Square is holding my wife’s money hostage

Posted on March 19th, 2014 by John Stewart


This has been painful enough to collect and write all out that I certainly wouldn’t intentionally inflict on anyone else to actually read. However, I felt it was necessary to publish this information as a warning to others.

My wife (of nine years tomorrow!) is an esteemed, award-winning novelist, and as of this past year, also now a small business owner: along with another author, she started a writing workshop, the Madison Writers’ Studio.

They still take paper checks, which is a pain on multiple levels, so after reading Walter Mossberg’s glowing review of Square Cash (originally in the Wall Street Journal), I recommended she check it out. I also knew they had some cool tech with on-premise card readers, and some buzz around them from the nerd circles.

We actually first used it to pay our babysitter. Her linked debit card was stolen within days of this, and she suspects it was related to Square. I was skeptical, but after the past few days’s saga, I’ve come to recommend avoiding Square at all costs, whatever the reason.

Susanna began trying to use Square to get payments for classes. Spoiler: it didn’t go well…

All of the emails below are to and from Square support, except where noted. Email addresses and full names have been edited out.

(Day 0) Mar 8 Susanna

Susanna sent a help request in via Square contact form about some missing emails and transfers.

(Day 2) Mar 10 Marvin

Marvin from Square replies asking for details, case 2829356.

(Day 5) Mar 13 Susanna

Susanna replies with details: One of the missing payments (we will call her E) did show up in her account for $252.50, but without associated email. One for $331.60 sent on Mar 12 (L) hasn’t shown up, and hasn’t generated an email from Square.

(Day 5) Mar 13 Mavin

Marvin replies saying L’s payment was there and approved and “it should be deposited soon”. Adding:

As for the emails that you are not receiving, I suspect that it is because of your custom email domain. If have a custom email domain that is not hosted by one of the major email providers (ie GMail, Yahoo, etc.) then customers sometimes have trouble receiving out emails. If you have already checked your all of your spam folders and filters you may want to contact your email host and see if they are blocking our emails.

(Day 5) Mar 15 Susanna

Hi again, Marvin. I’ve checked my spam — there’s nothing from Square cash. I know the (L email) payment has been processed on her end, but it still hasn’t been received on my end at I tried the “sign up” link to make sure everything’s working, and didn’t receive anything.

Should I ask L to cancel that transaction, or wait another day? Could you let me know if that email will officially not work with Square Cash in the future?

Thanks very much for your time.

All best,

(Day 9) Mar 17 Susanna

Hi again, Marvin. I’m just checking in — hoping for an answer to this problem today, since I’m waiting for this payment for reasons on my end. Thanks!

(Day 9) Mar 17 John

Marvin – I’m the IT guy in charge of, if you have any questions.

Can you provide any logs which shows your SMTP servers delivered the email to the address? If you can provide this, and out provider did not deliver it, I can track it down on my end.

(Day 9) Mar 17 Marvin

Hello Susanna and John,

Thanks for writing back in.

I apologize because I misread your email on Friday. After rechecking the records I see that you are the recipient not receiving funds, not the other way around. In this case, yes the sender has been debited and you cannot receive the funds until you get the email and link your debit card to your account.

I’ve escalated this issue to the appropriate engineering team to look into further, and also sent out a request for the logs that John requested (assuming we can give that information out).

As soon as I hear back I will email you both, and we can take the next steps to get this issue resolved.

Square Support ​

(Day 9) Mar 17 Susanna

Thanks, Marvin. I believe I’ve linked before, but I’m happy to do it again to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible. I look forward to hearing more from your team.

(Day 9) Mar 17 Marvin

Hi Susanna and John,

Apparently the email was indeed sent out on our side. I was provided with this log showing that it was sent out. I hope this helps.

franklin@apa69.sjc1b.square [franklin_production]> select * from outgoing_email_recipients where outgoing_email_id = 2456688;
| id | outgoing_email_id | customer_id | gateway_delivered_at | bounced_at | bounce_type | bounce_reason |
| 2605684 | 2456688 | 115470 | 2014-03-12 20:16:00 | NULL | NULL | NULL |

(Day 9) Mar 17 Susanna

Marvin, we’ll check for that email glitch — but when will I receive the money?

(Day 9) Mar 17 John

Marvin – thanks, but this is just a SQL query showing your database has logged this email as delivered. I’m asking for SMTP logs, showing the IP address of the recipient and sending server, etc. This would be an MTA-level logging (Postfix, Sendmail, whatever MTA you happen to be using).

Regardless, this email is likely irretrievably lost at this point, no matter who dropped it. How do we go about getting this money delivered properly to Susanna?

(Day 10) Mar 18 @SusannaDaniel 6:16am via Twitter

My little @MadisonWriters was starting to use @Square to accept cash payments–but glitches abound & cust svc is spotty/ineffectual so far.

(Day 10) Mar 18 Susanna 8:25am

Marvin, if the money that has been sent to isn’t in our accounts today, please return it to (L email) as soon as possible.

(Day 10) Mar 19 Susanna 9:10am


I have not received a response to repeated requests for assistance. As I stated, please either return L’s money *today* or process the payment to

It has been nine days, and to say that this support has been inadequate is an understatement.

I now have an outstanding payment that has been issued to as well — this money should also go into my account today.

(Day 10) Mar 19 9:23am Darin

(This appears to be a new case, 2864783) with subject “Re: Re: Question from Twitter”

Hi Susanna,

I understand that you have a question about missing funds. I can certainly help you. Do you mind providing a little more detail around which funds you are missing?

Can you provide the following information about the Square Cash transaction in question:

– Sender’s email address.
– Recipient’s email address.
– The exact amount of the charge.
– The date of the charge.
– The last four digits and card brand of the card charged.
– Please confirm you’ve checked your bank statement for “Square Inc.” or “SQC*.”

Once I receive this information, I’ll be able to investigate this payment further. Thanks for your help with this
Square Support ​

(Day 11) Mar 19 Susanna 9:39am

Susanna replied with requested info to Darin.

(Day 11) Mar 19 John 9:45am

Darin – Also, to note on the email flow, all mail to now flows directly to Google Apps (perhaps the most reliable email provider on the planet). You can verify this by querying the MX records on the domain.

I think we just need to have these two emails resent, if mail delivery was the issue. Is this possible?

(Day 11) Mar 19 Susanna 9:46am

An addendum — I would prefer not to ask the sender to cancel the transaction — I’ve done that before, but it seems like getting the problem fixed is a better long-term solution.

(Day 11) Mar 19 Darin 10:36am

Hi Susanna,

Thanks for writing back in.

I’ve escalated this issue to the appropriate engineering team to look into further. I’ll follow up with you with an update as soon as I have new information.

Thank you for your patience while we work to resolve this issue.

(Day 11) Mar 19 Darin 1:15pm

Since you are using Square Cash with you own email domain, ensure that your email domain has support for the following email security protocols:

I would recommend reaching out to your Internet domain provider to make sure that your domain supports these protocols and you are able to receive notifications from Square Cash.

(Day 11) Mar 19 John 2:17pm

As I mentioned, the provider is Google Apps, so it’s certainly compatible. We had a different provider last week.

I’m going to shout now, I apologize:



(Day 11) Mar 19 Darin 5:00pm

Thanks for writing back in.

Square Cash works with the majority of email services in the United States. Learn more at

If you use Square Cash from your own email domain, we recommend that you create an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record for your domain. SPF is a protocol that communicates to Square servers via DNS the identity of the mail servers that are allowed to send emails for your domain.

To learn more about SPF, visit

If, for any reason, you cannot set up an SPF record, you can still use Square Cash with any of the major US mail services such as Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions. I’m happy to help.
Square Support ​

(Day 11) Mar 19 Anthony 6:17pm

(I think responding to initial ticket of 2829356)

Hi Susanna,

Thanks for writing back in. You may not have received my last email, but since you have never linked a debit card to your info@madisonwriters account the sender has the option to cancel their payment and have the funds returned (This functionality is only available when the recipient has never linked a debit card to their account).

Have the owner of (L email) cancel the payment by clicking the “Check Status” link within the confirmation email they received. This will refund the money right back to them.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach back out.

(Day 11) Mar 19 John 7:19pm

Darin, you have ignored the question again.


Furthermore, you have clouded the issue with a totally orthogonal statement.

For the record, as an IT professional of about 20 years, I agree an SPF record is important. And you’ll find if you’d bother to check (or ask) that, in fact, there is an SPF record already deployed for correctly specifying the outgoing SMTP servers in use.

What I find the most amazing about this non-answer is that this seems to be an earnest attempt to confuse your customers with correct, but unrelated mumbo-jumbo.

In fact, the SPF record for is completely uninvolved in any issue here, given the the problem is an inability of Square to send (or re-send) mail to @madisonwriters, not the other way around.

An SPF record is used to validate that a machine SENDING email is authorized for the sender domain.

So this all seems like a way to ignore the issue, and delay any resolution.

To reiterate, I have asked many times for:

Q1 – An SMTP log showing where the missing mail was delivered.

Q2 – To please re-send the missing email (for the sweet love of puppies, WHY can’t you just do this to end this whole thing now?).

Q3 – Failing an answer to either of these question, provide any explanation as to WHY you can’t.

I re-ask the above questions again, now. Can you please respond specifically to these three questions?

As to your ability to not-answer and frustrate any reasonable explanation, as appears your goal, I say:
Bravo, sir! Bravo! Good show!


As of right now, 9pm CDT on March 19th, Square has accepted money for the express purpose of delivering said money to Susanna for a total of $584.10, and has not delivered it.

While they have not expressly refused to deliver it, their actions show that intent. They have certainly done their best to blame others, and I must say as someone who’s worked with a lot of support folks through the years in my IT work, I don’t think I’ve seen any bunch less willing to answer a direct question or more willing to come up with a distraction to cloud the issue.


I admit not knowing much about Square and their business model. I regret now, of course, ever letting their name part my lips when I suggested to my wife she use them. Now a simple web query will show this is not at all an isolated incident. All this hand-waving about email delivery is pretty incredible. Certainly an SPF record  or SMTP server isn’t involved in them depositing money into my wife’s bank account!

As far as the technology goes, one thing that jumps out to me about this whole issue is how people in general, and Square specifically, treat email as a reliable communication medium. People think email is reliable because it is, most of the time. But because of the way the protocol works, there are lots of ways email can get lost or delayed, sometimes silently. We come to rely on it even when we shouldn’t.

This is usually fine. If Aunt Maude can’t get the latest picture of Pookums, her toy poodle, out to her friends, no big deal. But when Square builds a business model predicated entirely on the idea that every email they (attempt to) send gets through, that’s a problem, and people get hurt.

The other thing I don’t get about this service is that it’s free. How does Square Cash make money? Do they make it up in volume, like First Citywide Change bank?

I see two possibilities:

1 – They do this as a loss-leader, to get people interested in their commercial products. As this whole saga above shows, though, I don’t see how they’re generating much goodwill or desire to use them.


2 – They collect money, and eventually after some percentage of people can’t get their money back out, and eventually give up in the face of a Kafka-esque nightmare, they claim this “abandoned” money.

Either way, it doesn’t make much sense.

(Day 12) Mar 20 John

Regarding cases 2829356 and 2864783

Darin, Marvin, Andrew, et al.: I have gathered all of our correspondence here, and I invite you to provide any corrections, or ideally, respond to our specific questions (such as the request to simply re-send the missing email):

(Day 12) Mar 20 Darin

Could you please provide me with a good contact phone number to reach you at?

We subsequently arranged a time and I conferenced in Darrin, Susanna, and myself.

(Day 12) Mar 20 Darin

Nice talking to both of you on the phone. I just wanted to follow up with what we discussed:

– I have all of the information you shared over email and have provided that to our engineers.
– We understand the problem and are working quickly to deploy a fix.
– We do not currently have a time frame for a fix, and we don’t want to hold up the transaction.
– We have notified the sender, and we have manually-reversed the payment.
– You can choose to use another form of payment for this transaction or use the account that has not experienced any issues with Square Cash

Thank you both for your patience during this issue. I understand that it wasn’t an ideal situation, and I apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused.

Happy anniversary to you both.

All the best,

Square Support ​


Thank you, Darin.

We are now confirming with L that, indeed, her money has been refunded.

SanDisk is holding my disk hostage

Posted on January 8th, 2014 by John Stewart

SanDiskExtremeJune 3, 2013 – I ordered from Amazon a SanDisk Extreme SSD for Susanna’s iMac.

November, 2013 – The iMac died. It wouldn’t even get into any sort of diagnostic mode or boot from CD. I finally cracked open the iMac to remove the disk (no easy task), and lo and behold, it worked with the old disk fine. Something about the failure mode of the SanDisk SSD prevented the iMac from getting anywhere.

I checked the warranty – awesome; 5 years!

Dec 2, 2013 – Case 131203-001083 opened with SanDisk. Justin P asked that I try to update the firmware, which I attempted by installing in an old Windows 7 PC, but it wouldn’t even detect at the BIOS. Dead parrot dead. I replied to Justin P with my info.

Dec 3, 2013 – I contacted SanDisk again since Justin P didn’t respond. Sam B processed my RMA, but couldn’t provide advance replacement so I could get Susanna back online:

Sam B.: We cannot proceed with the Advance replacement as the Extreme 480 GB is not available in stock Sam B.: We try to ship the replacement product as soon as possible but 7-10 business days is the maximum time that we may take depending upon the inventory.

I was able to get RMA RX734332 authorized, though, and immediately shipped out the bad disk.

Dec 4, 2013 – I received email notification that SanDisk received the bad SSD.

Dec 9, 2013 – Still nothing more from SanDisk, so I contacted them again.

Ellie D.: Typically the replacement product gets shipped within 7 to 10 business days but its unfortunate that the replacement has not been shipped yet.
Ellie D.: Unfortunately the product that you returned is currently out of stock. We are expecting the product within 1-2 weeks, as soon as product get in stock it will shipped out to you.
John Stewart: Ugh. There’s no other model we can substitute, perhaps?
John Stewart: I’d be willing to pay for a differnce in cost
Ellie D.: We apologize, however there is no alternative are available for Extreme 480 GB drive.
Ellie D.: understand that you have been waiting for a working product for a couple of days now however, we don’t have alterative to offer and also SanDisk always do even exchange of the product. Ellie D.: So, we request you please wait for 1-2 weeks.

Dec 16, 2013 – Still nothing more from SanDisk, so I contacted them again (noticing a trend here now…).

Ellie D.: Unfortunately, due to a higher demand than previously anticipated, the availability of some products is currently impacted.however. we are expecting the stock by end of this week.
John Stewart: you’re REALLY expecting stock?? Because I’ve heard this before! =)
Ellie D.: Alright.
Ellie D.: We apologize for any delays that you are experiencing; SanDisk will provide replacement product as soon as it becomes available.
Ellie D.: We request you please allow us 1 week.
Ellie D.: Is there anything else I may assist you with, John?
John Stewart: No, thank you

Dec 26, 2013 – Mylie S sends me an email, yay! They’re going to send me a slightly faster replacement SSD.

We have received your device for RMA , unfortunately, due to a higher demand than previously anticipated, the availability of some products is currently impacted. We apologize for any delays that you are experiencing; SanDisk will provide replacement product as soon as it becomes available. To avoid any further delay we do have alternative available: Extreme II 480 GB. Please advise, case is pending upon your reply.

I immediately replied:

Yes, please!! I’m desperate to get a replacement, the Extreme II to replace my Extreme looks fine. Please confirm as soon as you can get it out.

Jan 6, 2014 – A new year dawns on the SanDisk saga. Since I heard not a peep more from SanDisk, I contacted them again:

Ellie D.: We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this delay has caused you
John Stewart: uh oh, this usually means I’m going to be told another 7-10 days…
Ellie D.: I can see that we have escalated your case to our shipping dept on 12/27/2013.
Ellie D.: Please note that actual shipment may take 24 to 48 more business hours. Our warehouse was closed on 12/28/2013 and 12/29/2013 as they don’t work on weekends.
Ellie D.: Also , they were closed on 12/31/2013 and 1/1/204 for new year. Your order is in process and should get shipped by today or Tuesday.
John Stewart: I’ll hold for tracking number, please.
Ellie D.: Once the product ships out, you will be notified with the tracking via email.
Ellie D.: Is there anything else I may assist you with, John?
John Stewart: Ellie, I know this is not YOUR fault, but this is ridiculous.
John Stewart: This is NOT going to ship today, nor tomorrow.
John Stewart: And I’ll on Wednesday connect AGAIN and get “we’re so sorry, ”
John Stewart: I’m an IT manager and I tell you, this is the last SanDisk product we’ll be buying for our infrastructure!
John Stewart: I either want an answer from shipping on what the tracking number is, or I want to talk to a manager.
Ellie D.: Sure.
Ellie D.: Please stay online while I transfer this chat to My Manager.
John Stewart: ok
John Stewart: Hello, Chris.
Chris R.: Hello, My name is Chris.. I am one of the supervisor with SanDisk.
John Stewart: I’m just trying to get a replacement shipped. It has now been over a month since you received the dead unit. Every time I contact you (which has been about 10 times too many), I keep getting the same “real soon now” answers.
Chris R.: John, as I have reviewed the case, it has already been escalated and I will take care of your case and coordinating with the RMA department to the send the product asap.
Chris R.: As confirmed, the new product will shipped by today end of the day or definitely by tomorrow. Once the new product is sent, you will receive a new email with a tracking number, which you can refer to, in order to track the package.
John Stewart: Chris, Ellie. I guess I have no choice but to trust this is true. I can be nothing except skeptical since it’s been almost 2 weeks since I first heard this was going to shipping.
Chris R.: John, I apologize for the inconvenience caused due to delay in shipment.
John Stewart: If I had just been told the truth in the first place, I could have had MY customer up on a temporary disk. Instead, she’s been waiting “just a little bit more” for a month now.
John Stewart: OK, well, thanks. I sincerely hope I don’t have to contact you again tomorrow… and the next day… and the next day…
Chris R.: I understand your concern and I apologize for the delay. However I assure you that it has been escalated and the new product will be shipped by today or tomorrow.
John Stewart: OK thank you.
Chris R.: Is there anything else I may assist you with?
John Stewart: no thank you
Chris R.: Thank you for contacting SanDisk, and you have a great day, John.

Jan 7, 2014 - Surprise! Silence from SanDisk.

Mylie S.: This is really an unfortunate situation where we fail to meet up your expectations
Mylie S.: and I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.
Mylie S.: I will personally follow up with this case.
Mylie S.: and i will try to get this product shipped on priority basis.
John Stewart: Can we please get connected to someone who actually CAN speak to shipping here? Mylie S.: I am sorry but there is no way.
John Stewart: A manager then again?
Mylie S.: rest assured you will be updated soon.
Mylie S.: and product will be shipped on priority.
John Stewart: You have my disk. Please send me a check for the value of this device, currently $415. John Stewart: Or let me know to whom I should file in small claims court.
John Stewart: What is the officer of record for SanDisk in the state of Wisconsin?
Mylie S.: I will arrange a call back from my supervisor within 1-2 hours
Mylie S.: Is that ok?
John Stewart: 608-NNN-NNNN
Mylie S.: Thanx
John Stewart: Fine thank you.
Mylie S.: You will get a call back.
Mylie S.:Is there anything else I may assist you with, John?
John Stewart: I WANT to believe you Mylie, but honestly I don’t.
John Stewart: I am certain I will NOT get a callback, and I’ll be contacting you again in the morning. John Stewart: So, I’ll talk to you soon I’m sure!
Mylie S.: You will definitely get a call. Please keep my words.
John Stewart: I am keeping them! =)
Mylie S.: Thank you
Mylie S.:We’ll send you the incident number that you can use to reference this chat, and also, the chat transcript in a follow-up email. Thank you.
John Stewart: Thank you Mylie.

To her word, I did get a call from someone at SanDisk a couple of hours later. However, he could provide absolutely nothing more than Mylie, Ellie, Chris, and the rest: empty promises.

Jan 8, 2014 – Here we go again…

Ellie D.: We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this delay has caused you.
Ellie D.: I can see that you have contacted on 01/07/2014 and we have informed you please allows us 24 hours for the udpates.
John Stewart: And then?
Ellie D.: As soon as we get a update on your case we will get back to you via email.
John Stewart: This is not a lie, I don’t think, but the fact is you WON’T get an update.
Ellie D.: We have already escalated the case to our shipping dept.
John Stewart: Yes, weeks ago.
John Stewart: Can I please have the phone number for this “shipping department”?
Ellie D.: John, we don’t have shipping dept number.
Ellie D.: however, as soon as we gets update on your case we will get back to you via email.
Ellie D.: Is there anything else I may assist you with, John?
John Stewart: So I’ll get email after you get update on case. This is before or after pigs fly?
John Stewart: Or the heat death of the universe?
John Stewart: Or maybe just when the sun goes supernova and immolates the planet.
John Stewart: Then.
John Stewart: OK, seriously, if you don’t have shipping department number, how do you contact them?
Ellie D.: We contact them throughh our internal tool.
Ellie D.: We make sure to provide the update on your case by end of the day.
Ellie D.: Are you still with me ?
John Stewart: I don’t even know what to say at this point

Jan 8, 2014 – Called in to 866-726-3475, #6 for RMA department. Got Ruth. Provided reference ID. Waiting for update from shipping department team. Many cases delayed due to holiday. Lots of backlog. Ruth claims she will personally call me back by the end of the day. Am not holding breath.

Conclusion: A five year warranty is nice on SanDisk SSDs. Just don’t expect to be able to actually do anything with that warranty. Honestly, I’m probably going to have to file suit in small claims court. All I want at this point is the reasonable cost of a replacement, which at the time I write this, looks to be $415.

Edit: After publishing this blog post, I tweeted the URL to @SanDisk: d-c_ 

A few hours later they responded:  q48k

Edit 2:

Jan 8, 2013 – Ruth, true to her word, just called me back as well with the same tracking number.


To be fair to those I dealt with at SanDisk, they were unfailingly polite and apologetic. None of the people above deserve any blame for this debacle.

However, it’s clear that the management at SanDisk has put these people in an impossible situation. The ONLY power they have is to apologize. Clearly they have no way to actually do any such thing as “escalate” or get anything shipped.

The only way SanDisk actually did anything here was through public shaming (though, honestly, my Twitter account isn’t that public – I now have 15 followers, including @SanDisk).

They did not enable those who interact with customers to actually have the power to help in situations like this.

This is a failure of management at SanDisk, not a failure of the front line folks I dealt with.

“Customer service only matters when it’s visible.”



Posted on October 10th, 2013 by John Stewart


My latest iOS app was just approved and is now available in the app store.

The gist of it is that your iPhone can point your way back to a particular spot on our planet.

It’s pretty amazing the technology we carry in our pockets every day. Even for an IT geek and technophile since I was a kid, who is inured to the relentless march of miniaturization and power, it amazes me.

Your phone, if outside and given a few seconds to lock GPS, can tell you your exact location on the planet within (as of this post) about five meters. Sixteen feet. So, inspired somewhat by this, I started by noodling around with the Apple API to access location data on the phone, and this app popped out.

I think it’s pretty cool. I used some iOS7-only API, such as SpriteKit. I tried to embrace the iOS7 design aesthetic. The exception is the rather anachronistic pointing hand… which, it turns out, actually has a name, I learned this past week. A manicule. I had no idea.

Anyway, there it is. DudeWhere?

I hope you find it useful.

Not Another War, Please

Posted on September 10th, 2013 by John Stewart
YouTube Preview Image

“When I first saw the president speak in 2008…

… in a youtube clip posted to my Facebook page, I knew that he was going to be right all the time. So I support World War III. And IV. And any Moon War the president may want to start.”

The entire mainstream media seems to be of the mind that the United States is, and should be, the world police. Furthermore, they seem to be of the mind that if we don’t retaliate, we are going to lose our status as such. Why is being the world’s police force considered an admirable place for our country?

Yes, it’s awful that Assad is gassing his own people. How are some cruise missiles going to help? What is the plausible scenario in which bombing actually improves the situation for anyone?

It’s not like in Kosovo, where the UN (note that, UN, not US) bombings actually were to try and stop an ongoing genocide. In this case, the genocide has already occurred. And we explicitly can’t target the actual problem, the chemical weapons themselves, due to the risk of releasing them to cause more death. So all this would be is retaliation, punishment.

No, we should not be the world police, or judge, or jury, or executioner.

Syria’s a terrible mess. Bombs won’t help.

Three Cheers for MUFA’s Swiss System

Posted on August 14th, 2013 by John Stewart


I’ve captained a team, DiscGrace, in the MUFA summer league, since 2001.

The summer league is an ultimate frisbee league where you sign up as a team based on your team strength, ranging from competitive down to recreational (with many divisions thereof).

One of the historical problems with the league has been the fact that even within a given division, skill levels can vary a lot, since the team strength is all based on self-rating. This often results in blowouts… and blowouts are something you rarely have fun playing in, no matter which side of it you’re on.

As of the 2012 season, MUFA combined the B and C rec leagues and implemented a swiss system*. In 2012, there were 54 teams the swiss division, and this year, there were 72. The idea of a swiss system is that you pair up teams with similar records, so as the schedule progresses, teams are paired against others of a similar strength.

In 2012, the season was severely truncated by a drought; the city closed fields for a large part of the season to prevent damage to the turf. Because of that, it was hard to get a good idea of how well the swiss system worked.

This year, however, just finished up, and my team played 17 regular season games, plus a couple in the post-season. The season started with a number of blowouts each way in our games. By mid-season, however, the swiss really game into its own. Nearly all of our games after midway could easily have gone either way, with many coming down to the final minutes.

Likewise, when we went into the playoffs, the swiss was divided into sections based on our regular season results. DiscGrace was seeded last (16th) in Swiss Chocolate, the 4th group, and we played against the top seed. We were expected to lose, and we did, but it was still a damn close game (9-10 as I recall).UncleDiscGrace

This is why I play… to have fun, competitive game, not to win. I think that’s true of the vast majority of those of us in the swiss system, and I wanted to publicly say how great I thought it was and say thank you to MUFA for implementing it.

So, three cheers for MUFA, and the swiss! Thank you!

You all do a great job, supporting what is now a vast number of people in the league. It’s an all-volunteer organization and probably mostly thankless (I’m sure they hear many more complaints than thanks).

I suspect (but don’t know as I’ve not spoken to him about it in years) that Matt Merrill**, the current MUFA vice president, is the brainchild and architect of the MUFA swiss implementation. Kudos to you, especially, Matt!

* – I actually argued for implementing a swiss years ago, but this was long before smartphones and ubiquitous internet… and the swiss depends upon quick reporting of game results, so it wasn’t as practical then.

** – Fun fact… I knew Matt waaay back in the late 80’s when we were both avid tournament chess players. I am/was a relative patzer, though, while Matt actually achieved expert rating. The reason I was even familiar with the swiss system was because this is how nearly all chess tournaments work. If you have a weekend to play, typically 5 games, it’s the best way to come up with a clear winner with a field of 100 or so players.

As part of the swiss, MUFA also implemented a “performance rating”, which from appearances appears to be an implementation of the Elo system, the method used by the USCF (in the US) and FIDE (internationally) to rate chess players. Last fun fact… Arpad Elo invented this system. He was born in Austria, but moved to Wisconsin when he was 10, and won the Wisconsin state championship eight times.