[Dave Birch] I was leafing through the English newspapers on the plane the other day — the usual kinds of thing, you know, men out on charity walk attacked and hospitalised by drunken yobs, public worker gets £80,000 payoff because new chairs cause backache, 18,000 Facebook tributes to murdering nutter and so on — but it was the story of the thieving Air France stewardess that caught my eye. The light-fingered trolly dolly was arrested for stealing from sleeping first-class passengers. Her preferred pilfering plane route was Paris-Tokyo, apparently because Japanese tourists carry huge wads of cash around with them and, like any self-respecting criminal, she wanted cash.

Police have arrested French air stewardess Lucie R. (her identity is protected) in Tokyo on suspicion of stealing from First Class Air France passengers while they slept.

[From France24 – Air France stewardess stole from passengers while they slept]

Incidentally, I loved Air France’s comment on this story, which was to say that only checked baggage is their responsibility and that theft from the cabin was a matter for travel insurance. Or, in English, “tough”.

The latest figures from Japan confirm that the home of 100m contactless cards and 40m+ contactless mobile phones and steadily growing card volume is still dominated by cash. Almost two-thirds of the population already carry a “cash replacement” pre-paid contactless product, yet they still go to ATMs and draw out wads of cash. It’s a clear cultural difference between Japan and, say, the UK or the US.

The Japanese payment market remains dominated by cash, with consumers using that payment form even for high value transactions. Despite this, credit cards are continuing to show positive levels of growth with a CAGR of 2.5% between 2004 and 2008. Pay now cards however remain almost exclusively used at ATMs, with use at the POS in active decline.

[From Payment Cards in Japan Market Report, Industry Analysis and Market Trends]

As I noted before when I was looking at the Japanese figures in more detail earlier in the year…

Two transactions per consumer per month on average? They’re not going to replace cash any time soon with that kind of penetration.

[From Digital Money: Japanese notes]

This emphasises that while it is interesting to study Japan and to look at the technology and services that are being used, Japan is not a guide to the evolution of digital money in Europe. I think this has been clear for some time. I don’t think it’s much of a guide for the US either. In the US, there was plenty of well-founded scepticism about the potential for mobile payments.

Perhaps the bigger question for all of the investors out there is how long it will take for mobile commerce to account for an acceptable percentage of retail sales. Today, roughly 10 years after the birth of eCommerce, online shopping is projected to account for roughly 7% of retail sales in 2009.

[From Why Make Mobile Payments Easy when you can Make it Hard (and expensive) at The Catalyst Code]

Well yes, but contactless and mobile contactless payments are not just going to be used for online purchases, the reason that people me are so excited about them because they are going to be used for all purchases and (I fervently hope) they’re going to be used to replace cash in interpersonal transactions as well. In Europe and America we won’t develop our mobile payment markets along the same trajectory as Japan, but we will — I hope — learn from Japan. So what kind of lessons: well, for one, it’s clear that it is not retail payments that drive the adoption of mobile proximity but transit and value-added services (loyalty and couponing).

about 18 million of them register as members of McDonald’s “Toku” promotional program. On a weekly basis, in time for the weekend, McDonald’s sends program members a mobile email, with a list of coupons and promotions available that week.

Customers then have two choices. One is to use their mobile browser to open mobile coupons, which are shown to McDonald’s cashiers—an alpha-numeric promotional code is clearly visible. The other option, if customers have already downloaded the McDonald’s application, which 8 million consumers have already done, is to download the coupons to their contactless mobile wallet

[From McDonald’s goes with Near Field Communications for sales lift – Mobile Commerce Daily – Database/CRM]

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this kind of thing in the UK soon, because its a way of building on the roll out of contactless terminals and making them interesting and, dare I say it, fun.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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