said the site was not available.” It is possible that the reader was trying to download the paper through the website instead of the app, but the confusion was still there. Epps is in favor of using the app once everything is ironed out.
To combat human error, Real Change hosts roughly five orientation sessions per week for vendors to learn more about the app.
“I haven’t used the app,” said Gregory Brown, “but I am going to sign up for the class.”
Either way, one thing that everyone at Real Change is sure of is that the paper copy is not going away.
“I don’t get many requests [for a digital download] … I think people just want to grab the paper and go,” said Mike Stone, who compared it to selling any other commodity: “If a person’s selling cheeseburgers, chocolate shakes and coke, but people don’t buy chocolate shakes, they’ll just sell cheeseburgers and coke.”