Pay, But Don’t Touch
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
Toll roads used them first.
Buy a card, stick it in your car window and whizz right past the tollbooths.
Traffic kept moving and having the right change didn’t
matter. Other uses for contactless cards have been suggested but have not yet
become widespread. This may be about to change.
The Guardian reports that millions of people in Britain have been receiving
debit and credit cards over the past few months with a “wave” symbol
that will allow them “to pay for low-value items such as their morning
coffee or lunchtime sandwiches by simply waving their plastic over a reader
at the till.”
So far, the cards have been used mainly in coffee shops
in and around London but several large retail chains — including Tesco,
the Co-op, Boots, IKEA, Spar, National Trust gift shops and Little Chef restaurants
— are either running trials or, in some cases, rolling them out nationally.
Others, such as Sainsburys and Waitrose, are still thinking it over. The paper
also mentions “buses
in Liverpool and black cabs in London, while several U.K. music festivals are
expected to go cashless next summer,” leading to the 2012 Olympics becoming
“a contactless event” where visitors will be able to use their new plastic
to pay for transport, tickets and refreshments.
Evan Schuman of storefrontbacktalk.com told RetailWire contactless
payment trials in the U.S. have not been entirely successful.
Security is a
big issue in both countries, although different approaches have been taken.
In the U.K., retailers enter the amount due before the card is held in front
of the reader for consumer approval. Distance is limited and controlled.
early American experiments, customers displayed barcodes on their phones. According
to storefontbacktalk.com, newer technology involves a middleman
which “means retailers don’t need new barcode-reading hardware … customers
never show retailers their account information, so it can’t be stored — or
stolen.” Instead, consumers use (surprise, surprise) an app, registering
their bank account with its designer, Cimbal, who pays retailers when customers
scan the retailer’s barcode and key in a PIN. Did someone mention time-saving?
Discussion Questions: What are the pros and cons of contactless cards for
retailers as well as consumers? What hurdles do you see toward further adoption?
[Author’s commentary] Evan Schuman has reservations, which I share, about
who will bear the cost of using contactless cards. Are the very few minutes
possibly saved waiting in line to pay worth a possible increase in the price
of what customers want to buy? Most of us know that fees incurred by retailers
somehow manage to find their way onto product prices. Whether it’s for
card readers or middlemen, somewhere along the line, someone is making money
by charging for their services.
- A Breakthrough In The Contactless Payment Chicken-and-Egg Dance? – storefrontbacktalk.com
- Contactless payments: Time to wave goodbye to cash – The Guardian
- Best Buy Kicks Visa Contactless Out Of The Building – storefrontbacktalk.com